Puppy Problem Prevention in 5 Steps

Congratulations on your new puppy! Before the “Oohs” and “Ahhs” become “Uh-ohs” and “Oh nos,” learn how to prevent common puppy behavior problems with Mercer Street Veterinary Hospital’s five-step guide to raising a polite, confident puppy. 

#1: Assemble your puppy problem prevention kit

Make your puppy shopping list and check it twice, because the following tools are essential for preventing common puppy problems. Your list should include:

  • Crate — Crate training is an invaluable skill with life-long advantages. Introduce your puppy to their crate in a positive manner to ensure maximum benefits—especially house training and unsupervised confinement. 
  • Exercise pen — These modular pens can be used to create a barrier or a safe, confined indoor space. Outdoors, they can accelerate house training by establishing a designated space for elimination.
  • Leash — Retractable leashes can injure pets and people, and they encourage poor on-leash behavior such as pulling and lunging. Select a standard four- or six-foot leash with a secure clip.
  • Collar and harness — Too much freedom can spell trouble for curious puppies. Attach your puppy’s leash to a well-fitted collar or harness, and ensure they stay with you when they cannot be confined to a small area. This tethering technique not only prevents unwanted or dangerous behavior, but also accelerates training and bonding.
  • Safe toys — Puppies chew to learn and to relieve gum pain, and with no access to puppy-safe options, they may develop a taste for your shoes or furniture. Provide several toys of various textures to determine your puppy’s preferences.
  • Food and training treats — Food is a primary reinforcer—meaning food intrinsically motivates all puppies. Don’t simply put your puppy’s food in a bowl—use their food for training sessions throughout the day, or mix dry food with soft food and fill a Kong toy to keep them preoccupied in their crate. Small, soft treats can be used as high-value reinforcers during more challenging training.
  • Enzymatic cleaner — Lingering odor from a urine or stool accident can attract puppies and encourage them to inappropriately eliminate. Use an enzymatic cleaner on pet stains to ensure complete protein breakdown and prevent house-training delays.

#2: Set your puppy up for success

Puppies arrive in the world with no preconceived notion of how to live with humans, and rely on instinctive behaviors to fulfill their basic survival needs. In other words, you can’t blame them for what they don’t know. Set your puppy up for success in every situation by making the right choice easy for them, and the wrong choice difficult. Some examples include:

  • Puppy-proofing your home to prevent accidents and injuries (e.g., chewing on an electrical cord, toxin ingestion)
  • Providing toys in various textures to prevent inappropriate chewing
  • Crating your puppy to prevent them from dashing outside or eliminating inside
  • Leashing your puppy so they cannot run off to chase a squirrel

#3: Use positive reinforcement to shape your puppy’s behavior

When your puppy performs a desirable behavior (e.g., eliminating outside, sitting on command) mark the exact moment by saying “Yes” or “Good,” and then generously praise and reward. When they perform unwanted behaviors—such as jumping up, barking, or biting—avoid any emotional reaction. Instead, ignore the behavior, redirect your puppy, and calmly remove them from the situation, if necessary. Avoid scolding or physical correction, because these methods can damage your puppy’s self-confidence and their trust in you, and they may react in fear. If you must interrupt an inappropriate behavior, use a neutral sound, such as “Oops,” “Ow,” or “Pup, pup, pup,” to distract or mildly startle them and shift their focus. Once the moment has passed and your puppy is safe, reevaluate, and determine how you can prevent the situation again.

#4: Establish a routine for your puppy

Predictability and consistency help puppies feel secure and confident. Establish a daily schedule that includes:

  • Fixed meal times — Feed several small meals or use your puppy’s food for training throughout the day. 
  • Exercise — Age-appropriate exercise satisfies the puppy’s mind and body, and reduces unwanted behaviors.
  • Elimination opportunities — Give your puppy an opportunity to eliminate immediately after they wake up, play, or eat, and before crating.
  • Rest — Scheduled rest breaks teach puppies how to “switch off.” Avoid overarousal behavior, such as zoomies, demand-barking, and destructive chewing.

Scheduling ensures your puppy always knows what’s happening next and prevents anxiety and boredom, which can lead to bad behavior. Well-defined routines will also speed up your puppy’s house training and improve their sleep quality, and your pup will grow up as a satisfied and adaptable adult dog. 

#5: Join a puppy class

Puppy classes are incredibly beneficial for puppies and their owners. They not only provide your puppy with the opportunity for positive social interactions with other puppies and people in a new environment, they address common puppy-raising topics, including house and crate training, biting, barking, jumping, and chewing. 

However, selecting the right trainer is crucial. Contact several reward-based trainers near you and ask to observe a session without your puppy. Use the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s guide to choosing a trainer to assess each candidate and determine the best fit for you and your puppy.  

Puppy raising is an adventure, but by proactively preventing common behavior problems, you can choose your journey—and your destination. For all of your puppy care needs, contact Mercer Street Veterinary Hospital.

By |2023-01-19T00:39:33+00:00January 19th, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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