Few things can cause as much head-scratching as new puppy behaviours. As a newbie pet parent, it can be confusing to distinguish between what is and isn’t typical puppy behaviour.
Indeed, our young charges and their Puppy Behaviours can baffle us with the things they do!
This brief guide aims to explain all the questions you might have about Puppy behaviours and also help you with the fundamentals of obedience and training for your new puppy.
Table of Contents – Puppy Behaviours
- Puppy Behaviours – Why Do Puppies Do That?
- 1. Why do Puppies Chew Virtually Everything?
- 2. Why Do Puppies Bite Each Other and Their Humans?
- 3. Why Do Puppies Cry or Whine When there is Nothing Wrong?
- 4. Why Do Puppies Jump on People?
- 5. Why Do Puppies Chase Other Pets/Cats/Squirrels/Possums/Rabbits?
- 6. Why do Puppies Growl and Bark?
- Conclusion – Puppy Behaviours Explained
Puppy Behaviours – Why Do Puppies Do That?
Dogs are hard-wired to chew and some become more obsessed with it than others. In the wild, their ancestors – wolves – chewed on bones to get every last bit of protein and also keep their teeth and gums healthy.
Puppies additionally chew because it facilitates teething. Chewing helps soothe irritated gums and usually starts around the age of three months up to six months. This is also the time when puppies cut their permanent teeth and eliminate their baby teeth.
Boredom and separation anxiety tend to exacerbate the problem of puppy chewing.
- Crate train your pet to develop the skill of independence. Provide passive calming activities (long-lasting chews, snuffle mat, stuffed Kongs etc) and plenty of toys inside the crate.
- Exercise your puppy and practise short training sessions (up to 2 minutes) throughout the day – this will expend calories and tire your energetic puppy out. Potty train your puppy fast, by taking it out to the designated potty area every 20-30 minutes when they are awake.
- Provide plenty of chew toys, raw meaty bones or safe, vet-approved bones for it to chew.
2. Why Do Puppies Bite Each Other and Their Humans?
One of the most common Puppy Behaviours is biting. Puppies bite each other on the legs, back of the neck, and ears as part of play fighting.
Play fighting between littermates prepares puppies socially. They learn what Puppy Behaviours are appropriate and what are inappropriate. It helps them develop coordination, fine motor skills, and overall physical soundness. It also nurtures confidence and independence.
This is an important part of puppy socialisation and why the best dog breeders do not let their puppies go to their forever homes before 8 weeks. During this period, puppies play-fight and play-bite their siblings under their dam’s supervision. This helps them learn bite inhibition so they can later learn what is a socially acceptable amount of pressure to exert with their teeth during play and what might trigger a fight.
Puppies brought home from the breeder often consider their humans as their littermates and continue to play bite.
- Teach them bite-inhibition and redirect them onto something they can bite. When your puppy bites or nips at you, redirect their mouth to a tug toy that they can mouth. If your puppy persists in biting you, stop playing and ignore the puppy. Leave the room. Come back and continue playing until it bites again at which point, you must again leave the room, and ignore the pup. This will teach your puppy that biting stops the fun.
- If needed, seek the help of a dog behaviourist or a dog trainer to help you.
- Provide plenty of toys and long-lasting chews for your pup to bite and chew.
3. Why Do Puppies Cry or Whine When there is Nothing Wrong?
Young puppies tend to cry even when there is nothing apparently wrong.
They usually do this if they are bored, wish to play, go to the toilet, want treats, or simply want to sit next to you on the sofa.
This is one of those Puppy Behaviours that most puppies grow out of by the time they are adults. This is because they become more confident and independent as they mature.
- Exercise your puppy. A physically and mentally stimulated puppy will be less inclined to cry.
- Make sure all its needs are met. If it is crying out of boredom, provide toys and long-lasting chews.
- Sometimes, you must ignore the puppy’s crying. Otherwise, it might get trained to cry as you give it attention every time. Crate training is a humane way to increase a pup’s life skill of independence. Learning how to crate train a puppy can help to prevent separation anxiety from developing by growing the pup’s independence. Separation Anxiety is a common behaviour problem in dogs, particularly the poodle mix breeds and staffies.
