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It's Not the Puppies Fault

puppy lying down on lawn in madison, al

The goal of raising a puppy is to prevent unwanted behaviors from developing so that you can live harmoniously with your new puppy. Most new puppy owners allow unwanted behaviors to develop and unknowingly reinforce those behaviors in the puppy. Oftentimes, owners will claim that their puppies came to them with bad habits such as jumping, play biting, barking, or pulling on the leash. Some of that may be true, and in my experience, I have realized that some dogs that weren't from good breeders or have been left at a shelter at a very young age, separated from their litter, separated from their mother too early, may lack important socialization skills that can lead to a variety unwanted behaviors.


In other words, puppies act out these behaviors if they weren't raised in a household that provided love and structure, if they weren't from a good male or female dog, and if they were not from a good breeder. While this is possible, it is a very rare percentage. Unfortunately, most of the puppies' behavioral issues were created or accepted by the owners, who thought that the behaviors would go away when the puppy got older; it does not happen that way.

The top three most unwanted behaviors:

  1. Play Biting

  2. Jumping

  3. Barking

These are the most common issues I am presented with, followed by chewing furniture, pulling on the leash, and many more. Once the puppy has associated an unwanted behavior as acceptable, it will continue to do it. The Dog trainer's job is to teach the puppy commands such as sit down, stay, come, leave it, and drop it. Dog trainers can also teach commands such as going to your bed and place, socialization skills, public manners, greeting people properly, walking on a loose leash, and avoiding jumping on people. This is a dog trainer's job, but many people think that dog trainers' jobs are only to stop unwanted behaviors that the owners have allowed the puppy to do over a certain period.

It only takes one or two times for the puppy to rehearse an unwanted behavior, such as playing, biting, jumping, barking, or chewing furniture, for the behavior to be programmed into their brain, which I call their “software.” I use this terminology because people can relate to it. The puppy comes to you on a blank slate. It does not know English, play biting, jumping and barking, or pulling on a leash. Those unwanted behaviors are taught in the environment that surrounds them.

Some puppies have little to no unwanted behaviors, whereas others have multiple, which can be very overwhelming for a puppy’s parent. Homes that are very strict with structure, leadership, guidance, discipline, obedience, and routine encourage and allow the puppy to thrive almost immediately. Homes that initially allow the puppy to play bite and then recognize that this is an unwanted behavior and attempt to stop it will often encourage it without knowing, making the behavior worse. When the owner is not educated on stopping these behaviors, they will make the behavior worse and harder to stop. It is much simpler to stop unwanted behaviors the first few times they occur rather than completely reconditioning the puppy after allowing this behavior to go on for a while; this is confusing for the puppy and frustrating for the owner.

How do you prevent unwanted puppy behaviors from developing without reinforcing them?

If the puppy is biting or nipping at you, try not to have your hands near their face. If your hands are near their face while you are playing with them, and all they do is bite on you, you are enabling that puppy to learn, reinforce, and be rewarded for that behavior. Even if you say “no,” the puppy does not know what no means, but the puppy can sense your frustration. They may relate it to being playful, leading to more biting.

The best thing that you can do is what I did with my dog, Dixie. The first day I had her, she started to nip on my fingers, and I said, “Ah, ah, leave it,” and she never touched my hands again with her teeth. Dixie now kisses everyone she meets, but her teeth never come into contact with skin. I lived in an apartment when I got Dixie, and the first day I had her, she barked once. I followed this up by saying, “Ah, ah, leave it,” and she has never barked in the house again. She will bark when she's playing with other puppies and dogs at daycare, but she never barks in my house.

The final thing you should do to prevent unwanted behaviors is find replacement behaviors. For example, if a puppy is very mouthy, it will need things to chew on. While the puppy is teething, it will need bully sticks, deer antlers, a stuffed Kong, and lick mats to exhaust your puppy and prompt better behavior mentally. Baby food, carrots, blueberries, mashed banana, cream cheese, pumpkin, kibble, and training treats are all good options when stuffing a Kong or a Likimat. Giving a puppy something to do with their mind is extremely tiring, and when you are trying to discipline them in the house, they are exhausted and do not have the energy to perform unwanted behaviors.


You do not need to constantly play with your puppy and give them a lot of affection. Puppies should be sleeping 16-18 hours a day and will do so if properly exercised mentally and physically. They need immediate leadership, guidance, discipline, and structure to prevent unwanted puppy behaviors. Follow the tips in this article, reevaluate your puppy's unwanted behaviors, and see what you can do to stop reinforcing their unwanted behaviors and stop the development of new ones. Find replacement behaviors that encourage wanted behaviors for your puppy.



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