Puppies are cute. Your new puppy is, obviously, the cutest.
But you know what’s not cute?
Reading: How to punish a puppy
Your new puppy destroying your favorite shoes. Your new puppy doing their business in your bed. Your face, after seeing what your new puppy has done to your shoes and your bed.
Is your puppy a perfect angel as long as you are in plain sight, but the devil in them comes out when you’re not around? Well, thanks to Petcube pet cam, you can keep an eye on them, even after you leave the room.
Maybe you thought discipline was just for kids, but it turns out that if you want a canine companion you can live with, you’ll have to put your (Puppy) Parent Hat on and learn how to discipline your dog.
But before you start, take some time to make sure you’re taking the best approach. Once you have learned the basics of doggie discipline, you’re ready to start curbing those bad puppy behaviors like a pro!
Basic Puppy Training
If you feel like your puppy problems have you at the end of your leash, you’re not alone! Luckily, these behaviors can easily be curbed if you correctly reward and punish your puppy. Later on, we’ll address some of the top issues in detail, but first, let’s start with an overview of basic puppy discipline do’s and don’ts.
5 Steps to Discipline a Puppy without Punishment
1. Be consistent
If Skip was told not to bark at the neighbors on Tuesday but on Wednesday you decide to let it slide, your pup is going to be confused and won’t learn the desired behavior. Giving in to them “just this once” will reinforce the negative behavior, leading to a puppy problem continuing into a dog problem (and staying your problem).
2. Be prompt
Address an issue only if you catch your puppy in the act. A puppy that has chewed through the screen door won’t understand that you’re unhappy with this when you reprimand them ten minutes later. You can monitor your puppy remotely by using Petcube, a pet camera that will broadcast your voice if you catch them at that screen door.
3. Be firm
A firm “no” from you signals to your puppy that their behavior is not ok, but yelling or physical aggression will just make them scared. Dogs don’t understand that these responses are directed towards a certain behavior, and instead interpret them as threats to themselves.
It can make your dog fear you, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. It can also make your pooch feel like they can never make a mistake, leading to them becoming anxious about your reaction. The best way to express your disapproval is through vocalization or physical removal, like taking your dog outside. A good puppy parent and trainer should signal authority without losing their cool.
Suppose you’re not certain of your training methods. In that case, you can have an expert consultation on the go using online vet to clarify your concerns in behavior, health, nutrition, and other pet-related questions.
4. Use positive reinforcement
Discouraging bad puppy behavior is as important as rewarding the good. Praise, treats, petting, or playtime are all positive ways to reward your puppy for good behavior. When your puppy does something you like, give them a treat, pet them, and just lavish them with praise.
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Positive reinforcement is instrumental in helping them understand what you want from them. You can even use a clicker or a verbal cue such as “yes!” to let them know they’ve done something well. Did Dixie stop barking when you told them to stop? Go Dixie! Give her a treat. Did Duke go potty outside? That’s awesome! Tell him what a good boy he is.
5. Give timeouts
Turns out that timeouts don’t just work for naughty kids! Naughty puppies can also learn from timeouts, or “isolation”. Timeouts are most effective when used in response to behaviors like, jumping up on people, nipping, mouthing, and some forms of aggression.
Pro tip: The best way to discipline your dog with timeouts is to give them some kind of verbal signal that you can say gently, (for example, “Oops!”) and then either leave the room (if you are alone) or lead them to an area where they will be separated from other people and dogs. Crates can also be effective timeout spaces. Ideally, a timeout should not last longer than a couple minutes.
Wrong Ways to Discipline Puppies
Don’t use physical punishment
Although this was encouraged in the past as a way to teach a dog who the “leader of the pack” is, it is not the most effective training tool. When you use physical punishment, you send your dog the message that aggression is an acceptable form of communication. If you do not want your dog to bite, punishing them for biting is not the way to make it stop. Punishment can only provoke fear, anxiety, and aggression.
Using aggression teaches aggression, and while a smack on the nose or a Scruff Shake might cause Rover to stop a problem behavior, too much of this type of punishment just might turn him from a naughty puppy into a seriously troubled dog.
Furthermore, experts are beginning to discourage the use of such discipline methods as collar jerks and electric fences as they fail to bring about long-term behavioral change. An electric fence may act as a deterrent for the dog, but it may also cause them to become overly anxious.
Don’t stare down, drag, or hold down your puppy
Behavior meant to threaten will teach your dog to fear or challenge you, and physical manipulation prompts them to defend themselves. Neither path produces the outcome you desire, and even if these methods bring your puppy to submissiveness now, they could lead to pent-up aggression which can manifest itself later. The issue is that all dogs, even the best-trained and well-behaved dogs, have a breaking point.
Don’t shout or scream
How do you scold your puppy? Puppies learn from the signals we give them, so if our tone of voice seems overly anxious or out of control, they will in turn become anxious and hyperactive. It seems logical that your puppy would be more attentive to your commands if they are loud or angry, but dog trainers recommend using a calm, but firm, tone instead.
