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5 Ways to Encourage Positive Behavior in Your Puppy

Mira Gibson

Puppyhood only lasts 8 months, which can really fly by when you’re in the company of an adorable puppy! These months are critical when it comes to training. They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But really the expression should be, when puppies learn good habits, it lasts a lifetime!

Training your puppy to have good habits is no easy feat, and consistently good behavior won’t happen overnight. But it can happen within 8 months. In fact, the majority of things your puppy must learn, such as how to communicate his need to go to the bathroom, can be accomplished in only a few months! 

1) TEACH YOUR PUPPY BASIC COMMANDS 

Puppies tend to have low impulse control and they put playing and following their curiosity and desires higher on the priority list than obeying their pet parents. With time, they get their priorities straight, and you have to give it time. 

These are the commands that your puppy should be able to obey no matter what before you bring him to a park:

  • Come
  • Drop it
  • Back off
  • Down
  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Heel
  • Your puppy should know his own name, too!

2) IDENTIFY THE REASON FOR BARKING 

Anxiety is a normal emotion. No one likes feeling anxious, but the emotion itself serves an important purpose. Anxiety alerts a person to the possibility that something could be seriously wrong. This then compels the person to figure it out and fix the underlying issue that’s causing the anxiety. 

Feeling anxious only becomes unhealthy when the source causing the anxiety is never discovered, which prolongs the anxious feeling. When anxiety becomes chronic in this way, it can destroy a person’s quality of life. 

Moments of anxiety are nothing to worry about, but if you notice that your puppy is becoming chronically anxious, there’s probably an underlying cause that needs to be addressed. 

The two most common reasons that dogs develop anxiety are:

  • Separation Anxiety
  • Fear-Related Anxiety

The 2 types of anxiety listed above tend to develop due to negative experiences during puppyhood, especially during the first few months in their new home. 

Separation Anxiety

Most often, separation anxiety forms when a puppy is separated from his mother too soon and isolated. Responsible, ethical breeders never separate puppies from their mothers before the puppies are fully weaned. After weaning, even though the puppies are transferred from their mothers to the pet store, they remain with other puppies, who are a source of comfort. 

Separation anxiety can also develop as a result of a puppy leaving his littermates and going home with you. During this period of adjustment, some separation anxiety is to be expected. For example, your puppy may not like separating from you at night to sleep in his crate alone. There are several growing pains like this that will not cause chronic separation anxiety. 

However, your puppy could develop prolonged separation anxiety if there’s a major lifestyle change, such as you beginning a full-time office job after working from home for a while. This kind of separation anxiety can drive your puppy to become destructive and do other behaviors that he knows are wrong, like going to the bathroom inside the home. 

If you believe your puppy is experiencing separation anxiety and the problem seems mild, try the following ideas to help your puppy understand that alone time can be fun. 

  • Take your puppy for a walk or do some other high-energy activity an hour or so before you leave
  • Give your puppy a special treat, such as a Kong game, when you leave 
  • Make your puppy’s area, room, or pen very cozy
  • Keep your “coming and going” low-key without making a big deal about leaving
  • Give your puppy over-the-counter natural calming supplements

On the other hand, if the problem seems out of control, we strongly advise you take your puppy to see the vet. 

Fear-Related Anxiety

As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, negative experiences can shape a puppy’s perception of the world. And one fear-inducing experience could cause your puppy to become fearful when he’s triggered to expect the same negative experience. For example, if your puppy is attacked by another dog at the dog park, he could develop fears about dog parks in general. This could then become a source of anxiety whenever he goes there. 

Puppies are very sensitive to stimuli and can become afraid when they hear loud noises or meet strange people or unknown animals. Visual stimuli such as hats and umbrellas have been known to trigger sudden fear in dogs. Even unusual tactile sensations like grass and wood floors can cause fear in some dogs.

In addition, stressful situations can also cause fear-related anxiety, such as trips to the vet. In fact, if your puppy has a very negative experience after a car ride, then he could associate the car ride with the negative experience that took place after it, and become fearful about getting into cars. Car trips in general could trigger fear-related anxiety.

So, what can you do to alleviate fear-related anxiety in your puppy? That’s a tricky question since it doesn’t get to the root of the fear. But we’ll answer it anyway. If your puppy or dog becomes triggered and goes into a spell of fear-related anxiety, it’s best to physically comfort him with pats and remove him from the stimuli that’s causing the distress. 

Long-term, however, you actually don’t want to remove him every time. In fact, counter-intuitive as it may seem, the best thing to do is continue to expose him to the stimuli in a controlled, safe manner. This method is called “desensitization and counter-conditioning.” By organizing moments for your dog to be exposed to his “triggers” briefly, you can effectively desensitize him to those triggers. 

When you’re in the process of desensitizing your puppy, you’ll want to remove the stimuli so that your dog doesn’t go into panic mode. Each time you expose your dog to a trigger, it can be for a longer and longer duration of time. The stimuli itself should be kept at a low intensity, too, so that the desensitization process remains within your full control. 

Counter-conditioning, which should be used in tandem with desensitization, involves training your dog to replace a fearful response with a positive behavior. For example, let’s assume your puppy understands the “sit” command and he’s learned that sitting on command is rewarding. When your puppy is faced with a fearful situation that in the past has triggered fear-related anxiety, you can command him to “sit.” This will redirect his attention away from the stimuli that causes anxiety and place his attention on the reward of listening to you.      

3) TRAIN YOUR PUPPY NOT TO JUMP UP 

The behavior of “jumping up” may seem innocent enough, and even cute, when you see your puppy doing it. After all, your fur baby is just so excited to see you, so excited to see visitors at your home and new people on his walks.

