On The Verge Of Returning Your Puppy?
According to ASPCA, approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats. Each year, 2.7 million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized in the United States, simply because too many pets come into shelters and too few people consider adoption when looking for a pet. Adopting a new puppy is one of the most exciting and frustrating times of dog ownership. First time owners see a cute face that only wants to play and cuddle but don’t understand the hurdles that will surface in the first 6 months. Unfortunately, countless newbie owners get overwhelmed by the puppy biting, constant accidents or what seems to be a dog that never listens, and return the pup to a dirty shelter.
With extensive experience with a German Shepherd that seemed like she was never going to change, I can assure you that these bad traits will go away with time. Lets go over some of the most frustrating puppy behaviors that nearly forced me throw in the towel and why you should stay in the game.
The Land Shark
If you’re in the market for a large breed dog such as a German Shepherd, get ready because the shredding will drive you insane. Puppy biting was one of the most frustrating and embarrassing phases for my dog. Lucky, Sasha was not big on tearing into the furniture but was obsessed with hands and feet. When we picked her up at just 8 weeks, the biting was considered cute and adorable. As her teeth grew larger and sharper it quickly turned into a massive undertaking. She became violent and obsessive about biting random strangers feet on the street. For a minute we believed that Sasha was going to grow up to be an aggressive out of control German Shepherd.
Why Do Pups Love To Bite So much?
- Teething – It’s natural behavior for puppies to bite. As they begin to teethe, they naturally need things to chew on. Just like babies, growing of the teeth irritates them so they look for things to chew on and alleviate some stress.
- Exploration – They learn to navigate the world with their mouths since they don’t have hands that they can grab things with. They begin to understand bite inhibition or the pups ability to control how soft or hard they are biting.
- Play Time – Play-fighting with litter mates and other animals develops reflexes, coordination and physical skill. It also helps them develop social skills and teaches them how to interact positively within their pack.
With months of constant embarrassment every time someone wanted to see our new fabulous puppy, the biting suddenly ended. With 6 months of ownership I was truly questioning my commitment to owning a large breed dog. My arms were cut up as if I was to fall in a cactus field and my feet were littered with blisters. After the dust settled I was extremely thankful that i hung in there because Sasha turned out to be the sweetest dog in town.
How To Correct Puppy Biting
- Misdirection – When the dog begins to nip at your life firmly say NO! Make them nip on a chew toy and reward the behavior by saying YES! or giving them a treat. This will teach them what is okay to nip on and what is not. Keep in mind that a pups listening skills are that of a baby.
- Act Hurt – Make loud painful noises like a young pup would in a den. The first hard bite you feel, you scream “OW!” Be sure to say it LOUDLY. It should startle him and cause him to stop biting or to lick your hand in an appeasement gesture.
- Always Correct – Although it may seem like a waste of time, always correct the unwanted behavior. This is extremely frustrating but constantly catch them in the act and never give up. I did this for 6 months and today when I say no Sasha stops immediately because it was drilled into her head from a young age. Never use the dogs name to correct bad behavior but be sure to stay in the game. Once you get passed this dreaded phase, your dog will be eager to learn and listen much better.
- Sour Apple Spray – They hate this thing so pray it on to your most valuable items.
Housebreaking Your Puppy
Yet another phase that gets under every persons skin. You take your cute puppy outside to do his or her business but after an hour, no luck. The second you enter the house they begin to defecate on your beautiful carpet. How about that new fancy electronic device that you have to toss in the garbage because that fluffy ball decided to use the cable as a chew toy. This can really push people over the edge no matter how adorable thing is.
House training your puppy is about consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement. The goal is to instill good habits and build a loving bond with your pet. All dogs become conditioned never to eliminate in their dens. From two to four months of age, most pups pick up on the concept of housebreaking and crate training quite easily since it is part of their natural programming. This is another phase that will take around 6 months to master.
Potty Training Tips:
- Game Face After Feeding – Five to 30 minutes after the puppy eats, it will want to defecate. So with a consistent eating schedule, and your attention to the clock, your puppy can maintain regular trips outside.
