Stopping Your Puppy From Biting When puppies bite, they think they're just playing, but for…
Whether you’ve just brought a puppy into your home for the first time or you’re a seasoned dog owner, it’s possible that you could wind up with a dog that’s just a bit out of control. Dogs have distinct personalities, and often the smarter your dog is, the harder he can be to train. There are many things your puppy needs to learn and proper training is one of the most important things.
If you’re struggling to reign in an unruly puppy, you’re certainly not alone. It can be very frustrating, particularly if you’ve never had a dog before. But don’t give up hope just yet. Just about any dog can be made into a model citizen if you know how to go about it the right way.
One great option to consider when you find yourself in this situation is taking your puppy to an obedience class or even private lessons with a professional trainer. This won’t solve all of your problems, but it can give you a structured time to work with your dog and help him to understand what you expect of him.
However, these types of classes are far from the only thing you can do to help get your puppy under control. Even if you’ve never owned a dog before, you can learn how to train your puppy right by making use of some of the tried and true tips and tricks that generations of dog owners have come up with.
These tips and others have helped millions of people form strong and lasting bonds with their puppies, and you can do it too. Just be patient and stick to your routine and you’ll find that you’re making great progress before you know it.
1. Crate Training
One of the best things you can do for your puppy, particularly if you’re having a hard time with him, is crate train him. While this is often done as early as possible, crate training can really be done at any time, and it is quite effective at addressing a whole host of behavioral problems. In some ways, crate training is the best foundation on which to build a healthy relationship between you and your puppy. If you’re dealing with any type of puppy behavioral problems, this is a great place to start.
The Right Size
One of the most important things to remember when you decide to crate train your puppy is that you need to get a crate that’s the right size. If you have a very young puppy who is going to grow into a large dog, this will probably meant that you’ll need to purchase at least a couple of crates as your puppy ages.
While this may be slightly inconvenient, you should never go out and get a large crate for a puppy just because you think he’ll grow into it eventually. The size of the crate is extremely important to the success of the crate training process and you have to make sure that the one you get is neither too big nor too small for your puppy at the moment.
A Safe Zone
The reason that the size of the crate is so important is that your puppy, like all other dogs, has the instinct to sleep in a den or other safe and cozy space. They also have a very strong innate aversion to going to the bathroom in their den. This is obviously extremely useful when you’re trying to housebreak your puppy and eliminate accidents.
However, if the crate you select is too large, your puppy will simply begin to use one area as a toilet and sleep in another area. Not only does that impede your progress towards housebreaking, but it can actually make it harder.
However, it’s also good to remember that even though the last thing your puppy wants to do is make a mess in his kennel, he can’t wait as long as an adult dog can. Being in a crate will slowly help your puppy to realize that he can hold it, but if you leave him in there for too long, he will eventually have an accident.
As frustrating as this is for you, it will also be traumatic for your puppy and can make potty training and crate training harder in the long run. So if you’re going to be gone for more than a couple of hours at a time, it’s a good idea to leave your puppy confined in a larger area rather than locked in their crate, possibly with some newspaper or potty pads on the ground in one part of the enclosure.
The best time to lose a crate is when you can’t watch your puppy every second but can still come around and take him outside to go potty every couple of hours or so. As your puppy ages, you can gradually extend the amount of time you leave him in the crate between potty breaks so that he learns that he can wait to go outside, but be careful not to extend his crate sessions too much at once.
It’s also very important that you never use confinement in the crate as a way to punish your puppy. The crate is supposed to be a safe place that your puppy will like to be and if it becomes a punishment, it will no longer be an effective training tool. This is especially significant because crate training isn’t only useful for housebreaking your puppy.
If your puppy is happy to go into his crate and feels safe when he’s there, it will help to keep things like separation anxiety from developing. Dogs are social animals and it’s natural for them to not want to be separated from you. Of course, there will be plenty of times when you have to leave the house and leave your dog there along.
If you can give your dog a safe place to be when you’re not home, they’ll be much better equipped to deal with your absence. Separation anxiety in dogs can be very severe and many dogs can do a lot of damage to property or hurt themselves if they become frantic when their owners leave them. Proper crate training, however, is an excellent way to keep this type of situation from developing or to curb it if it is becoming a problem for you and your puppy.
