Puppies are mischievous little creatures. When you bring your little bundle of fur home, you are full of hope as you have read all the books and puppy-proofed the house to Fort Knox standard. You are prepared for accidents on the new carpet in the lounge and, when puppy looks up at you with eyes full of guilt, your initial frustration ebbs away.
Many owners are so enamoured by their miniature companion, enveloped in a world of play and treats, that training can often take a back seat. However, it is imperative to teach your puppy right from wrong in the crucial early stages so that you do not have a terror on your hands in years to come!
Mouthing & Nipping
Your puppy, since birth, will have been using its mouth and paws to investigate its surroundings and, in some cases, for telling its brothers and sisters to leave them in peace. We have to remember, dogs cannot use their extremities like us humans and thus, the mouth is their favoured piece of anatomy. However, problems can arise when your puppy’s razor sharp teeth meet your hand instead of a toy.
Many assume that mouthing and nipping is a rite of passage for pups, but during these formative months it is essential that this habit is abolished, particularly for families with younger children who do not understand that puppy isn’t viciously trying to attack them!
The most effective way to stop your mouthy canine from mauling your body parts is to say “ouch” loudly and firmly (but never to the point where your puppy is frightened). The volume of your voice will surprise the puppy and they will be inquisitive as to what the problem is. Once puppy has stopped going for your ankle, reward them with lots of praise without getting them hyper, and reward with a toy – which also acts as a distraction from your hand or foot.
Finding Their Voice
Many people learn to distinguish their puppies’ different barks and whines; some may mean they are hungry, would like to be let into the garden, or are craving a cuddle. It is when puppies start barking and whining incessantly, for no particular reason, that is becomes an issue. Barking for no reason is not acceptable behaviour and when this pattern emerges, key words such as “shush” or “quiet” should be used, and once puppy has silenced, rewarded with praise and treats. Puppies will understand the difference between their legitimate barks and naughty barks, so training of this nature will not prevent puppies from using their voice when it is appropriate.
As cruel as it sounds, sometimes it is best to ignore your puppy. If you know they are safe and all possible avenues of anguish have been explored, do not pander to them. It can be extremely difficult, like having a screeching new born baby, but running to your puppy every time they let out a noise will reinforce this behaviour and it could become an issue in later life that is hard to correct.
Say Goodbye to Furniture & Lawns
No matter how well you have prepared, it will be time to say goodbye to some furniture. Puppies love to dig and anything is a goal. Dogs dig instinctively, it is not them being naughty for the sake of it, and often it is the foreshadowing of a snooze as they make their surface more comfortable.
Sometimes, puppies dig because they are bored, and having a multitude of stimulating toys on hand will help to ensure that puppy does not go for the flowerbeds anymore. However, some breeds are raised specifically to hunt critters underground and this cannot be eliminated completely from their psyche and nor should it be; often owners embrace their pooch’s natural instincts and dedicate an area of the garden to accommodate their digging frenzies.
When it comes to the destruction of furniture and gardens, gently tugging your puppy and stating “no” firmly and loudly will discourage unwanted behaviour, but remember to use oodles of positive praise to reinforce positive behaviour.
Everything Is Food
Puppy will definitely want a taste of whatever is cooking in the kitchen, but be prepared that pooch will also happily swallow anything that will fit down his or her gullet. Nothing is out of bounds for puppies; their own faeces, other dog’s faeces, socks and knickers, keys, money. The list is endless and if puppy can get it in his or her mouth there is a strong chance of it going down the hatch.
Even the most vigilant puppy owners are likely to have a trip to the vets when puppy has devoured all the wrapped up chocolate under the Christmas tree or swallowed chunks of a flannel; nobody has eyes in the back of their heads. Vets will usually administer an injection to make puppy sick and in some circumstances puppies may need surgery.
You can breathe a sigh of relief; this is something puppies grow out of. It can be taxing and extremely worrying whilst your puppy is miniature and reprimanding and praising your canine chum effectively will help the process until they grow out of the phase naturally.
Jumping up to greet people, or launching at kitchen counters for leftovers, is a trait of a mischievous puppy and, from an early age your puppy needs to be taught that all four limbs need to be in contact with the ground. No owner wants muddy foot prints up their work uniform and, especially with larger breeds, people can get knocked over easily.
Gently telling your dog off when they initiate this behaviour will set them on the right track and it is ideal to warn visitors to not encourage this behaviour, no matter how endearing your puppy is.
Puppies are savvy little creatures and it only takes one morsel of human food to get them into the habit of begging. To prevent problems down the line, it is advised to never give your puppy food from the table while you are eating and your puppy should not be under the table or around you at meal times. If you have young children, they should be taught not to feed puppy at any point, as children are unaware that foods such as chocolate and onions and be dangerous to the health of a young puppy.
Keeping your puppy busy during mealtimes can be a great distraction from the offerings on the dinner table; a favourite toy or something to chew can keep your puppy entertained whilst you eat.
It is important to first start walking your pride and joy on soft surfaces. Pounding pavements is not ideal for your puppy’s bones and a breed handbook will inform you on walking times. Puppy is going to be ecstatic with all the new smells and interactions on his walk and it is highly likely that you, as the owner, will be taken for a walk some of the time.
Matching collars and leads can be exceptionally adorable, but investing in a harness and sturdy lead is going to be the best option. Your puppy is not going to grasp lead etiquette straight away, this will develop overtime with training, and traditional collars clipped to leads can put extreme strain on a puppy’s neck and even damage their throat when they are excited and pull on the lead constantly.
Harnesses provide better control over your puppy and discourages pulling and helps keep distracted pups focused on the job in hand. Collars are ideal for identification purposes, and for a swift grab around the house when puppy is going for the shepherd’s pie leftovers, but for any walking a harness is a great option and will help puppy learn how to behave correctly.