- Hourly Rotation – If you can, take the puppy outside every hour to the same patch of grass and wait for him to pee/poop. Its imperative that you act super excited and give them a treat right after they do their thing. This will teach them that going out side is a good thing and they will learn that going to this spot means bathroom time.
- Puppy Pads – Use the same hourly rotation on the puppy pads and reward good behavior.
- Look For Signs – Get ready to spring into action when the he begins to sniff the ground and roaming around in circles. Once they start the look for their spot, say a command like “Go Potty” and reward good behavior.
- Positive Reinforcement – Keep in mind that this is frustrating work. Always use positive reinforcement and a firm “NO!” or “Bad Dog” when they go in the wrong place. Never shove your dogs face in the poop or pee because it will only confuse them. If you come home to an accident DO NOT GET MAD!!!!!! Dogs think in the moment so you getting angry will only teach the puppy that getting excited when you come home is bad behavior. Accept your loss and move on.
Set Boundaries Early
If you value anything in the home and want to establish your self as the alpha pack leader, learn to set boundaries. Because of their nature as social pack animals, dogs want us to tell them what they’re supposed to do. We understood before adopting Sasha that puppies love to chow on fancy cables. After a quick house meeting, every member in the home agreed on a few areas that the dog would never be allowed to enter. For me, it was under the desk and around the guitars. We agreed that she would be allowed on the beds but not the couch. Here is how we did it!
How To Set Boundaries
- Claim The Spot – If they try to get in the spot you’re trying to protect, stand in front of them and do not let them pass. If you don’t want them on the couch, stand over it. Reward with a treat if they sit just outside.
- Correcting – If he even gets the idea in his head to jump on the couch tell him no. Be sure to always kick them off the couch and never ever let them on it. No special occasions.
- Use A Fence – Because puppies are quite dumb, use a fence or blockade of some sort to deny access to the area. Before to enforce that this is a no go area once you lift the gate and use positive reinforcement.
Puppies Are Dumb….
The biggest mistake novice dog owners make is they talk to the animal as if they were a grown well trained dog. Keep in mind that their little brains are still developing and they really don’t care about anything. Remember when you were 8 years old tuning into the Presidential debates? Puppies may think its play when you take stuff from them or explaining the meaning of “No”. They simply cant comprehend all the complex words that are coming out of your mouth. Puppies need a long time to learn as their brain develops but don’t let that discourage you from starting early. Its drastically easier to train a dog from an early age. You want to avoid bad habits as much as possible so be sure to always correct bad behaviors no matter how many times they tend to do it. Understand they they are like our very own children that in the future can learn just about anything so be patient.
Every dog owner drops the ball on this one. No matter what you teach or desire to eliminate, consistency is what cements it in your furry friends little head. Think of it as getting in shape. Yes, you can drop the 50 pounds and get shredded but what happens after that? Its imperative that you dedicate a small chuck of time each week to refresh your dogs mind. Don’t have time? Have follow a set of commands before you place the food bowl down. Utilize the walks and other dog activities to train and refresh their mind.
So Whats The Message ?
The point of this article is quite simple. Owning a puppy is not all sunshine and rainbows. Sasha was an adorable puppy that I began to hate after just a few short months. She bit with aggression, never seemed to understand the concept of using the bathroom, and was impossible to teach. With my no quit attitude and consistency she grew up to be the best dog in town. Sasha turned extremely loyal, following commands like a soldier. She turned out to be my best bud and everyone in town is eager to say hello. It breaks my heart that people save a puppies life and give up shortly after adoption. Look, babies crap their pants, mess up your home and sabotage your schedules but when they grow out and understand right from wrong, its impossible not to love them. In just 6 or 7 months your annoying dog will grow out of unwanted behaviors and become the dog you always wanted. Stay patient and be sure to train them properly.
Adopting a dog is one of the greatest decision you will ever make. Sure they’ll misbehave here and there, but understand that its up to you to train them. Don’t be the person that blames the dog for its unwanted behaviors. Do the proper research before you adopt a young pup and stay in the game until their brains finally develop. We’ve all been there, frustrated at not getting results immediately but just know that its worth the wait. Just like in the previous gym example, if you wont stick with it you wont get any results. You Are Saving Two Lives – The life of the dog you adopt and the space that opens up for another dog in the shelter or rescue.
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