2. Training Your Puppy To Stop Biting
Dogs use their mouths for a lot of things, so it’s only natural that your puppy will try to nip, mouth or bite your hands and feet when you’re playing. While this is cute when your puppy is small, it can quickly turn into a problem as your puppy begins to grow into an adult dog. When puppies bite, it’s usually because they’re playing. They can’t do any real damage because their jaws aren’t strong enough and their teeth aren’t big enough.
Take Advantage of Nature
Biting is actually a natural part of puppy play specifically because it enables puppies to learn not to bite and more generally how it’s appropriate to interact with each other. When puppies play, they immediately let out a yelp or yip when something another puppy does hurts them. In that way, the offender is able to learn that what he did was not acceptable.
You can imitate this behavior when you’re playing with your puppy to help him learn that it’s not okay to bite you or other people either. The best way to do this is to make a yelp similar to one another puppy would make when your puppy bites and immediately stop playing until your puppy calms down. You don’t need to punish the puppy for this because your puppy doesn’t want to upset you and wants to keep playing. He’ll quickly figure out what it is that stops play time and avoid that behavior.
Dogs and People
While teaching your puppy not to bite people is important, it’s also a good idea to make sure your puppy knows how to behave around other dogs. Keeping up a regular schedule of social interaction with other puppies is a great way to help your puppy learn how to behave around other dogs. If your puppy is properly socialized from the beginning, it will make many things much easier for you later on. This might sound like tough love, but it really is the best way for your puppy to learn not to bite.
3. Stopping Your Puppy’s Aggression
An aggressive dog can be a ticking time bomb and will certainly cause you plenty of anxiety over the years. Plus, your puppy’s aggression can put a great strain on your relationship and make it much less fulfilling than it would otherwise be. But if you’re starting to notice signs of aggressive behavior in your puppy, don’t despair. You can still put an end to that and help your dog learn how to be a well-socialized member of your household.
Be in Charge
The most important thing you can do to help keep your puppy from acting aggressively is to firmly establish yourself as the alpha in the house. Like all dogs, your puppy is a pack animal and has the instincts that go along with that breeding. He wants to understand how he fits in the social structure of your household and that means he needs to know that he’s a member of the pack and not its leader.
Also, if your puppy doesn’t recognize your authority as the alpha in the household, then there’s really no reason for him to listen to you. He’ll feel that he can constantly challenge your authority because in his mind you’re equals. This can certainly lead to aggression as your puppy competes with you for the alpha role, and it can also create a host of other behavioral problems.
So how do you establish your authority? They key really lies in establishing rules and then consistently enforcing them. This sounds simple enough, and it can be, but you still really have to do it. You can’t only enforce the rules when you have time for it or when you feel like it. You need to keep an eye on your puppy and gently but firmly correct him when he steps out of line.
The more bad behaviors your puppy has developed already, the harder this will be so the sooner you start, the better. But it’s never too late to start down this road. Just remember that getting upset and frustrated yourself will only confuse your puppy more. He really does want to do the right thing and what will please you, but it’s up to you to effectively communicate what that is.
One of the most common forms of aggression for dogs to develop is food aggression, directed both towards other animals and towards people. After all, access to food is vital for the survival of animals in the wild and your dog naturally wants to do things that promote his own well-being. Also, in the wild it’s typical for the alpha of the pack to eat first and then give the rest of the pack permission to eat.
In this way, the alpha is seen as the giver of the food, and this is the role that you want for yourself. Two equals in a pack may fight over food, but a pack member will never fight the alpha in the same way. Because of this dynamic, establishing a proper routine surrounding food and meal times is a great way to both eliminate food aggression and secure the alpha role for yourself.
The key to eliminating food aggression in this way is to make sure that your puppy knows that he is eating because you allow it. Don’t let him jump up to take food out of your hand or push you out of the way to get to his bowl the second you put it down. Make him sit and wait patiently and only give him permission to eat once he’s calmed down. This will quickly communicate that you’re the one giving him food – he’s not taking it.
