Puppies and kittens are always near the top for the world’s cutest animals, but they are not just cuddles, yelps and adorable antics.
Young animals require love, protection, and boundaries to grow up into healthy and respectful pets. So the training has to start quite early, but knowing when and how to begin is a good question.
How do you discipline a puppy with love? You should discipline a puppy with patience, love, and understanding. Puppies, like any other animal, are far more likely to respond to love, praise, and positive reinforcement. Since they are new to the environment, they do not know right from wrong and need a caring owner to show them the way.
While it is easy to say that puppies will be disciplined as they grow older and ignore bad behavior because “he’s just a baby,” training puppies slowly and consistently is the key to nipping bad habits in the bud.
The First Weeks of a Puppy’s Life
Puppies grow rapidly in the first few weeks of their lives before they reach the stage where they can be trained.
For the first ten days, puppies are deaf, do not open their eyes and are completely reliant on their mothers for food and warmth.
At the end of two weeks, puppies start to open their eyes and can move using their front legs. They still cannot hear at this point but can sense vibration and they are able to seek out their mothers more actively.
At three weeks of age, puppies can support their entire weight and start to move around. They play with their brothers and sisters and start their exploration of the world. They also start to develop their puppy teeth and begin the weaning process.
By the end of the month, puppies will have developed all of their senses. They are able to explore the world more fully and socialization with humans can begin, especially children.
It is important to keep experiences appropriate for the puppy and not expose them to something scary that may traumatize them.
As puppies near the two-month mark, they are able to go out into the world. At this point, they are ready to be adopted into good homes and start training. (source)
Why is my puppy misbehaving?
There are several reasons that dogs misbehave and the bulk of them have to do with your role as an owner.
It is important to know your dog’s breed, as each type has different expectations of food, exercise, play, and cleanliness.
If your dog comes from an active breed, such as Dalmations, Russell Terriers or Golden Retrievers, they will require a lot more exercise and playtime compared to their calmer cousins.
All dogs require a certain amount of exercise per day, and if they are not tired, they are more likely to find negative ways of expending that energy.
Training a puppy well is the start of a happy and fulfilling life with your dog, but if you have not trained your puppy or have allowed bad habits to build, puppies are more likely to misbehave.
If a dog feels that they get what they want from bad behavior, they are more likely to continue. Therefore, they should be disciplined logically and calmly.
Yelling or hitting your puppy will never succeed in training them. It will only increase fear and negative behaviors.
Finally, like a rebellious teenager, your puppy might go through a difficult time as well, usually between 5-18 months where they will test their owner and push boundaries.
If you can keep your training and schedules consistent, you should be able to get through this frustrating time (source). If your dog is barking back at you a while you are trying to train them, check out this article.
Common Puppy Misbehaviors
Puppies do not misbehave on purpose. They just want attention, food, and fun, which leads to unfortunate situations that owners find less than amusing.
This misbehavior is something that comes up very often with puppies. Despite what your pair of chewed up sneakers might be telling you, dogs do not enjoy chewing on shoes.
For most puppies, chewing is a way of calming the irritation of teething.
At around four to six months, puppies start to teethe into their adult canine teeth and as with human babies, the process is extremely uncomfortable.
Chewing not only helps puppies teethe, but it also provides some relief for sore gums (source).
It is important that expectations should be set during this time because if puppies are allowed to chew whatever they wish, that behavior will not stop as they grow older.
One thing that most new dog owners are completely unprepared for is the number of feces and urine that emerges from their little dog.
Puppies are excitable creatures and can pee at any moment of the day until they are housetrained.
On the plus side, it is possible to control your dog’s schedule and avoid accidents. Housetraining a puppy is part of the process of being a dog owner, and while it may seem a little overwhelming at the start, the reward of a well-trained dog is worth all the hassle.
Your little friend might think that it’s just a game, but their bites can actually hurt. It is important to stop this behavior as soon as possible. Dogs often use biting as a way of communication or play, so biting is a normal part of growing up (source).
Dogs are also more likely to bite or mouth when they are petted. This can be resolved by distracting them and getting them used to meet new people.
Methods to Stop Bad Behavior
It is difficult for animals to make connections between their behavior and punishment unless steps are taken at that moment.
There is no point in chastising a puppy long after you discovered that he/she has behaved badly, as they will not make that connection.
Something that should be noted when it comes to training a puppy is the establishment of a routine.
Dogs need to understand from a young age that there are certain times to do things like play, eat and do their business. Once these schedules are established, a puppy’s training will run far more smoothly.
Stopping Mouthing and Chewing
Since chewing on objects is generally a method to control teething pains, it is pointless to expect your puppy not to chew. Therefore, unhealthy chewing habits should be replaced with positive ones.
The first step is to puppy-proof your home, removing chewable items from ground level, so at least your valuables don’t have to take the brunt of your dog’s growing pains.
However, dogs will always find something to chew on so it’s important to have a plan of action when this takes place.
Puppies should be taught that only certain items are acceptable to chew, and that means providing them with a range of chew toys.
If you catch your pup with an object in his mouth, it should be removed and replaced with an acceptable chew toy. Then the puppy should be praised to indicate that taking the chew toy was a good thing.
Puppies also require a lot of attention. They cannot be left to run loose all over the house, as that is a recipe for disaster, so owners are encouraged to keep their young charge in an enclosed area where they can be constantly monitored.
Another way to discourage chewing is to emphasize acceptable chew toys. These toys should not resemble any other toy in the house and should not be old items, as this can confuse your puppy who won’t understand the difference between old and new things.
