All new puppy parents know that there will be days when your puppy behaves poorly. While bad behavior is normal every so often in a puppy, it should not be encouraged, as bad puppy behavior will only worsen with time and age.
Even a badly behaved puppy can grow into a healthy, well-behaved dog if, from a young age, you identify red flag behaviors, get to the root of the problem, and train your puppy in the right way. Your ultimate goal should be to help your puppy grow into a happy, comfortable dog.
Read on to learn what bad puppy behaviors to look for and tips for dealing with them.
1. Look for Red Flags
How do you know if your puppy’s behavior is troubling and indicative of a larger problem? Look for these red flags. Note, these are just a few common red flags of many.
It is normal for puppies to bark, as it is part of the way they vocalize. However, if your puppy barks at everything he hears or sees, this is a red flag that he is alarm barking. By doing this, your puppy is trying to warn you of perceived threats. The problem with alarm barking is that instead of reacting to real threats, your puppy is reacting to perfectly normal, non-threatening things, like a car driving by or someone moving elsewhere in the house, making this behavior concerning and difficult to stop.
Chewing or Biting
As your puppy’s teeth grow in, they might chew on their toys more frequently to help with teething pain. Likewise, a playful puppy might love his chew toys and snap when you try to take them away. Many puppies even play by nipping. Even if your puppy is playing, excessive chewing and biting can be a red flag behavior that should not be left unchecked, particularly if you want to avoid possession guarding or aggression in the future.
Refusal to Listen to Commands
Puppies have short attention spans, which can make puppy training challenging. How do you know if your puppy is just being a puppy or if there is something else going on? Look out for red flags like a refusal to sit, hyperactivity, or refusal to back off when your puppy is commanded to. These can be signs of future aggression, physical issues, or other significant underlying problems.
2. Find the Root of the Problem
Most bad puppy behaviors are rooted in a few underlying problems. While this doesn’t necessarily make puppy training a short or easy process, it helps you know what to look for and find small fixes that make the issue more manageable.
The first thing to remember is that puppies are just that–baby dogs. They have not yet matured, meaning that they are more playful, less trained, and have higher energy levels than many older dogs. Puppies will grow out of some of the bad behaviors they exhibit at a young age as they grow older. However, you should still look for the root of bad puppy behaviors and puppy training problems so that you do not accidentally reinforce bad behaviors and encourage your puppy to carry them into adulthood.
Many puppies act out because they are anxious. Anxiety might cause your puppy to vocalize excessively and whine, be more destructive than usual, and even urinate or defecate in the house. Much of puppy anxiety stems from either fear or separation.
Since puppies are new to the world, much of the world is new to them. An influx of strange new sounds, sights, and smells can overstimulate and overwhelm your puppy, making it fearful and anxious. Separation anxiety can also lead your puppy to behave poorly when you are not around.
When you think your puppy might be feeling anxious, try to identify the source of that anxiety. Is your puppy afraid of loud noises outside? Is there another dog that walks by your home every day? Does your puppy start to act out only when you leave it alone to do errands? This will give you a much clearer indication of the kind of puppy training you must do to manage puppy anxiety and stop the problem before it gets worse.
Though puppies generally have high energy levels, keep in mind that most puppy breeds were never meant to be inside all day. Historically, many dogs were working dogs and even ones who weren’t are animals at their core. For these reasons, it is very easy for puppies and adult dogs to get bored, and if left home alone, it can be hard to find an outlet for their excess energy.
A bored dog might chew furniture, dig through your trash cans, dig holes all over your yard, or act out in other destructive ways. If you see that your puppy is acting out, try to figure out why they are so bored. Are you not training or playing with them enough? Do they not get enough exercise? Puppies are especially curious and will find a way to get into places they shouldn’t. When looking for the root of puppy boredom, keep an eye out for anything that might tempt your puppy to make a mess.
There are many reasons that a puppy might misbehave that stem from physical issues. Some puppies don’t yet have the anatomy to sit comfortably, which is likely the root of the bad behavior of ignoring a command to sit. Some puppies have trouble hearing commands.
When you bring your puppy to the vet, explain any troubling behaviors, particularly surrounding a refusal to listen to commands, and see if there are any physical limitations that make it harder to train your puppy. The good news is, there are ways to train around these physical issues. The first step is simply identifying them.
3. Don’t Reinforce Bad Behavior
It is natural to want to shower your puppy with endless love and affection. After all, it is hard to stay mad when your puppy looks as cute as it does. However, it is very important not to reward bad behavior, especially with food and praise. Likewise, be careful with how you choose to reprimand bad puppy behavior.
Don’t use physical punishments, yell, or stare down your puppy. This is just likely to make your puppy fear you and compound previously existing anxieties and fears. Instead, use positive reinforcement at the right time, take advantage of distractions to remove opportunities for bad puppy behaviors, and be consistent with whatever you do.
4. Bring in an Expert
Don’t be afraid to ask for help to handle bad puppy behavior. Many people have been in exactly the situation you are experiencing and can offer advice. A vet can help you understand exactly why your puppy is behaving the way it is. A puppy trainer will equip you with the tools and resources to train even the worst behaved puppy.
Finally, take advantage of online resources and apps. The Doggy Time puppy training app, for example, will help you track your dog’s daily habits and health and is a convenient place to store information about your puppy’s red flag behaviors or other behavioral information.