Aggression Because of Fear or Pain
If your puppy is suddenly showing signs of aggression that weren’t there before, you may want to examine the possibility that he is frightened or in pain. Dogs that are in pain will naturally try to frighten off others as a way of protecting themselves in their weakened state. Similarly, your puppy may try to frighten you or others away if he is hurting. He may also be afraid that if you touch him you will hurt him more.
When aggressive behavior develops suddenly, there’s a good chance that illness or injury is responsible. It’s important then to get your puppy to a vet quickly so that their injury can be taken care of and their aggressive behavior doesn’t escalate into other types of situations.
Also, be sure no one is picking on or tormenting your puppy. Small children or others who don’t know any better can wind up hurting or confusing your puppy by mistreating it and this can also quickly cause your puppy to act aggressively towards people because it’s afraid of what they’ll do.
The Importance of Socialization
Making sure your puppy sees you as the alpha is certainly vital to establishing a healthy relationship between the two of you, but it’s not the only thing you can do to prevent aggression. Letting your puppy interact with as many different dogs and people as possible will help him learn that there’s nothing to fear from encounters with strange people and animals. It will also be an opportunity for him to learn what appropriate behaviors in these situations are and can be a huge tool when you’re trying to curb or prevent aggressive behavior.
4. Leash Training
As you’re probably beginning to realize, the position you establish for yourself in your dog’s eyes will have a lot to do with how well your relationship develops. And it will also greatly impact your dog’s behavior. You need to be the one in charge and your dog needs to recognize your authority.
Training your dog to walk properly on a leash goes hand in hand with a lot of the other things we’ve already discussed. When you and your dog go outside together, it’s important for him to remember that you’re still in charge. The environment may be different, but he still needs to recognize your authority and behave accordingly.
Going outside for a walk is exciting for your puppy and his natural inclination will be to pull on the leash and try to walk faster than you. He’ll find all types of things he wants to sniff, explore and chase, but allowing him to do this will only make the walk an unpleasant experience for you and make your dog think he’s in charge when you’re walking.
If your puppy starts to think he’s in charge when you’re outside, he’s also more likely to act aggressively towards people and other dogs you meet along the way. However, when you train your puppy to walk properly on a leash, you’re really training him to pay attention as he walks rather than to all of the other interesting things he might see. And that’s the best way to make your walks enjoyable and safe for both of you.
Leashes for Safety
Even when your puppy is very well trained, it’s still important for you to keep him on a leash when you’re walking around the neighborhood or taking him into certain types of situations. When your puppy is attached to you by a leash, you’re able to see and control what he’s doing all of the time. This means you can stop him from eating or getting into something he shouldn’t or from approaching and jumping up on people who might not welcome the intrusion.
Remember, no matter how friendly your dog is there will still be people who are afraid of him or feel threatened by him. That’s not so much a problem when your dog is a puppy, but if he’s allowed to roam freely and approach anyone he wants, he’ll be learning that it’s okay to behave that way and will continue to do so as an adult.
5. Clicker Training
Clicker training is a particularly effective method for teaching your dog a whole variety of commands. It’s certainly useful for any puppy, but it can be particularly effective for an unruly or challenging one. Many times, your puppy is acting out because he simply doesn’t understand what you expect of him and clicker training is a great way to communicate specifically which behaviors are desired.
How Clicker Training Works
All you’ll need to complete some basic clicker training with your puppy are some small treats and a clicker. A clicker is just a small device that you can press on to make a particular clicking sound and you can buy one at just about any pet store.
To start clicker training your puppy, you’ll first want to teach him to associate the click with a reward. So make a click and then immediately give your puppy a small treat. Repeating this for a couple of days will quickly teach your puppy that the click is good.
Next, start marking a good behavior that your puppy performs with a click. Every time your puppy does something like sit, lie down or walk with you on a leash, make a click and give him a treat. By making the click exactly when your puppy carries out a behavior that you want to reinforce, you associate that behavior with a positive experience. That makes your puppy want to sit because he thinks that he gets something good when he does.
Once you’ve marked the behavior, it’s time to attach a command to it as well. Start getting your puppy used to some basic commands for the behaviors you’ve marked. Since he already knows that sitting is a good thing, he’ll be happy to do it when you tell him to.