There are also sprays available on the market that you can use to coat furniture and household items with a thin layer of a bitter-tasting aversive that will definitely discourage your puppy from chewing on furniture.
A common rule of thumb for a puppy being able to control their bladder is about one hour to every month of its age.
This should set a standard of expectations from owners so puppies can be trained in a caring and understanding environment, without their owners expecting too much of them.
Puppies should be taken outside as often as possible, especially after key moments of the day, such as after eating, playing, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. It helps to choose one spot outside so puppies can start to relate that area with defecation.
Dogs use smell as markers for defecation, so only clean a little in an area that you would like your dog to continue going to and completely disinfect an area inside the home to remove any temptations for your pup to re-relieve.
It is best to praise your puppy with a walk or something fun afterward, and treats should be handed out immediately. These treats should not be too big and should be used sparingly to keep your puppy at a healthy weight.
Try to keep your puppy on a schedule as much as possible, so when a puppy eats at the same time, they are more likely to relieve themselves at the same time as well.
Do not let your puppy drink water close to bedtime, as they should be able to hold it while they are asleep. If they do wake you up in the middle of the night, take them outside quietly and calmly, with minimal interaction so the puppy understands that this is not a time to play (source).
If your puppy does have an accident and you need some advice on removing smells and stains, you can read more in the article, “How to Get Dog Urine Smell out of the Carpet.”
However, if your pup cannot be trained or has started having accidents again after training, contact your vet as it may be a sign of health issues (source).
While accidents can be extremely frustrating, dogs should never be punished in anger. This will exacerbate the issue as your puppy will no longer trust you, making it more likely that they would not approach you when they need to go.
It is easier to train your dog in a house, but there are ways to train your puppy if you live in a high-rise apartment and don’t have the time to rush your pup downstairs before it’s too late.
In a case like this, you can use a pee-pad placed close to the door, and a patch of grass that can be placed on a balcony or in a secluded area to give your puppy a go-to zone without having to rush downstairs (source).
While biting and nipping is part of a puppy’s growing up process, you can use different ways to manage the biting to make it more appropriate.
Firstly, puppies will bite as they grow up. They don’t just bite their owners, but also their mothers and littermates.
When a dog mother is bitten, she will yelp to indicate that the bite was too painful. Their littermate will do the same if the puppy bites during play. This usually encourages the puppy to stop biting straight away.
This effect can be replicated by using a high-pitched sound when your puppy uses their teeth on you. Ideally, the puppy should stop at this moment and this pause should be praised.
Play can resume and if your puppy bites again, the process should be repeated (source).
Another way to encourage gentler play is to discipline your dog with a time out. If your dog bites you and does not stop easily or starts biting again quickly, then remove yourself from the situation for a few seconds to indicate your displeasure.
After 20 seconds or so, you can continue to play and stop again if your dog bites. The emphasis of this exercise is to teach your dog that only by playing gently will play continue.
There are several ways to distract your young dog when he or she becomes aggressive or too playful. The first step is to always keep a favorite toy on hand to serve as an easy distraction.
Another method is to emphasize non-contact games like tug of war, which removes a lot of temptation in the process.
Puppies are balls of energy so allow them to expend as much of that energy as possible by playing with other dogs.
Training Do’s and Don’ts
Below you will find some tips about positive things to do when training your puppy.
When it comes to puppies, “supervise” is the keyword. When puppies are watched and monitored, they are far less likely to develop bad habits and you can discipline them more proactively as you should see the misbehavior happening. (source)
Praise your puppy every time they do something good. Praise can be as simple as a verbal “good dog”. You can also rub their bellies, scratch behind their ears and offer them treats.
Remember, praise should happen directly after the good behavior to emphasize that this is the reward.
Puppies need to know what to expect. Once expectations have been set, continue to uphold them.
It is not fair to your puppy if you allow them to chew an old shoe one day and then yell at them the next day for doing the same thing (source).
Keep toys on hand
Toys are very important as a distraction for puppies, especially when they are young. It allows owners to direct their dog’s attention elsewhere, especially in biting or mouthing situations.
Toys also function as positive reinforcement for good behavior.
Below you will find additional tips about what to avoid when training your puppy.
Yell or hit
While a puppy can bring a lot of joy into a household, it’s understandable that they can cause some frustration as well.
It is easy to lose one’s cool and start yelling when you discover that your dog chewed your favorite shoe or left an accident in a quiet room, but don’t.
Yelling does not achieve anything except creating a sense of fear in your dog. Puppies do not understand what they are being yelled at for, especially once the deed has been done and discovered much later.
Hitting is even worse, and it will be immensely difficult to regain your puppy’s trust once you have raised your hand against it.
Dogs are not vindictive animals and hitting them creates fear and bad habits, the opposite of what any owner would want.
While it is important for your dog to know that you are in control, a relationship built on trust achieves far better results than one based on fear and pain. Dogs do feel pain and behaviors like biting are more likely to occur in an abused dog (source).
Break trust with your puppy
Dogs are trusting animals and they will come to you when called. One of the worst things an owner can do is call their puppy to them just to reprimand them.
This removes trust and does not achieve its purpose since dogs will not understand why they are being punished.
Confine your puppy
Puppies are little bundles of energy, and confining them for long periods of time is cruel and unwarranted.
They are also more likely to soil themselves during this time and it will become more difficult to housetrain them (source).
Here a quick video on how to properly discipline your puppy:
Puppies may be ridiculously cute animals, but they require a patient and understanding owner to train and discipline.
Adopting a puppy should not be something that is taken lightly, and if you are willing to make that commitment, you can be prepared for a lifetime of happiness with your new best friend.