Bringing home a new puppy can be one of the most rewarding experiences, but it’s also an incredibly demanding and crucial period of a dog’s life. From toilet and crate training to separation anxiety, there are some common issues and worries that pet owners will experience when it comes to their new four-legged family member.
Here are some important things to look out for with a new puppy, alongside some proactive and easy ways to deal with them…
Sign Number 1: Separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is very common in puppies as you are their sole provider. When you are out of sight, they worry because they don’t have the same sense of time as us and have no idea when their needs will be met.
Signs of separation anxiety:
- Pacing, whining, and shaking when you’re preparing to leave
- Howling and barking
- Panting or seeming tired and exhausted upon your return
- Destructive acts such as chewing pillows or digging around doors and windows
- Toilet accidents around the house
How to alleviate separation anxiety in puppies
There are ways to train your puppy to be ok with you leaving, but it will take patience.
De-sensitize your puppy
By this, we mean getting them used to it and making the common indicators you make when you leave less triggering. For example, if your dog reacts when you pick your keys up, start picking your keys up during the day when you aren’t going to leave. You can also open and close the front door, put your shoes on and take them off – whatever your routine is before you leave the house, do it other times too. This will slowly de-sensitize your pup to common triggers.
There’s always the good old-fashioned positive re-enforcement of giving them a high-value treat or reward when you leave as well.
Create a calming space that is contained
Wherever they feel safest, make it comfortable with all their toys and lead them there to relax before you leave. Crate training is a great option for this.
How to crate train your puppy
One key thing to remember is it their crate should never be a punishment. You want your puppy to associate it with comfort and safety, so choose a big one where your pup can comfortably stand up, turn around and lie down while fully stretched out.
This process will require time and patience, but it is one of the best investments you can make. Plus, since most crates are portable, it’s also an effective way to ease your puppy into being comfortable while travelling in the car.
Step 1: Make the crate and dog pen familiar
Start by leaving the door latched open so it won’t accidentally swing shut with the dog trapped inside and create negative feelings. Then put toys and treats near the crate and give them plenty of praise when they go near or inside. Wait until they are going in and out freely before you move to the next step.
Step 2: Begin mealtimes in the crate
Start to feed your puppy in the crate to associate it with positive things. Choose a command such as ‘go to your bed’ or ‘crate’ when you’re feeding them, so they’ll eventually start to associate the two together. While they’re eating, try to close the door for short periods so they get used to it but immediately open it again at the first sign of anxiety.
You can slowly increase the closed-door time from a few moments to a few minutes, but the most important thing is to open the door if they become anxious.
Step 3: Walk away neutrally
Once your dog is happy with the door being closed for a few minutes, start practicing walking away. Do it for a few seconds and gradually increase the time or step out of the room altogether. If they become agitated while you do this, remain calm and wait for them to settle down a bit before you return to the crate, and the next time, step away for a shorter period. Repeat this until they are happy to stay in the crate whilst you walk around the room or leave it for a few moments.
Step 4: Increase time spent in the crate
Once they are happy being in the crate without you being near it, you can start practicing outside of mealtimes until they are completely happy in the crate and will go to it on command.
Sign Number 2: Teeth falling out
Just like when we were kids, puppies lose their ‘Milk’ teeth when they’re young, usually at around 12-16 weeks. This can cause concern for some new puppy owners, but it is normal and makes way for their adult teeth.
All of your puppy’s milk teeth should fall out by the time they are six months old, so if you notice any baby teeth remaining, you must contact your vet as they will need to be removed.
Sign Number 3: Issues with potty training
If your pup is having lots of accidents or cannot hold it until it’s time to go outside, you most likely need to make some adjustments to your training methods.
Firstly, it’s important to maintain a clear schedule so that your pup knows they will have an opportunity to go outside. Most choose to go first thing in the morning, after playing indoors, after a nap, after food or drink and before bed. Like young babies, your puppy has a small bladder and can’t hold it for a long time, so the more opportunities they have to go outside, the better.
If they do have an indoor accident, don’t get mad. Just clean it up and remove any lasting odors. Instead, make a big fuss when they go to the right place. And if you see them about to go to potty indoors, immediately pick them up and take them outside, continuing positive re-enforcement if they do their business there.
Sign Number 4: Bad behavior
The earlier you can detect and correct bad behavior in your new dog, the better. Despite popular belief, no one breed guarantees a calm, relaxed pet. Any breed has the potential to become an aggressive dog.
Early warning signs of aggression:
- Showing gums
- Non-stop barking
- Constant biting
- Dominant behavior
Whilst some of these behaviors in small amounts are normal, letting your puppy do it often can increase the likelihood of having an aggressive pet later. The best way to combat this is to use positive re-enforcement and obedience training to correct these behaviors as soon as they come up. Puppy training is a great place to learn how to do this, but here are some other ideas:
How to stop your puppy from biting
When puppies are teething, their mouth and gums become sore so biting to alleviate that pain is common. Provide plenty of chew toys at this stage, but if they do bite you, make a noise such as ‘ow’ or ‘no’ and turn your back to walk away to be sure they get the message that this behavior is unacceptable. Do not tell them off just cease to engage and avoid reinforcing this behavior.
How to stop a puppy from barking
Like young children, puppies bark for a reason, even if that reason is just for attention. Excessive barking is usually rooted in fear or anxiety, and it can also be from boredom.
Training them with their safe space should alleviate anxiety-based barking, but bored puppies will need a variety of activities to keep them busy throughout the day. Things like feeder toys which you can fill with their favorite puppy food can keep them occupied, so can chew toys with squeakers (just be careful of small parts).
If your pup is hyper-reactive to people walking past the window or door, use sight barriers to minimize the amount of visual stimulation. Window film, room dividers, blinds and plants are great options.
Finally, you mustn’t reward barking. If you come to your dog whenever they start to bark, they will quickly learn that it’s an easy way to get your attention. Instead, ignore the barking and reward them with treats and affection once they have become quiet. If they start to bark again, leave the room and return once they have calmed down.
Most new puppy owner concerns are completely normal, but the behavior usually resolves over time with corrective training and re-enforcement as well as proactively meeting your dogs needs for safety, novelty, nutrition, play, exercise, mental activity, fresh air and affection. If you have any concerns or are unsure if something is normal or not, don’t be afraid to call your vet for advice or your dog trainer.
photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/RR-FwGB6PEU
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