Spending this time with your puppy is not only beneficial because he learns to obey you. You’ll also be forming a strong bond between the two of you as you work together. Your puppy values your attention above all else, and he’ll be much more content when he knows he’s doing what you want him to do.
6. Maintaining A Schedule For Your Puppy
Clicker training is certainly a very effective way of going about training your puppy. But no matter what training method you use, you’ll get much better results if you also keep to a regular schedule for your training sessions and other activities. Your puppy will feel more secure when he thinks he knows when things should happen and what to expect and will be better behaved because of it.
If you’re always rearranging your puppy’s schedule, he’ll constantly be on edge because he doesn’t know when he should be attentive and when he should relax. This will certainly cause him to act out and can even make it more likely that he’ll develop some anxiety problems. On the other hand, developing and maintaining a predictable routine is a great way to keep your puppy relaxed and well behaved.
Schedules are also a great way to get in some one on one time with your puppy on your terms. Puppies will always naturally clamor for your attention but with all of the other things going on in your life, you simply can’t always give them that attention they’re after. If you never do, though, you’ll just wind up with a puppy who acts out all the time to attract any type of attention – good or bad.
To reduce the stress on both you and your puppy, it’s best to set aside specific time each day for your interactions. Your puppy will quickly learn that he will get plenty of attention during your training or play sessions but that he needs to leave you alone at other times. Of course, this won’t happen instantly, but with regular reinforcement, the schedule will become part of your puppy’s natural routine as well.
Being in Charge
Setting up a schedule and directing your puppy’s activity also reinforces your position as the leader in the household. That makes your puppy less likely to challenge your authority and more willing to follow your commands.
7. Setting The Right Precedent For Your Puppy At The Beginning
One of the hardest things about training a new puppy is not letting them get away with anything that can become a problem later. Just about everything a new puppy does is cute at first. However, there are plenty of things that won’t bother you too much when a puppy does them that can cause problems once they’re a bit bigger.
Biting and jumping up are the two main things that fall into this category, but allowing your puppy to get away with these and other unwanted behaviors also reinforces the impression that you’re not the one in charge. As hard as it can be to lay down the law with the adorable fur ball you just brought into the house, you’ll be much better off later on if you start early.
Never too Late
However, even if you didn’t start establishing your authority and a consistent routine when you first brought your puppy home, it’s not too late to start. It certainly won’t be as easy to break your dog of bad habits once he’s already developed them, but you can do it with some patience and consistent work.
Any time you’re working with your puppy, you’ll need to remember that, while he does want to do what pleases you, he does also have limitations. That applies to all kinds of things. For instance, your puppy may understand that he shouldn’t go to the bathroom in the house, but he still can’t physically wait too long to go. So if you don’t let him out in time, there will be accidents.
Similarly, your puppy’s attention span just isn’t that long at first. It will gradually lengthen over time, but when you start with training sessions be sure to keep them short and fun. Trying to push your puppy to pay attention to you and practice commands beyond his limit for that type of activity will just make it a frustrating and negative experience for you both.
By making sure that your expectations for your puppy are realistic based on his age and development will help to keep training fun and your relationship positive.
8. Tiring Out Your Puppy
Often an unruly puppy simply has too much energy and doesn’t know what to do with it. Different breeds certainly have very different energy levels, but all puppies will be little bundles of energy. If your puppy is constantly bouncing all over the house, tearing up things or getting into trouble, he may well just be trying to work off that excess energy.
It may take some time, but you’ll have to try and figure out how much activity is enough for your puppy and then make sure he gets it every day. You’ll likely be surprised at how much better behaved your puppy will be when he’s not bursting with excess energy all of the time.
Helping your puppy work off excess energy is also a good way to make training sessions more productive. An overly energetic puppy will have an even harder time than normal paying attention and following commands. However, if you take him for a long walk before training or play with a Frisbee for a little while, your puppy will be much better able to focus on you and learn what you’re trying to teach him.
And don’t forget that an active dog is a healthy dog. Just like humans, dogs are prone to developing weight problems and many related health conditions if they don’t get enough exercise. If you want to help your dog stay healthy and avoid some hefty vet bills later on, get into a routine of regular exercise. Plus, taking your dog out to exercise regularly can be good for you as well.