Common Puppy Behavior Problems (And Solutions!)
Jumping on or nibbling people, barking inappropriately, pooping or peeing indoors, and chewing on furniture or other household objects are just a few of the puppy problems you’re familiar with as a puppy parent (or can expect to be). This is one part of puppy parenting that can easily be more frustrating than fun. Here are a few of the most common problems experienced by new puppy parents like you, and what to do about them:
Barking, whining, and other forms of vocalization are natural for dogs, and especially for puppies. However, excessive barking is both annoying and inappropriate. Like toddlers, dogs vocalize to communicate a variety of messages. When addressing vocalization, consider first the likely reason, and then choose your response accordingly.
Puppies may vocalize to express boredom, excitement, anxiety, to get attention, to sound a warning, or as a response to other dogs. Depending on the cause, either a firm reprimand (“No.”) or withholding attention is the most effective approach for stopping puppy barking. If boredom is consistently the cause, consider investing in a pet camera with treat dispenser to entertain your new pal remotely when life’s demands keep you away.
Nipping or Biting
Nipping and biting are often not intended to be aggressive. More often than not, puppies use their mouths as a tool with which to explore their world, but if this goes unchecked, your puppy could learn some dangerous behaviors.
As a pet parent, you should never respond to nipping by jerking your hand away, as this encourages the puppy to continue the “game”. Instead, respond by clearly saying “ouch”, and gently removing his mouth from your hand. If your pup persists, you can gently roll them over on the back and hold them there until they calm down.
The goal is to teach your puppy that nipping can hurt, and that it will get them nothing positive. When playing with your puppy, try to avoid placing your hands in their mouth, as this can encourage them to nip.
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Like barking, chewing is a natural behavior for dogs. The problem comes when they’re chewing things they shouldn’t be. In puppies, this is usually due to teething or curiosity, while boredom or anxiety can prompt dogs to chew at any stage of life.
Regardless of the reason, you probably want to know how to get your dog to stop chewing everything in sight. The best solution is to first signal to your puppy through a firm command that her behavior is not appropriate, and then to give them something nice to chew on instead of your sofa — a bone or chew toy ought to do the trick.
Aw, your dog misses you—that’s sweet! Until you come home to find your furniture clawed and the neighbors complaining because he barked all day. If your dog becomes a “bad puppy” while you are gone, it could be due to separation anxiety. If this is the case, the dog will display signs of anxiety as you prepare to leave, and will typically start acting up 15-45 minutes after your departure.
The good news is that this behavior usually decreases naturally as your new puppy starts to understand that you will always come back. In the meantime, tools like interactive pet cameras, or crates can ensure that your furry friend stays out of trouble while you’re gone.
When away, a dog might also harm itself, a situation you can hardly foresee in real life. That’s when Petcube Emergency Fund can be hefty, a pet insurance alternative covering unexpected vet bills. So, even if an emergency happens, you’ll know that Emergency Fund will have you covered.
Pooping and Peeing in the house
Or, in layman’s terms, “going potty in the house”. Of all the hurdles of puppy training, this is definitely the smelliest — and probably the one you’re most eager to overcome. The good news is that housebreaking your puppy can be quite easily done, but it does require some discipline on your part.
The first step is to establish a routine for your puppy of when they eat and when they go outside. The canine digestive system is pretty regular, so you can expect that your puppy will need to relieve themselves within 5-30 minutes of eating. Setting and sticking to other “potty” routines (for example, first thing every morning) will help your puppy learn to take it outside.
Until your puppy is totally housebroken, it’s suitable to use “cratebreaking” as a halfway step while you’re out of the house. If your puppy understands that their crate is their “den”, they’re unlikely to soil this space, and so keeping your puppy in a crate while you’re away from home is a great way to avoid any stinky surprises when you return.
For more information on potty training, read our ultimative guide to potty training success.
During the housebreaking process, it’s important to reward good behavior with treats or praise, while avoiding displays of frustration or punishment for accidents. If your puppy has already pooped or peed in the house, they won’t understand that you are scolding them for this behavior by the time you find it.
However, if you catch them squatting in the house, you can forestall the action by distracting them with exclamations (“Aha!”) long enough to take them outside. You can even bust the puppy remotely through Petcube if you are paying attention.
If your puppy consistently urinates or defecates in the house after a few weeks of housebreaking, they should be examined by a veterinarian to check that there isn’t an underlying health issue. You can even get vet help online using a 24/7 online veterinarian service to get all your pet-related questions answered in just a few clicks.
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Puppies can be a handful, but with proper discipline, your new furball can learn habits to keep you both happy and safe. Pet cams like Petcube make training even easier, allowing you to reinforce positive behaviors and preempt negative ones with the ability to interact remotely with your pet, keeping it entertained and out of trouble. Good luck, and happy training!