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Puppy Behaviours and Training: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A new puppy is devilishly cute and charming, with extra emphasis on the devilish. These sweet furry little monsters are full of love but require regular training to grow into happy, well-adjusted, and well-behaved dogs. 

First, you need to establish some rules of the house and define bad vs. normal puppy behavior.

Puppies, like children, have difficulty exercising impulse control, so even once healthy behavioral boundaries have been set, you will need to remind and reinforce them with a normal puppy several times a day. 

It can be frustrating at the beginning of puppy ownership to feel like you’re constantly correcting behavior problems. Still, the up-front time investment will pay off in the long run - a well-trained pup will respect your authority and need less supervision and corrections as an adult. 

Here are nine of the most common new puppy behaviors that will subside with a little attention and the proper training. 

At what age are puppies no longer puppies?

The age at which puppies are considered adult dogs varies depending on the size of the breed. These are some general guidelines for dog maturity.

Physical maturity

For puppies 10 lb or less, they’re considered full-grown at ten months old. 

Mini breeds, which are 10 to 25 lbs, are adults around the ten-month mark.

A 26-55 lb medium-sized breed takes 12 months to mature. 

Large breeds of 56-100 lbs are fully-grown at 15 months.

And lastly, a giant breed over 100 lbs can take 1.5 to 2 years to reach full size. 

Sexual maturity

Most puppies become sexually mature, meaning capable of breeding, at about six months of age.

Emotional maturity

Emotionally, things are a little less cut-and-dry. Emotional maturity comes as hormone levels start to even out, usually at the year-and-a-half mark. 

Some signs of emotional maturity in your furry friend are improved listening skills, easier time settling down, and listening and responding to social cues from other pups. 

At what age do puppies show their personality?

In purebred puppies, there are some breed-specific traits that most of them possess. Each pup is a unique individual with a blend of personality traits. 

Personality is affected by the mother’s temperament, early living conditions, and the type of care they’ve received from the breeder. 

A pup will start showing signs of his sweet little personality at 6 to 8 weeks old. 

The most significant impact on a dog’s personality and puppy behavior is how you raise them - his interactions with the world around him will be monitored and reinforced by you, which is why training is such an essential part of dog ownership. 

What is typical puppy behavior?

You might think that your dog is displaying a lot of bad behavior, but don’t let it get you down - most of the following is common behavior among all puppies. If your puppy is left alone, they seem to get into trouble in the blink of an eye. 

Keep a close watch on your puppy, give them lots of attention, and correct these behaviors as often as possible. 

Behavior #1: Housetraining Troubles

If you’re one of the lucky ones, the dog breeder got a head start on house training before you brought the pup home. 

If not, you’ll be starting from scratch, but they’re pretty smart, and with a little consistency, they can catch on pretty quickly. 

Here are a few ways to make housetraining a little easier for both you and your pup:

  • Frequent bathroom breaks. Take your pup outside every two hours, including in the morning upon waking and in the evening before bed. The more often they get the chance to pee outside, the better. 
  • Designate a pee spot. Pick an area outside and take your pup to develop a routine and have them associate the place with going to the bathroom. Pick a phrase and use it every time they pee, then start using it to cue the pup that it’s time to do their business. 
  • Use rewards. Verbal praise and a few treats go a long way. Make sure to do both of these after every successful bathroom break to reinforce good puppy behaviors. 
  • Cut off fluids before bed. Empty your pup’s water dish and leave 2 hours before bedtime where they aren’t drinking fluids. Take your pet out to pee right before bed to avoid nighttime accidents.
  • Crate train. Put your puppy in a crate when they’re home alone, and you’re unable to supervise. Teach them that this crate is home, not a punishment. 

Behavior #2: Unwanted Chewing 

Dogs love to chew, especially the things they’re not supposed to. Puppies go through a teething phase, which makes the behavior even worse for a few months. 

Chewing is one habit you need to work to break early and often - otherwise, you’ll be dealing with this issue forever. 