9. Stopping Your Puppy From Digging
Particularly if you have a yard, you may have found that your puppy likes to dig. And dig and dig and dig. Of course, that doesn’t make for a very attractive landscape and can begin to cause real problem in your relationship with your puppy, particularly as he gets older. In some ways, digging can be a difficult behavior to stop.
After all, digging is a pretty ingrained instinct for your puppy. Dogs in the wild often dig dens to sleep in and dig holes to bury valued items in so that others don’t find them. However, you can’t have your puppy tearing up your entire yard on a regular basis. So what do you do?
Causes of Digging
When you’re trying to cure your puppy of the digging bug, the most important thing to do is figure out why he’s digging to begin with. This will give you a great deal of information on how to go about correcting his behavior. For instance, if your puppy is constantly digging to bury treats that you give him, you may be able to correct the situation by simply not letting him out into the yard with his treat.
Of course, most digging situations are more complicated than that, but the same principle still applies. Many puppies left out in the yard by themselves for long periods of time dig because they’re bored or because they have too much energy and don’t know what to do with it. The best way to stop digging that’s a result of one of these situations is to engage your puppy in productive activities. By taking him for long walks or actively playing with him, you’ll remove the impetus to dig and can often eliminate the behavior completely.
However, there are also puppies that just dig because it’s fun for them. In this case, you may want to consider setting aside a part of your yard especially for your dog to dig in. Churn up the earth to make it soft and easy to dig in and bury some of your dog’s favorite treats or toys shallowly to help him get the idea. If you make it a more attractive place to dig, you should quickly be able to confine your dog’s digging activities to that area and keep the rest of your yard for yourself.
10. Barking Issues
Another common puppy behavior problem that can get out of hand if not addressed quickly is barking. This is another bad behavior that can seem cute at first but will become a real problem later on in your dog’s life. Just like many other bad behaviors we’ve discussed, barking can have many causes, and it’s important to know why your puppy’s barking if you want to stop it.
Why Dogs Bark
Dogs bark for many reasons. It’s a natural behavior and can have some very positive applications. However, barking at inappropriate times is a problem for a lot of dog owners. Your puppy may be barking because he’s bored, wants your attention, is excited or upset, or just because it’s fun to bark. Also, keep in mind that certain breeds of dogs are meant to bark a lot, particularly herding dogs. So if your puppy is one of these, it’s perfectly natural for him to bark.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s okay for your puppy to bark whenever he wants to and he’ll have to learn that. And it’s true that some puppies will bark to try and exert their dominance over you. Since there are so many reasons that your puppy may be barking, it’s easy to see that you need to understand where this barking behavior is coming from before you’ll be able to correct it.
In the case of the puppy barking to try and demonstrate dominance, it’s obviously important that you reassess your position in the household and your relationship with your puppy. It’s likely you haven’t managed to assert your authority completely and if you’re able to demonstrate to your puppy that you’re the one in charge, the barking is likely to stop.
On the other hand, if your puppy barks because of fear or anxiety, particularly when left alone, you’ll have to work on correcting the underlying problem and the barking should stop as well. And puppies who bark for attention or out of boredom probably just need some more structured attention and exercise.
The “Speak” Command
However, if your puppy is well socialized and exercised and still continues to bark, you may want to try teaching him the command to “speak”. Of course, it may seem a bit counterintuitive to teach a dog to perform exactly the behavior that you’re trying to eliminate. But the truth is that if you make barking a behavior that your puppy executes on command, he will be much less likely to bark without receiving the command first.
Puppies require a lot of attention and care, particularly when they’re very young. In fact, many people don’t realize just how much work it can be to bring a new puppy into the household and train him to be a productive member of the family.
However, it can be a very rewarding experience as well if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. Just remember that your puppy does want to please you. A lot of what causes puppy training to go wrong are inconsistent or unrealistic expectations. You need to understand what your puppy is capable of understanding and how to communicate your desires to him. Once you have this down, the rest of the training process is a breeze.
Probably the most important thing you can do when you’re dealing with a puppy that has already begun to develop behavioral problems is to take the time to step back and identify the root causes of those behaviors. Once that’s done, you’ll be much better able to figure out how to eliminate them from your puppy’s routine.