We went to the animal shelter last weekend to visit with the shelter pets and give them some one-on-one attention. We do this fairly often and it always pulls on my heart strings; I want to bring carloads of the sweet, homeless animals home with us, but I know it’s not feasible so I stay strong and do what we’re there to do.
On this visit, however, my heart strings were nearly ripped out of my chest. The puppies! Our local shelters are bursting with loveable little puppies. When I got over the initial cuteness-overload response, this made perfect sense. One of the most common reasons dogs are taken to animal shelters is because of excessive barking. This time of year, many puppies that were given as gifts over the holidays are now being relinquished to shelters for things like barking and biting and generally being a puppy. It’s reported that one-fifth of all the dogs adopted from shelters are returned within a few months. What a sad statistic.
Our recent shelter visit compelled me to review my previous article on Tips to Curb Puppy Biting and Aggression and expand the subject to include excessive puppy barking. My goal is to educate new puppy owners on what to expect from young, precocious pups and offer suggestions to curb or even prevent these unwanted behaviors.
Why does my puppy bark so much?
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, but it usually boils down to some form of communication, boredom, a request for attention, or a response to a perceived threat. Your dog wants to be a contributing member of the family and they often assign themselves the role of the protector. Everything is new to a puppy, so his barking may be a warning that a garbage truck is nearby or a neighbor is walking past the house or your hat is on crooked.
When it’s time for a mother dog to wean her puppies, she knows what to do naturally. You can help the process along if you need to though. Generally, a mother dog begins to wean her puppies at about three or four weeks of age. Weaning usually ends at about eight weeks, but it is a gradual process over a period of weeks, not an instant removal of nursing.
During the nursing period, the puppies are beginning to learn proper behavior and socialization skills from their mother and through the interactions with their siblings. They also get nurturing and bonding during the nursing period, so they have a sense of belonging. Because a puppy’s vision is limited in the first couple weeks, they need to stay close to their mother. Nursing is not only food and nutrition; it provides a sense of security for the puppies.
Developing a healthy bond with your new puppy involves more than simply giving it food and a place to sleep. Like any relationship, a good strong bond between a puppy and their person involves continually working on that relationship in productive ways.
Puppies need the kind of focused love and attention you provide any child, to give it a sense of belonging, love and companionship. You and other family members are the source of everything that nurtures, entertains, guides and comforts a puppy. How you provide it is important in establishing a healthy and happy bond with your puppy.
Establishing Rules and Parameters
It’s important to begin establishing rules of behavior from the moment that cute little puppy comes into your home. They will look to you for guidance in everything they do if they know you are the leader of their new pack.
Puppies are individuals with different capabilities. They will learn at their own pace, but with repetition and reward – either verbal or physical – they will learn. Training a puppy is an ongoing process that requires continued reinforcement and consistency. That process is a wonderful way to bond with your puppy and let them know who is in charge. Learning to sit, heel, stay and curb bad behavior does not happen instantly. Puppies and even grown dogs make mistakes and accidents happen, but with patience and positive reinforcement you both will work through that and accomplish the learning goals.
A young puppy still needs his birth mother in the early weeks, for health reasons and also for the formation of socialization skills.
As individuals, puppies mature at different rates. The age that is commonly considered appropriate for a puppy to leave Mom is about eight weeks of age. By that time, the pup will have learned some skills from his mother and from playing with littermates.
Although puppies learn and grow at a faster rate than human babies, they are born fairly helpless and do need their mother for awhile, for the following reasons:
Puppies usually do not fully open their eyes until they are 12 to 18 days old, although it can be earlier, and one eye may open at a time. This means a very young puppy does not have the use of vision and needs to stay close to its mother.