- If your pup is crying continuously, please see your vet or behaviourist. Your puppy might be in pain or suffering from anxiety. Recent research has shown that some dogs’ brains are wired differently, resulting in increased anxiety and fear.
4. Why Do Puppies Jump on People?
Puppies jump on visitors or people they meet on their walks to greet them. They may even plant puppy kisses on them!
As a part of good manners, you don’t want your pet to do that. (Although some dog lovers may allow and even encourage it!)
What to Do?
- Teach your puppy an “on cue” behaviour to prevent it from jumping on visitors. These can be the “Sit” or “Let’s Walk” commands. Ideally, this behaviour will be incompatible with jumping up – for example, the puppy could be rewarded for having four feet on the ground or for sitting.
- Both – sitting and walking – when taught reliably are incompatible with jumping up – and can help you manage your puppy’s jumping behaviour.
- Place training or training your puppy to go to their bed on cue is another incompatible behaviour with jumping up. There are a few steps to success in place training your new puppy and it should first be practised and polished in a low-distraction environment when exciting things and people are not around.
- Remember the key to success in dog training is to set your dog up for success!
5. Why Do Puppies Chase Other Pets/Cats/Squirrels/Possums/Rabbits?
Puppy chasing objects are normal puppy behaviours but can present a problem when directed towards your cat!
Some breeds are more inclined to chase particularly the herding, terrier, hound and hunting breeds.
Sometimes your puppy might simply chase other dogs or pets like it were chasing a ball or if it wants to play.
- Socialise your puppy with cats and other animals from an early age. Good breeders often do this for you by raising their puppies in their homes with other dogs and cats.
- Treat or reward your puppy for desired behaviour – i.e., every time it ignores the cat and responds to your attention noise.
- Teaching basic commands, especially the recall command can also prevent your puppy from chasing squirrels outside.
- Utilise your puppy’s natural inclination to chase as a reward in training. A flirt pole dog toy is one of the best training aids for dogs that like to chase. Ask your puppy for a sit or reward them for calm behaviour, by giving your release cue and simultaneously bringing the soft toy on the end of the flirt pole to life.
- The fun and exhilaration the puppy feels, when they are chasing the flirt pole will transfer to the behaviours you’re training. This is the fastest and most fun way to train a puppy to do anything you want!
6. Why do Puppies Growl and Bark?
Puppy Behaviours like growling and barking indicate that a pup feels frustrated, upset, sad, stressed, or uncomfortable about a situation.
A growl is often a warning that your puppy might bite. It is also a cry for help that it does not like being in that situation and needs you to step in to provide some space or a safe place to rest.
What to Do?
- Remove your pet from the situation or give them some space.
- Address underlying emotional issues and focus on training the life skill of tolerance to frustration. Puppies will often bark and growl when they are frustrated and this is a life skill that can be trained.
- Do not punish your puppy for growling, it’s one of the normal Puppy Behaviours – stopping a puppy from communicating when they feel uncomfortable, can lead to an adult dog that will bite without warning.
- Distract it from the situation.
- Crate your puppy or put them in a baby-gated room with some passive calming activities, if they are overwhelmed or excited.
Conclusion – Puppy Behaviours Explained
Puppies come into this world ready to learn. However, they are also pre-programmed to do certain things and we can use these things as rewards in training. Similarly, puppies are like sponges, they can learn to do the right things when trained using positive reinforcement.
If puppies are not trained and are left to their own devices, they will become more of what they do every day. If your puppy is jumping up, biting, and chasing the kids, without training, these behaviours will become more entrenched in their daily routine. The puppy will effectively be training itself in the things it enjoys doing. Behaviours like chasing, biting, barking and jumping up are inherently rewarding, so they will continue to grow if they are allowed to be rehearsed.
Play-time, training, exercise, and socialisation with adequate nap times and healthy puppy food all play a critical role in transitioning your puppy into adulthood without these normal Puppy Behaviours becoming behavioural problems.
We hope this brief guide helps you decode common Puppy Behaviours.