  • Combat unwanted chewing by hiding and removing any of your belongings out of the reach of the puppy. I learned this expensive lesson the hard way, with a few ruined pairs of shoes that were tantalizing to my puppy. 
  • Give your dog chew toys to play with and encourage your puppy to chew on those instead. Offer words of encouragement and positively reinforce the right behavior. Remove the stimulus whenever they get their teeth into an unwanted item. 

Behavior #3: Biting and Mouthing Friends

For dogs that get excited or nervous (or both) around other people, they may be prone to biting. Dogs bite each other as a form of play and often take some time and help from us to learn that people don’t like the same kind of rough puppy play. 

You can use a chew toy to train excessive biting out of your dog. Hold the chew toy in one hand and pet your dog with the other. Whenever they attempt to bite you instead, give them a firm “no” and stop petting. If the behavior continues, walk alone to another room of the house. If the dog follows you, remove your attention from the dog until they calm down. 

Ensure your dog gets some proper socialization with you to ensure they learn how to act around other people, pets, and dogs appropriately. You want your dog to realize that they not only can’t bite you but that they shouldn’t be biting anyone else either. 

Behavior #4: Jumping 

Most dogs get excited whenever we return home, or a new special guest arrives at the house.

A little puppy jumping might even seem cute - but it becomes less so when they grow into a large adult dog. 

An excellent training technique to implement here is sure to help.

  • Whenever your dog jumps up, fold your arms across your body and firmly give the command “down.” 
  • Make your puppy sits if he has learned that command too. 
  • Turn your back to him until he is no longer jumping. 
  • Turn back around to reward the desired behaviors. If he begins to jump again, repeat the process. 

Behavior #5: Excessive Whining

Puppies whine when they need something. If your pup is whining excessively, he wants to get your attention, either for a walk, food, or some loving affection. 

Too much whining can lead to more significant problems and a dog with separation anxiety. 

The best way to train your puppy to whine less is to ignore them until they stop. If your dog learns that whining gets them what they want, they will double down and do it all the time, which is a nightmare for everyone in the house, or within earshot for that matter. 

Teach your dog to be independent. Don’t give them food off your plate, and keep the expectations for behavior strict but loving. When your dog isn’t whining, reward them with love and attention. 

For small and aging dogs, you can also get a bed ramp for dogs so that they can quickly get around the house by themselves and learn to enjoy a bit of independence from you. 

Behavior #6: Excessive Barking

A puppy loves to be heard. If your puppy is prone to barking, use these methods to discourage this typical behavior. 

  • Don’t yell at the dog - it encourages more barking.
  • Remove the dog from the stimulus. If they bark at passersby from inside, close the blinds. Later, try reopening and close again whenever barking happens.
  • If they bark at others while they’re outside, immediately bring them inside.

The training here comes in the removal of the stimulus. Give your pet some positive affirmation when they stop the behavior. 

Behavior #7: Food Stealing

A puppy is ravenously hungry at all times of the day. And nothing smells better to them than whatever is on your plate. 

Although it’s tempting, avoid giving your puppy your food scraps - they learn to beg for your food, and some human food can be toxic for a puppy. 

  • Feed your dog right before you eat. Eating will distract the puppy and ensure they know you will meet their needs.
  • Take your dog to a nice spot near the dining room so they can feel “in” on the social experience, but far enough that begging will be difficult.
  • If they start begging, ignore the dog behavior and redirect their attention to a toy. 

Keep your food off of the counters and locked away in cupboards they can’t get into easily. Their sensitive noses can sniff out food within their reach and get to it before you’ve had a chance to blink. 

Final notes on puppy training

The key to a well-trained puppy is consistency. Train your dog with these tips and get your whole family using the same training methods across the board.

If you’re struggling to correct unwanted dog behaviors, get a professional’s hand to help with the matter. Puppy-training school is a great way to reinforce good behaviors and help with unwanted behavior you struggle to break.

We hope you enjoy this magical time getting to know and grow along with your beautiful little pup! 

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