Common Puppy Problems and Tips

Dogs do not speak English. You must gently and patiently teach them the desired behavior through positive reinforcement.

Problem: Jumping Up and Pawing - Puppies jump up to seek your attention. If you allow your puppy to jump up, he will want to do the same thing when he is a larger, adult dog.

Tip: The best response is to turn and walk away without saying anything. This tells your dog, ''when you jump up I will ignore you." When your pup next approaches you, make him sit before he has the opportunity to jump up, and then reward and praise him for sitting. By making him sit for attention, food and playtime, you are telling your dog, 'When all four of your paws are on the floor, you'll get what you want."

Problem: Playing Too Rough - When you play physical games with your puppy, such as "play fighting," you are teaching him that hands and arms are fun things to chew on -leading to bad behaviors when he is an adult dog.

Tip: Use toys as play objects and have your puppy learn to fetch them when thrown. Exercise your dog with games and walks, not wrestling. Dogs need to be taught to be gentle when their mouth and teeth come in contact with a human. If a puppy bites down on your hand a little too hard, you should "yelp" very loudly, turn and walk away. This will teach him that if he bites a human too hard, he will lose his playmate.

Problem: Destructive Behavior - A puppy is unable to use his paws to pick up items, so he resorts to chewing on them instead. Chewing is a natural behavior for a puppy, so it is important to direct him to chew on safe items, which only you provide to him.

Tip: Until your puppy is older, and you can trust him not to be destructive, you should never leave him unattended or eventually he will destroy something important. Crate training can help keep your puppy out of trouble, meaning that you can head off destructive behavior before it even starts. Never scold your puppy after the fact if he chews on or damages an item when you leave him alone or unattended. You must catch him in the act of chewing to change his behavior. A good stem "No chew!" or "Leave it!" is an adequate punishment if you caught him in the act. Make him sit, praise the sit and then give him something that he is allowed to chew on. Providing a supply of safe items to chew on is the key to preventing destructive behavior.


Dogs don't know whether a behavior is good or bad, all they know is whether a behavior provides a pleasurable result like a treat, excitement, or attention. It is our job to make sure that good behaviors are rewarded. and bad behaviors are not. If a dog sitting politely only gets ignored by the human, but the dog jumping up gets the human excited/yelling/pushing, the dog will choose jumping up because that is what has gotten attention (even if unintentional).

Barking is very hard for a dog to control because it is a natural canine behavior. It is unrealistic to expect a dog to stop barking completely. Training, consistency, and rewarding the quiet behavior are key to getting barking under control. Be patient and don't shout at the dog, he'll think your shouting is just joining him in the barking game

Dogs may also bark/jump to greet us, to get our attention, or in excitement. They have learned that barking while we're on the phone gets us to stop what we're doing and pay attention to the dog. Or jumping gets us to push or react to the dog. It's hard to tum our back and ignore a barking~umping dog, but it's an effective way to communicate "I don't like what you are doing."

Very important: Be sure to reward Fido when he is not barking or jumping. Even if he's just sitting there quietly, give him a scratch and a reward. A reward can be a treat, a game, a toy, attention, eye contact, or access to something the dog wants (e.g. when going out a door- wait quietly until he sits or is calm).

If he jumps up, try turning away and ignoring him until he stops. A punishment is simply withholding a reward (like attention). We never have to get nastier than that. However, if he's jumping on Grandma a verbal correction is in order, and pup kept on a leash or away from Grandma until he's learned proper manners.

*** The MOST powerful punishment is to ignore a dog ***

Ignoring means no reaction at all, not even eye contact. "Stand like a tree." Reward your dog when he's quiet or has all 4 paws on the floor. Ignore him when he begins demanding attention by whining or barking/jumping (unless he needs something, e.g. to go potty). This takes time and consistency to help Fido learn he is rewarded only for behaving politely/quietly. 

Excessive barking or over-excitement can also be the result of boredom, stress, or loneliness. Physical and mental stimulation with interactive play (fetch, hide-n-seek, etc.), walks, training, and toys may help. If your dog always barks at squirrels on the windowsill, consider management and shut the blinds.

Unusual whining or barking may also be your dog's way of telling you something is wrong, so don't forget the obvious causes such as an injury or illness, bathroom needs, or hunger/thirst. Puppies bark/whine for many reasons that are part of important canine pack behavior. If your puppy is crying/whining he is likely trying to communicate something to you.

Training: It will be helpful to teach the "quiet" command; the "leave it" command; the "sit" command; the "off' command; the "get toy" command.

Note: If your dog is barking uncontrollably or over-excited (in the red zone), you may have to wait until he calms down enough to hear and pay attention to your verbal commands. 

Dealing with normal puppy behavior: Chewing

Like human infants, puppies explore the world by putting things in their mouth. Chewing also relieves pain of sore gums from teething. It is perfectly normal for puppies to chew on furniture, shoes, and electric cords. It is up to you to help shape puppy behavior and teach which objects are acceptable toys and which are not.
How to discourage unacceptable behavior:

It is inevitable that your puppy will some day chew something you value. This is part of raising a puppy! You can set your puppy up for success and prevent problems by taking a few precautions:

Puppy proof your house: Put the trash up, pick up toys, do not leave socks, shoes, glasses, phones, remote controls, etc. lying around within puppies reach.

Substitute Toy: If you catch puppy while chewing, interrupt with a verbal correction, and then offer an acceptable chew toy as a substitute. Praise puppy lavishly when he takes toy.

