Puppy Problems: Here's how to deal with six of the most common behavioural problems faced by new dog owners - including barking and chewing

Becoming a dog owner for the first time can be a stressful experience – but what may seem to be a problematic puppy will usually grow up to be a loving and loyal pet.

A huge number of us decided to welcome new puppies into our homes over the last two years, with Kennel Club figures showing dog ownership soared by nearly eight percent, with post-lockdown demand for four-legged friends remaining high.

This means that there are more first time dog owners out there than ever before – many of whom are inexperienced in coping with issues common in young dogs.

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Alarmingly, research from puppy training app Zigzag has revealed that 27 per cent of dog owners would consider giving up their puppy if they displayed behaviour that was mistakenly identified as ‘problematic’ for their age.

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But most of this behaviour is completely natural and can be easily managed without any need to resort to drastic measures.

To help out Lorna Winter, Director of the UK Dog Behaviour and Training Charter and co-founder and head of training at Zigzag, has provided simple, easy and time-efficient training tips to tackling these problems.

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Here’s what she had to say.

Peeing on the floor

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Problematic behaviour in young dogs can be dealt with if you follow a few simple pieces of advice.

You should be going outside with your pup often - as often as every 30 minutes is advised. Remember, the outside can be extremely distracting and often your pup will swap playtime for pee time. As a result, they might still need to pee once returning inside, be prepared to make a swift exit back outside. Never tell them off for having an accident. This doesn’t help your puppy to learn it’s wrong and can have the opposite effect as it can delay the toilet training process. Consistency is the secret to success. Keep watching your pup for signs they need to go out, they may also develop pee patterns which will help you predict the need better.

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Nipping

Always have toys to hand to redirect those teeth onto. Long, soft tough toys are better as they will increase the distance between your pup and your hand. Never play with your puppy using just hands or feet (however tempting it is!) as your puppy will not be able to differentiate this from their toys. Sleep can also be a huge contributing factor. Your puppy should have somewhere safe and quiet to sleep for between 18-20 per day - this ensures they are not restless and will reduce the chances of problematic behaviour. Control playtime so it doesn’t get too boisterous or go on too long, so keep your play sessions short, and not too exciting.

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Chewing Furniture and Belongings

Move things out of reach - it won’t be forever but just through the puppyhood phase. Don’t give them old shoes or items to play with, as your puppy will not be able to differentiate them from new ones. Avoid chasing your pup if they do grab hold of your possessions. It’s best to ignore them and reward them when they pick up their own toys - encouraging them using jiggling motions will help encourage them to their toys. Let them chew and rip their toys apart. Puppies aren’t toddlers who are going to cherish their first teddy into adulthood, they want to rip them up, and this is a very natural behaviour that is very important to let them do - otherwise it’s your sofa, or cushions etc.

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Crying all Night

First thing is to check it’s not due to needing a toilet break. When your puppy is young, they will still need a toilet break in the night. Never leave your pup to just cry all night, as there is new research that shows puppies who are left to cry it out all night, are more likely to have behavioural issues in the future. Have your pup as close to you as possible, ideally by your bed in the early weeks/months. If you don’t want them upstairs, be prepared to sleep downstairs until they are comfortable being left alone. Don’t be afraid to comfort your puppy, you will be giving them reassurance not rewarding the crying. Give your pup something of yours to lie on, a jumper or dressing gown can help soothe them.

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Pulling on the lead

You absolutely must begin working on lead walking in the house and garden. Don’t leave it until they are allowed out on walks, as this is already too late! Practice in the house, walking up and down without even using the lead. Have some treats ready in your hand, hold them down at thigh level, and walk at your pup’s pace. As you walk, every 3 steps drop treats to the ground beside your heel. Don’t deliver the treat to your puppy's mouth, as this can encourage jumping. Once mastered, take it into the garden. Increase the steps in between treats. If your dog moves ahead, stop, reposition, and start again. Once your dog consistently walks nicely alongside, you, then you can start to introduce the lead. Never jerk or yank on the lead, just stop, drop some treats behind your heel until your puppy is back where you want them, and then start moving again. By the time your pup has had their second injection they should already be walking nicely alongside you like a pro.

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Barking

Don’t punish barking as it is one of the limited means of communication your puppy has with you and the world. Is your puppy bored? Barking is very often a symptom of boredom and frustration, so try to figure out what it is your puppy is needing. Heavily reward periods of quiet behaviour, especially with more vocal pups. Teach ‘speak’ and ‘quiet’ on cue so you have some control over barking.

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