Nipping: Nipping and biting serves a purpose for puppies but, of course, can be extremely annoying and painful. It’s even worse when you have either small children or elderly people, with thin sensitive skin, being rough-housed by an over-exuberant puppy.
When litter mates start playing with each other, they use their mouths a lot and, through this play, they learn what we refer to as “bite inhibition”. It is the ability of a puppy, or dog, to mouth, without biting too hard. As the puppies play, if one bites too hard, the recipient will yelp and, often, stop play. The other puppy learns from this and realizes that, if it bites that hard, there is no reward. The game stops.
It can help, with a new puppy in your house, to yelp if it nips you hard. The trick here (well, in fairness, with everything for a puppy) is consistency and speed. You need to yelp quickly, loudly and immediately stop play. As soon as the puppy stops nipping, initiate the game again. It will learn that a softer use of the mouth is far more rewarding.
It is extremely useful to put a command to this at the same time. I have used the command “gently” with great effect on a rescue Pitbull cross who had no “bite inhibition”. She was just playing but, boy, that’s a strong jaw if not used gently. She quickly learnt the “gentle” command, which something I could use in numerous circumstances, such as hand feeding, or if she was around a child, older adult or smaller animals. She would immediately calm down whenever the “gentle” command was used.
Jumping: A puppy that is jumping up on people may not be too much of an issue when it is still small and insanely cute. However, once this little monster becomes a full grown dog, you are not going to enjoy it nearly as much. As with all things puppy, the earlier you start setting the ground rules for life in your family, the better.
You’ve got to be quick with this one. If you are petting or playing with your puppy and it starts to jump up, stop immediately. It can also help to turn your back on the puppy at this point. Where you really have to be quick is that, as soon as all four paws hit the floor again, give it love, treats or continue play, so that it learns that this behaviour results in reward. All four paws on the ground = reward. Paws on the person = no reward. Be quick, consistent and try to get all family members by-in. If everyone abides by the same rules, the puppy will learn faster.
Try using the command “off” at the same time. This command can then be extended, later, to include not only stopping jumping but also to get off furniture or anything else your dog lands up on.
Chewing: Here’s one that we will all have. You have a toddler that uses its mouth for everything. If it’s there, it’s worth putting your teeth to it. Your puppy will also go through a teething process, which will result in an even greater need to chew on stuff. Your puppy might decide to chew your favourite couch, a delicious table leg or, pretty much always, a pair of slippers or shoes. Your shoes smell like you, so they provide a wonderful teething outlet for them. Slippers not only smell like you but are soft and fluffy and quite irresistible.
First off, make sure you have plenty of appropriate and safe chew toys. Remember, some toys, even if designed for dogs, are not safe for a puppy if unattended. They have a nasty habit of biting pieces off toys and swallowing them or pulling thread out of things and ingesting that as well. Generally, if unattended, only use toys that where pieces cannot be chewed off or swallow in any manner.
Now that you have appropriate toys at your disposal, be quick and distract your puppy from chewing something inappropriate by presenting them, in as fun a manner as possible, the safe and “allowed” toy. Praise liberally when they choose the correct toy on which to chew. As far as possible, try to remove unsafe and inappropriate chew items from their environment.
Try using the “leave” command when your puppy tries to chew something inappropriate and, as soon as they either take a treat or the toy you have chosen, praise again. They will learn that the appropriate toy is a good reward. The “leave” command will also come in extremely useful during your continued life with the dog and can be used for anything you want them to leave, be it food, an inanimate object or your beloved cat.
Digging: puppies and adult dogs love to dig. It’s part of the foraging nature. They bury bones and other treats, for retrieval at a later time. It’s a natural instinct. It can, however, prove rather annoying for anyone attempting to create a beautiful garden that is constantly being destroyed. Puppies will dig in the garden because it’s their instinct, or because they are bored, or they see you digging and want to get involved with what you appear to find fascinating.
There are multiple things you can do to avoid this becoming a problem. First off, make sure that your puppy is getting plenty of appropriate play time and exercise. If they are tired from both mental and physical exercise, they will be less likely to dig. Make sure your puppy has plenty of good toys to occupy it’s mind and mouth. Then, decide if there is an area in the garden where you would be prepared to let your puppy dig and play. If not, consider in investing in one of the plastic shells, used for children, and fill it with sand. In either case, decide on the area you want to dedicate and bury toys, branches and anything else your puppy will consider as high value. Now you can let your puppy dig to it’s hearts content, in an approved area. If it tries to dig in other areas of your garden, move him to the designated place and make sure you keep that area interesting and filled with goodies for him.