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Puppy Behaviour

Close-up shot of a black Labrador puppy looking at the camera. The puppy lies beside its ball toy.

Understanding your puppy’s behaviour is key to teaching good habits and curbing unacceptable behaviour.

Toileting

Watch out for these behaviours which usually signals that your puppy needs to toilet:

  • sniffing around, particularly in an area where it previously had an ‘accident’

  • wandering towards a door that leads to outside

  • circling

  • whining

Go out with your puppy to ensure it has toileted. Walking around the yard in a calm manner will encourage your puppy to toilet. In time you will learn your puppy’s toilet timing and routine.

At Guide Dogs, we say “quick quick” when our dogs toilet. If you do this, your puppy will learn “quick quick” as the command for toileting. This is helpful for when you want your dog to toilet before a long drive, before walking or before bedtime.

If the puppy toileted inside the house, clean up after it without punishment.  If you catch your puppy whilst beginning to toilet, quickly carry it outside to finish.

Jumping

Puppies tend to jump on people when yearning for attention, when they are excited, or if in search for food. It is important to not encourage this behaviour at all.

What to do:

  • Reward your puppy only when it is calm.

  • Teach your puppy to sit or stand when greeting people; do not encourage or praise if the puppy is jumping.

Chewing

Puppies tend to chew on household items when they are bored, anxious, or teething.

What to do:

  • Provide enough physical and mental stimulation to prevent your puppy from being bored.

  • Provide breed and age appropriate toys.

  • Keep items that may seem appealing out of your puppy’s reach.

  • Restrict your puppy’s access around the home by installing barriers, for example, closed doors or baby gates

  • If you catch your puppy chewing on something it isn’t supposed to, replace the item with an appropriate toy. Do this calmly; otherwise your puppy will take this as a signal for reward.

Mouthing

Mouthing is a natural behaviour and helps puppies explore their surroundings. However, you need to teach your puppy that mouthing at people or mouthing too hard is unacceptable behaviour.

What to do:

  • Remove yourself from the puppy until it settles down.

  • Place your puppy in “time out” for small periods.

  • Have a chew toy close by. Divert your puppy’s attention to an appropriate toy.

  • Provide your puppy with enough physical and mental exercise.

Digging

Digging is a natural behaviour. It can be controlled or minimised by:

  • Placing pepper, vinegar or citronella in small holes to deter your puppy from digging

  • Placing physical barriers

  • Providing a designated digging area like a sand pit or shell pool

  • Providing enough physical and mental exercise

Barking or vocalising

Barking, whining or whimpering is normal puppy behaviour. However, if you allow your puppy to learn that if they are vocal they will receive attention, they will continue to vocalise excessively.

What to do:

  • When your puppy is being quiet, be sure to give praise.

  • Do not pay attention to your puppy when it is vocalising.

  • Provide enough physical and mental exercise.

  • Provide breed and age appropriate toys.

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