Perfect Puppy Problem Solving – Puppy Behavior
Just as the way that you communicate is very different from how your puppy communicates, your perceptions can be different, too. What you think may be a problem may not feel like a problem at all to your puppy. In fact, she’s probably having a great time!
Puppy mouthing, jumping up, barking, digging, and even eating poop are all quite enjoyable activities for your puppy. To us, they can be a nuisance (or in the case of poop eating, quite disgusting!). It’s up to you to teach your puppy how you want her to behave. Fortunately, you can successfully resolve many behavior problems using reward-based methods.
What is a Puppy Behavior Problem?
A puppy problem behavior is a behavior that can be annoying or potentially harmful to your puppy. It’s a lot easier to address these types of problems now rather than later. The more chances that your puppy has to practice undesirable behaviors, the more ingrained they will become. Some problem behaviors are obvious. If your puppy jumps on your guests, it’s a problem. If she barks at every little sound she hears, it’s a problem. But sometimes, puppy owners don’t recognize problems until they become serious issues. Here are some tips for recognizing some commonly overlooked problem behaviors:
Anything That Won’t Be Cute When Your Puppy Is Full Grown Isn’t Cute Now
Puppies have a way of charming us, which typically results in us letting them get away with more than we normally would. You may giggle when your Rottweiler puppy jumps up to kiss your chin, but will you still be giggling when your full-grown Rottie leaps up and clocks you in the jaw? If your Corgi puppy looks adorable pulling on your pant leg, will it be as cute years down the line and dozens of shredded pants later?
Any time your puppy does something, ask yourself “Will this be cute when she’s an adult?” If the answer is no, it’s a problem behavior. Start fixing the problem now. Your puppy will not understand if you laugh when she jumps up on you for the first few months, then suddenly get angry and yell at her when she’s older and bigger. Don’t change the rules later down the line —establish them now and avoid confusion and frustration later. Think of what you’ll have to put up with in the future, and resist the temptation.
Aggressive Behavior of any Kind Is Not Acceptable
It may be tempting to laugh if your tiny puppy growls over a toy when you try to take it, but this is actually a problem behavior. Growling over a food bowl, toys, or other “prizes” is called “resource guarding.” This problem will not go away on its own, and actually is likely to become worse if not addressed. What starts out as a growl could end up as a snap or a bite.
Teasing your puppy while she growls is not a game. Instead, it’s likely to increase her aggression. What if she gets hold of something dangerous, and you can’t get it away from her because she snaps at you? What if a small child tries to take your puppy’s “prize” away? Some puppies may not bite an adult but won’t hesitate to bite a young child.
If your puppy is growling over items, it’s no laughing matter. Call a professional dog trainer or applied animal behaviorist and get help addressing the problem now, before your puppy and her growls get any bigger.
There’s another instance where puppy growling is a real concern. Some puppies growl at their tails, paws, or other parts of their own bodies. You may have even seen videos of this behavior on popular television shows or on the Internet. Many folks laugh out loud when they see a dog growling at herself, but experts in dog behavior cringe. This is not normal behavior for a dog, and it could indicate some serious problems. If your puppy is growling at herself, consult your veterinarian and a professional dog trainer or applied animal behaviorist.
Please note that this does not apply to a puppy who growls at her reflection in a mirror. It’s very common for puppies to be startled at their reflections and growl as a result. If your puppy does this, touch the mirror and show her that there’s not another dog there. Don’t force her to go smell the mirror; she should approach it by herself. Most puppies figure this out quickly, and some even seem to admire what they see!
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