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Common Puppy Problems

By Dr Katrina Warren on July 20, 2012 in Other

Photo: Hidalgo Design

Welcoming a new puppy into your home is an exciting time but often after your little bundle of fluff has settled in for a couple of months, you might realise that it has some annoying habits. How you manage these issues at an early age will have a major impact on how your dog bahaves as an adult. It is so much easier to train a young puppy to do things properly than to untrain bad habits in an adult dog.

Common Problem 1 – My Puppy Always Jumps Up On People

It is natural for puppies (and dogs) to want to jump up when they are greeting people because it’s fun and they are excited. This behaviour is often reinforced as people find cute puppies irresistible and shower them with attention when they do jump up.
Remember, jumping up may be cute as a puppy but can be an annoying habit as an adult and dangerous with larger dogs.

The best way to teach your pup not to jump is to completely ignore the behaviour. When your pup jumps, turn away from it, keep your hands by your side and don’t give it any attention until all four feet are firmly planted on the ground. When this happens be sure to shower with treats – you must reward for not jumping. All members of the house must agree to do the same thing.

Meanwhile, work on your puppy’s sit/stay routine using lots of treats as rewards. Your puppy can’t jump up if it is sitting. Teach your pup that there will be greetings, treats and attention only when it is sitting.

Practice with distractions such as the doorbell, offering high value treats (uch a cheese or cabanossi.

Have a treat jar near the door and ask your visitors to ignore the jumping until your pup sits and then they can give a treat for good manners. In time your pup will learn that the doorbell means a treat in return for sitting.

Common Problem 2 – My Puppy Bites When Playing

Play biting is a normal puppy behavior. Although a puppy’s jaws are not yet strong, a play bite can really hurt as puppies have sharp teeth. We need to teach pups to control their bite.

Play biting does not mean your puppy will bite as an adult dog. Puppies will grow out of play biting but you don’t want to encourage biting behaviour as it can create a lifelong habit.

When puppies play together, if one puppy bites another too hard, the other will ‘yelp’ and stop playing. Puppies learn to bite more softly to continue play. It is essential to let your puppy know when it has gone to far. A simple ‘ouch’ is usually sufficient, then stop playing. Give the puppy a minute or two ‘time-out’ before returning to play. Encourage the puppy to play bite with a toy rather than your hand.

Have a plan of what you are going to do when your puppy play bites. Redirect its teeth onto an appropriate toy, give the puppy something else to do, or ask the puppy to complete another task – to sit, drop or do a trick – and be sure to reward its compliance.

Puppies love movement and will often chase and bite your feet as you walk. If this happens, stop moving and give it a treat or a game with a favourite toy when it stops. This is a behavior that puppies will grow out of very quickly if they don’t get the opportunity to practice.

Avoid rough play with your puppy as this will encourage nipping behaviour. Young children should not be left unsupervised with puppies as they’ll often excite them, which in turn encourages nipping.