The learning process begins the minute we are born, and it’s the same with puppies. Behaviors that pups are allowed to develop – both good and bad – will follow them into adulthood, and it’s much easier to deal with behavioral issues at a young age. Our job is to bond with and love a puppy, but we are also responsible for discipline and teaching him how we want him to behave. Even dogs have life experiences that mold their perspective and attitude about their environment, people and events they will encounter. The life lessons a puppy should learn will follow him into adulthood and create a more stable and self confident dog who is better equipped to handle whatever life throws his way.
Behavioral issues in adult dogs are often rooted in lessons not learned at an early age. If a puppy isn’t given adequate opportunity to learn how to react to different experiences, he will have a harder time discerning what is safe and what isn’t. An aggressive or anxious response based in fear is best addressed at a young age. Puppies learn through positive and negative experiences how to react to different situations. When a pup is allowed to develop behavior that won’t be acceptable when he’s older, like jumping up on people or protecting his food, bad habits left unchecked will likely become a lifelong issue and harder to correct when he’s older.
Pups should be introduced to people of all ages, different sounds, sights, and situations when they are between the age of 6-14 weeks. This is when a puppy can best develop his own perception of his world and learn how to react appropriately.
A hyper puppy can be a challenge to live with and train. At times they can test your patience. They will push the limits of behavior if they can. This is not abnormal, but it is behavior that needs to be rerouted, retrained and controlled.
Here are some simple tips to help you deal with their bursts of high energy and inappropriate impulses.
Channel Bouts of Energy
Very active and energetic pups need outlets for all that pent up energy. Expecting them to sit around all day or calmly be the perfect house mate is not realistic if they cannot release some energy in a healthy way. If they don’t do it in a positive, constructive way, they will find other ways that are worse.
When your hyper puppy runs around at high speeds crashing into objects, grabbing, nipping or uncontrollably acting out, they need to get more exercise. Give your dog exercise every day. For some dogs, more than once a day is needed. Take your puppy to a place they can run full out, walk for long periods, swim, chase balls or a stick, play fetch, or even practice on an obstacle course; these are all good energy releasers. A high energy dog needs to have purpose and focus to maintain composure.
During the worst times, your hyper puppy will seemingly forget training, act out, avoid you when you try to control him, ignore commands, and vie for attention in whatever way possible. This is when a puppy turns into a four-legged terror.
Puppies play and sleep in cycles. You will begin to notice that often their extreme burst of hyper activity come at specific times of the day. Those times when they seem out of control are the most difficult time to make them behave. For your puppy, they are also the most difficult times to control their own excessive behavior. Working together with your puppy can help them learn how to act more appropriately.
Pay attention to the way their impulsive behavior cycles throughout the day; it will give you clues to know when to focus more on behavior management. If you learn the pending signs, you can be prepared and help teach them to channel their boundless energy into less destructive behavior. Cut off the problem before it takes hold.
A hyper puppy can push your limits. They can make you react in anger and frustration, which is exactly what you should not do. In a hyper state, an energetic, out of control puppy will feed on your negative energy. Use a calm voice and gentle, but firm actions. Dogs read body language as well, so stay as relaxed as possible no matter how much your puppy is pushing your buttons. You want to burst that energy bubble and get the puppy to behave. Filling it with negative energy will only exacerbate it.
Remember, a puppy is still learning how to behave, the same way a human child learns as they grow. Good behavior is not automatic and often takes repetition and patience to teach. It takes time for your puppy to learn.
When your puppy is wound up like a top and acting out, give them alternatives to channel that energy. Play ball or chase, give the puppy a chew toy, take them outside to defuse the situation. Distracting your puppy at hyper times will teach them to find alternate ways to use all that energy.
Reward Appropriate Behavior
Praise, a fun activity and a favorite CANIDAE dog treat will reinforce the calmer behavior. The puppy will start to associate the loving attention with the good actions instead of negative attention for bad behavior. They respond better to love, reward and praise than anger and punishment. Be consistent in your training and positive reinforcement.
Overly energetic puppies can wear you and your patience out. Be the responsible pet owner in control of the situation. Help your beloved puppy learn the right way to channel and use all that energy.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.