In many cases the cuteness of a puppy simply can’t override bad puppy behavior like jumping and biting. As I sometimes say, ” That cute factor has a short shelf life!”
And for some new puppy owners, simple things like jumping and biting or ” just being a puppy” can cause that puppy to be sent back to the breeder, given away or worse yet taken to a shelter.
You don’t have to let your relationship with your puppy get to a decision-making point” like this owner who recently said, “My adorable Golden Retriever puppy had hit a point where she was really hard to handle, and I felt overwhelmed– like a failure as a dog owner! I just can’t keep my puppy, but…”
Puppy owners want to know, no they need to know: Is the behavior they are experiencing with their puppy (usually between 8 – 16 weeks of age – and sometimes older) really bad behavior, or is it just a puppy being a puppy?
Before I answer that question, maybe it would be good to help you understand what makes your puppy tick.
So let’s break it down this way.
Puppy behavior, to a large extent, is determined by three things: instinct, personality and “owner input.” Let me explain.
Instinct is a puppy’s natural predisposed way of exploring his environment to determine what’s good, what’s not, what’s harmful and what works for him.
If you have a new puppy you will observe and experience your puppy using his instinct, i.e. exploring with his nose and mouth. He may jump on you and play bite you or other family members. Nothing and no one is sacred. Everything is a chew toy to a puppy unless of course you put it up so your puppy can’t get to it.
With no opposing thumbs for picking things up – puppies just use their mouth. It’s instinctive for a puppy to use his mouth to grab your hand or arm to say, “Let’s play!” or to bite and chew as they explore this vast new world into which they have just been dropped.
Personality is a puppy’s temperament or character. We’ve had a few real “characters” around the house in our day! Puppies are born with a certain temperament or personality. You could say puppy temperament or personality determines just how vigorous or energetically they “instinctively” explore their environment and test their relationships with all family members – just like they would do with their litter mates. Some puppies that are “strong-willed” cannot be played with in the same manner you would play with a softer puppy.
Strong willed puppies have a hightened degree of intensity at which they use their nose and mouth to explore their environment and test their relationships with all family members, just like they would do with their litter mates.
Here’s where it gets tricky. The bossier the puppy, that puppy usually bites more. This is where owners of strong-willed puppies get very frustrated and make mistakes. What are the mistakes these new puppy owners make?
New puppy owners always compare their new puppy with the previous dog they raised as a puppy. The previous dog was usually a much softer dog so the expectation is that all puppies are easy going. Not so true.
- New puppy owners forget that the last time they raised a puppy they were single or married with no kids and now they have kids that bring a whole new element to puppy training. Now it becomes critical to manage/supervise all interactions between your kids and your new puppy for safety’s sake.
- Plus, if you are married you probably had spousal support with the first dog. And now in many cases it is the “stay at home mom” that bears the responsibility to raise and train the new puppy along with the kids.
- On a recent lesson one new puppy owner suddenly acknowledged to me, “I realized that I am 15 years older than last time I had a puppy and my new puppy is just getting started!”
There’s a lot to be said about raising a puppy when you are older because it speaks to our thinner patience and in some cases our skin is thinner too! Thin patience and thin skin don’t bode well with a bossy puppy that bites hard.
Finally we get down to owner input. Owner input is the behavior a new puppy learns by interacting with its owner. For example, allowing the puppy to jump reinforces jumping. Your puppy may want attention and jumps to get attention. If you look at, talk to or touch your puppy – even to correct him, that’s attention and it reinforces jumping.
Beware of your owner input. It is critical to shape or reward behavior you want and ignore the behavior you dislike. If you don’t like jumping, teach your puppy to keep all four feet on the floor. Rapidly rewarding “four on the floor” BEFORE his has a chance to jump is how you do that. Working him on leash for better control in the house is excellent puppy control. When you can’t supervise him, crate him. It’s that simple.
Before you get frustrated to the point of making a decision, call a trainer that uses positive reinforcement methods. Your puppy is relying on you to make all the right decisions to teach him and keep him safe and in his forever home with you.
Thanks for letting me share my puppy training experience and knowledge with you. I truly hope you found answers and hope for helping your new puppy. Don’t be a stranger. I’d love to hear what you think. Please come over to my Facebook page to let me know how this article impacted you and the way you think about puppy training. Are you looking at it a little differently? Remember:
“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Nose to Tail Puppy Training is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your puppy understands what you expect of him because you know how to teach him. You empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home. The result – one awesome puppy and one happy family.