Chew deterrent: Make items he shouldn't chew taste unpleasant. Spray furniture and off-limits items with "Grannick's Bitter Apple" or other taste deterrent (check pet store) to make item unappealing. Never spray puppy! Spray the item you don't want chewed.

Don't confuse puppy:. Do not give puppy old socks, old shoes, or old toys that resemble items that are off limits. He can't tell the difference!

Closely supervise your puppy: Don't let him go off by himself and get into trouble. Use baby gates, closed doors, crate, or tether him to you so you can keep an eye on him.

Safe place: When you must be gone from the house, put puppy in a safe area, such as a laundry room or a crate. See crate training hand out. Puppies under six months should not be crated for more than a couple hours because they may not have muscles yet to control their bladder and bowels. Baby puppies can't control going potty for any length of time!

Activity: Make sure puppy gets enough physical and mental activity. Puppies left alone will find their own entertainment. Take puppy for walks and play fetch as often as possible.

How to encourage acceptable behavior:

Lots of Toys: Provide puppy with many toys and rotate the choice of toys to keep it interesting. Puppies, like kids, are more interested in new things. Try different kinds of toys. When introducing a new toy, watch to make sure he can't swallow pieces of the toy. If puppy tears a stuffed toy, remove the stuffing & the squeaker, and puppy will still enjoy the toy.

Toys that can be stuffed with food, like a Kong: Putting tidbits of food inside chew toys focuses puppies chewing activity on those toys instead of other objects.
Give puppy plenty of people time and training games. He can only learn rules if he is in the house with you! Take pup to obedience class to help him learn commands like "leave it".

What not to do:

Never punish a puppy after the fact: If you discover a chewed shoe later, it's too late. Dogs cannot associate a correction with something they did in the past. You will just confuse your dog and harm your bond. Dogs and puppies cannot reason that "I tore up those shoes an hour ago and that's why I'm being scolded." Some people believe this is what a puppy is thinking because he "looks guilty". This is canine submissive behavior dogs show when feeling threatened. Correction after the fact will not stop the undesirable behavior, and in fact can provoke other undesirable behaviorsU

Potty Training Info

Successful potty training requires attentiveness and patience. With positive training, your dog will be able to identify the area where he has been trained to do his thing. Potty should be a good experience for your pup. Shape his behavior with encouragement and reward, not punishment

Accidents will happen. If an accident happens, it is not puppy's fault. Just be more attentive. Avoid shouting or cursing your dog because it will not produce the desired response, and can harm your relationship. 

When to Begin House Training

Early training helps establish good habits for later when puppy develops muscle control. By about 12 weeks old a puppy has some control of his bladder and bowel movements and starts to be able to hold it. It is unfair to crate a pup longer than he is physically able to control himself. In those cases, confine him to a small room with bedding and water on one side and potty pad/newspaper on the other.

* It may take several months for puppy to be fully housetrained. Don't worry if there are setbacks. As long as you continue a program that includes taking puppy out at the first sign he needs to go and offering rewards, he'll learn.

Steps to follow:

  • Keep puppy in a defined space, such as a crate, exercise-pen, a room. Or on a leash. As your puppy learns to go outside to do his business, you can gradually give him more freedom to roam about the house.
  • Keep puppy on a regular feeding schedule and take away food between meals.
  • Take puppy out to potty often: first thing in the morning and then approximately every how or so during training. Always take him outside after meats, when he wakes from a nap, and during playtime (pups will potty more often during play}. Make sure he goes out last thing at night and before he's left alone.
  • Take puppy to the same spot each time to do his business. His scent will prompt him to go, and helps establish an acceptable bathroom spot for puppy to eliminate.
  • Stay with him outside until puppy eliminates until he's fully house-trained. Praise him and give him a treat! Remember, dogs can have so much fun when playing they forget to do their thing in the proper area, so bring your dog to the designated potty area even while playing and before going back inside.

Signs That Say Your Puppy Needs to Eliminate

Whining, circling, sniffing, barking or staring at the door are signs he needs to go. Take him out right away.

Dos and Don'ts

  • Punishing your puppy for having an accident is a definite no-no.
  • If you catch puppy in the act, clap so he knows he's done something unacceptable, but don't scare him. Take him out gently, and when he's finished praise and reward. Potty should be a positive experience. ,.. If you found the evidence but didn't see the act, don't react by yelling, hitting or rubbing his nose in it. Puppies aren't intellectually able to connect your anger with their accident: anger will harm your bond.
  • Staying outside longer with puppy may help to curb accidents. He may need the extra time to explore. 
  • Clean up accidents with an enzymatic cleanser to minimize odors that might attract the puppy.

Using a Crate

A crate can be a good idea for house-training your puppy (see crate training info}

  • Make sure it is large enough for the puppy to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably, but not big enough for him to use a corner as a bathroom.
  • Make sure the crate is a happy place: never force or use a crate for punishment Put treats and toys in crate. 
  • If you are using the crate for more than two hours at a time, make sure puppy has fresh water, preferably in a no-spill bowl or dispenser you attach to the crate.
  • If you can't be home during the house-training period, make sure somebody else gives him breaks during the day for at feast the first 9 months.
  • Don't use a crate if puppy is eliminating in it. Eliminating in the crate could have several meanings: he may not be getting outside often enough; or he may be too young to hold it in for that length of time.