Normal puppy behaviours that don’t mean they’re untrainable

Welcoming a puppy into your family is always an exciting experience and one that never loses its appeal. The temptation to adopt a puppy as a Christmas gift may be appealing, but with countless numbers of dogs appearing in shelters after the festive period due to certain behavioural issues that many deem them “untrainable”.

Puppies are prone to mischievous behaviour and can take time to gel with a family. This doesn’t always mean that they’re not the right fit for a family. When your furry friend is first introduced, they are often extremely reserved and sleepy for the first few days.

With shelter admissions always increasing year upon year, adopting, or purchasing a puppy around Christmas time is a decision that needs to be taken with great care and consideration, as it is a lifelong commitment. It’s hard to relate to a dog, but as an owner, you must remember to see things from their perspective. They will think and behave differently to not only humans but even other dogs of the same breed – for better and for worse.

The Kennel Store share some things to look out for and advice if you are struggling:

Crying at night

On a puppy’s first days at a new home, it is extremely common for them to cry throughout the night. This usually goes on for a night or two, but it’s dependent on each dog. Bringing home your new family member on a Friday or Saturday morning is a good option as then you have a few days to allow your puppy to settle with you over the weekend.

When a puppy cries at night, this isn’t always an immediate indicator of a behavioural concern. It could be anxiety from being away from their mum and littermates, and in an environment, they aren’t immediately familiar with. If you are worried your puppy is experiencing separation anxiety, there are remedies and solutions to help your new family member fit in, from herbal remedies to techniques that can be found online or through veterinary advice.

– What is regular behaviour: 

Crying for the first night or two is considered typical.

– What is irregular behaviour:

Continuous crying that goes on for extended periods and your new family member isn’t settling.

– Advice you can follow:

Ruling out any medical issues, there are a variety of comfort items you can purchase for your puppy. There are sprays with calming scents and soft blankets they can snuggle with. There are also teddies that can replicate heartbeats which remind young pups of being with their mums, providing comfort.

Biting

According to the PDSA Paw Report, “11% of dogs obtained after March 2020 reportedly growl, snap or bite unfamiliar dogs and 3% of their owners and carers”. There is a difference between a teething puppy and a puppy that has issues with constant mouthing and aggression. Puppies purchased during the lockdown are suggested to have more behavioural issues, due to lack of early socialisation attributed to subsequent lockdowns.

Puppies do teeth much like a human baby, and so this is to be expected when bringing home, a new pet. Around the 6-month mark, puppies will lose their baby teeth so biting and nipping will lessen as they age, providing that appropriate training and toys are in place. Puppies explore with their mouths and experience day to day life this way, and so it is the owner’s responsibility to train their new pet to understand what is appropriate to chew (a chew toy, treats etc) and what isn’t (hands, feet, furniture etc). Dogs need to be redirected to chew in the right places so that these habits don’t impede upon your household.

– What is regular behaviour: Mouthing is extremely normal and last 2-3 months, as they explore and experience the world with their mouths.

– What is irregular behaviour: Growling, snapping, or biting when a person comes near food, a toy etc. Also, worth looking out for biting that is breaking the skin or consistent nipping.

– Advice you can follow: This behaviour may not be fully resolved until 5-6 months, so patience and consistency are key. Consult your vet and a pet behaviourist if the behaviour does not improve with dedicated training.

Scratching

Pawing and scratching for attention can be a cute behaviour to garner your attention, but it can turn into a serious problem as the size of the dog increases. This can be addressed with training, and teaching commands such as ‘paw’ with care. Whilst this does display obedience, you are also teaching that the act of using paws will result in getting treats and rewarded for an action that could result in someone becoming injured as the dog ages and paws get thicker and longer. If you are struggling with constant pawing from your new puppy, you may find our ULTIMATE GUIDE TO TRAINING YOUR DOG  helpful, which offers practical advice for training dogs of all ages.

– What is regular behaviour: Pawing you can show submission or demand attention.

– What is irregular behaviour: Continued patterns of behaviour and jumping as you walk through the door. When this begins to become a daily occurrence, it’s time to address it.

– Advice you can follow: Correct the behaviour and encourage your pooch to sit instead. This communicates you acknowledge they need you but using pushy behaviours is not the way to go about it.

Barking

Dogs barking is extremely common, and almost every dog barks and it is to be expected. But when a puppy barking begins to impact your household, this is when it may require some attention. If it’s affecting the members of your family or neighbours, it’s time to address this.

If you’re able to, determine why your puppy is barking so frequently. It could be due to feeling insecure and is attempting to gain attention from you. If your puppy is erupting into barking as soon as someone comes to the door or enters your property, this could suggest territorial behaviour. If your dog begins barking as soon as you come through the door, ask your dog to sit and wait until they are calm before playing. This way you won’t be indirectly rewarding the excessive barking with playtime.

By rewarding your puppy when they are quiet, they will learn that quieter moments are positive behaviours and what you are looking for. Shouting over your dog will only encourage the barking, so speaking in a low reassuring volume can rectify this with consistent training.

– What is regular behaviour: Puppies bark when they’re trying to communicate or greet somebody, or during playtime to express enjoyment

– What is irregular behaviour: Excessive barking and growling at members of your home or visitors. Constant barking that doesn’t seem to settle no matter how many times you try to correct or manage the behaviour.

– Advice you can follow: Speak in a low firm tone, as shouting may be perceived as barking back by your pup. Ensure your dog isn’t bored and has plenty of mental stimulation. Regularly address the situation, dogs need consistency so make sure you’re always correcting the behaviour.

Aggression

Identifying the source of your puppy’s aggression is important. It’s vital you rule out the aggression isn’t caused by any kind of health issue or histories such as a previous home that may have had running themes of abuse or neglect. If your household has small children living or visiting regularly, it’s advised to limit their interaction with the puppy until the behaviour is corrected. If this isn’t possible, seeking additional help from an expert would be recommended.

It’s worth noting that aggressive puppies are not bad dogs, but you must be prepared to put in a lot of time and dedication to guide your puppy through this and train them to understand how to appropriately behave. Aggression often isn’t directed at you specifically and can be caused by an outside source or health concern that needs addressing.

– What is regular behaviour: Puppies can exhibit growling, pouncing, barking, and biting when it comes to playing. These are all standard traits of play.

– What is irregular behaviour: If your puppy is exhibiting a lot of biting and constant barking, this would be considered irregular. Dominant behaviour and territorial traits are also things to look out for.

– Advice you can follow: Get your pup examined by a vet to ensure the behaviour isn’t being exhibited due to a medical concern. Make sure your dog has a consistent exercise routine and isn’t left idlelly in the home for hours alone. Sourcing a dog trainer for additional support is also a good idea to ensure the aggression doesn’t get too far and result in injury.

Handling a new puppy is a commitment that isn’t to be taken lightly but certain behaviours that your new dog displays don’t automatically deem them a “bad dog”. Giving up a puppy that is displaying normal behaviour is an experience that can be avoided with proper training and education for both prospective owners and dogs themselves.

We hope this can provide insight and guidance as we near Christmas and prevent more dogs from entering shelters needlessly. Whilst sometimes overwhelming, adopting a puppy is a rewarding experience and allows you to gain companionship for years to come.

For further information and extra tips, please see our website.