When you welcome home a new puppy, you may be more focused on their adorable wagging tail and puppy kisses, and forget that your new snuggle buddy may develop inappropriate behaviors. Most puppies learn easily and quickly, but can inadvertently learn the wrong thing without proper training. So, set your new pup on the path for success by preventing behavior problems using the following five tips. 

#1: Remain positive when interacting with your puppy

Whether you’re playing with or training your puppy, ensure all your interactions are positive. Negative interactions, like yelling or hitting, teach your puppy to be afraid of you more than to do the “right” thing. For example, if your puppy has left a puddle on the floor, do not yell or rub their nose in the mess, which only teaches them to hide, not to go to the bathroom outside. Instead, ignore any messes inside, unless you can catch them in the act, and encourage them to eliminate outdoors by scooping them up as they are about to urinate or defecate, heading outdoors to the bathroom location, and using your cue word. Once your puppy finishes in the appropriate area, praise and reward them with tons of pets and treats. This positive training method will be much more effective—and forge a deeper bond with your puppy—than being negative.

#2: Remain consistent when training your puppy

Consistency is key when teaching your new puppy the household rules. By remaining consistent through every interaction, your pet will more quickly learn what is—and is not—acceptable behavior. Letting a puppy on the couch is a common pet owner inconsistency. One family member wants to allow the puppy to snuggle on the couch, while another wants the puppy to stay off the furniture. This inconsistent behavior confuses the puppy, who won’t learn which behavior is acceptable. 

#3: Avoid inadvertently reinforcing inappropriate behavior

Inadvertently reinforcing inappropriate behavior can be too easy—for example, unintentionally rewarding a puppy for jumping. Excitable puppies tend to jump up to greet anyone who walks through the door, and while you may love seeing your puppy’s pleasure after a long day of work, rewarding your puppy with attention only reinforces their jumping. Many people reward a jumping puppy by pushing them down, saying “No,” or bending down to their level. This behavior may be cute when your puppy is small, but once they grow up to an 80-pound Labrador, greeting you by jumping up won’t be nearly as adorable or acceptable. 

Instead of inadvertently rewarding this behavior, ignore your jumping puppy, and shower them with attention only when they have all four paws on the ground—or better yet, they’re sitting down. If your puppy jumps up again, ignore them, turn your back, or walk away. By removing any attention—negative or positive—your puppy will soon realize they will get what they want only when they remain on the floor. 

#4: Set your puppy up for success

The best way to keep your puppy out of trouble is to prevent problem behaviors from developing. You can set your puppy up for success in a variety of ways, including: 

  • Blocking access to specific locations — If your puppy is tall enough or smart enough to reach your trash can or hop on your kitchen counters, block their kitchen access with a baby gate, and avoid naughty behaviors like counter-surfing and trash-digging. Keeping your puppy out of the kitchen can also save them from a serious gastrointestinal upset, a foreign body obstruction, or toxicity case.
  • Providing appropriate chew toys — A common behavior issue for new puppy owners is inappropriate chewing on the furniture, household items, and the owners themselves. By giving your puppy the proper chew toys—and rotating them to keep them exciting—you can help prevent your pup from chewing on inappropriate items.
  • Engaging in adequate physical and mental activity — A bored puppy will find their own entertainment, which often includes chewing, barking, digging, or otherwise being naughty. Provide plenty of mental and physical activity for your puppy through walks, training sessions, and interaction, to ensure they are tired out and content.

#5: Understand that puppy training and socialization is a lifelong process

While training and socialization are necessary to set your puppy up with a lifetime of good manners, they must continue throughout your dog’s life. Participate in regular training sessions to brush up on old tricks and learn new skills, and enroll your dog in various training courses that involve fun sporting activities and lessons, like agility or canine good citizen classes. Take your dog out in public to different locations so they can experience new sights, sounds, and smells, and let them interact with other friendly dogs and people, if they like company. Continual, positive training and exposure to their world can help your pet become a well-mannered, calm, confident dog in a multitude of situations.

Prepare your puppy for a lifetime of health and happiness by ensuring they receive regular wellness checks, and keep them up to date on essential vaccinations against infectious diseases. Schedule an appointment with our MetroPet Veterinary Clinic team, and let us help you and your pup by enrolling them in behavior classes, socializing with other pets, and learning the ways of the world.