He also gets so very excited when you or anyone is sitting down to eat, how could he contain his excitement and not jump up to experience all the joys with you?

Well, as adorable as your little puppy is when he jumps up whenever he feels like it, this behavior is not going to be so cute when he’s an adult. In fact, at that size and age “jumping up” is just plain rude. That’s why it’s important to nip this bad behavior in the bud while your puppy is young and eager to learn. 

Until your puppy is fully trained not to jump up, you will need to “manage” him when guests come to the house and in other instances to ensure that he doesn’t jump up on anyone. 

Management

Use the following management techniques until your puppy is fully trained not to jump and you trust him to “stay down” when visitors come or when exciting strangers approach during walks and other trips:

  • Put your puppy in his crate
  • Confine him in another room
  • Restrain your puppy on a leash and ask him to sit while the a pedestrian walks by 
  • Be sure to reward your puppy’s obedience and good behavior with a treat morsel!

This will prevent jumping while your fur baby is learning proper behavior.

Training

First things first, it’s important to stop rewarding and encouraging your puppy when he jumps up on you and others. If you respond with smiles, pats, ooohs and awes, then your puppy will receive the message that jumping up earns affection. 

Instead of making this mistake, teach your puppy that he will receive no attention for jumping on you or anyone else. You can turn your back and only pet your puppy when all four paws are on the floor.

Now, you must provide your puppy with an alternative to jumping up. You see, your puppy uses jumping up to express his love and excitement. What he most wants to do is express this emotion. You can train him to understand that he can express his excitement and receive attention when he sits and offers his paw to shake, for example. This is a great alternative because it will result in the attention and human contact that he’s excited to receive!  

Remember, it is important to be consistent during the training process, and to be firm and consistent when you are ignoring the jumping up behavior. Of course, if and when your puppy jumps up, you must tell him “no” and tell him to “sit” and even mold him gently to the ground so that he knows what “sit” means. If he resists, doesn’t comply, or show any other disobedience, this is when you “ignore,” and use the “negative reinforcement” of not giving him love and attention for doing bad behavior. 

Your puppy will learn quickly, trust us! Just remain firm and consistent!

4) ADEQUATE EXERCISE AND POSITIVE ATTENTION ARE KEY

Adult-age dogs tend to be satisfied with two daily outings, which give them the chance to expend their energy. But a common mistake that new puppy parents make is to assume that their puppies only need two outings as well. This isn’t the case. Also, a trip outside to go to the bathroom, which happens frequently with young puppies, doesn’t really count in terms of exercise. 

The greatest tip we can offer you is to schedule many trips outside for your puppy to expend energy by playing a game with you. Each trip outside could be as brief as 10 – 15 minutes, but needs to be rigorous. Throw a ball for your puppy to fetch, run with him around the yard, play tug-of-war and really use the outdoor space. If it’s a walk around the block, then walk briskly and be sure to keep moving for the full 15 minutes. 

Another trick is to plan these bursts of exercise right before you know you will need your puppy to behave in a calm and relaxed manner. For example, if you have an important phone call coming up or you’re planning on having a friend over, be sure to take your puppy out for 15 minutes of rigorous exercise before your engagement. This way, by the time he comes inside, he’ll be tuckered out and relaxed. 

It’s also a good idea to give him exercise time before you engage in a training session with him. Training sessions require your puppy to be calm, focused, and in control of himself so that he can learn whatever you’re trying to teach him. You don’t want your puppy to be so excited to have your attention during a training session that he’s jumping all over you and not paying attention to the lesson at hand. Simply take him outside for a quick 8 minute game of fetch and then dive immediately into the training session. 

5) LEARNING ABOUT EFFECTIVE PUPPY TRAINING PRACTICES SHOULD BE ONGOING

Training your puppy is an ongoing process. You could even consider it a lifestyle. As your relationship with your puppy deepens and grows over time, so too should the communication you share, which is established through training.

Even adult age dogs are still learning new things, because they continue to have experiences that require them to exercise good behavior. When you regard puppy training and training your growing dog as an ongoing process that you’ll need to continue to learn about, you really can’t go wrong!         

Positive Reinforcement

“Positive reinforcement” means rewarding your puppy when he behaves in the manner you want. This could be when he completes a command, such as sitting, staying, coming, or lying down. Or when he succeeds at long-term or complex commands, such as refraining from barking while a jogger runs down the sidewalk.

From your puppy’s perspective, the best reward is food. Canines are primal and highly value food. When a treat is gained as a result of doing any action, the puppy will repeat the action for the purposes of receiving more treats. Since your puppy views treats as “positive,” using treats to reinforce your desire for your puppy to display specific, good behaviors is called “positive reinforcement” in the dog training world.  

Using positive reinforcement is the most effective puppy training method. It’s more effective than using negative reinforcement, though negative reinforcement is at times unavoidable. 

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is all about making sure your puppy knows that he will experience a negative consequence if he continues bad behavior. Just as positive reinforcement teaches a puppy to continue doing good behaviors, negative reinforcement teaches a puppy not to do certain behaviors. 

From your puppy’s perspective, he actually cannot tell the difference between “right” and “wrong.” Human rules are unnatural for dogs. And though your puppy doesn’t automatically know the difference between good and bad behavior, he is eager to please you. He also knows that treats are good, pats are good, and attention and affection are good. He wants to receive those from you, and when you provide those positive rewards after he behaves well, he’ll continue to behave well, as we explained in the last section. 

There will be instances when your puppy is only doing undesired behavior, and so there’s no opportunity to reward positive behavior. In instances like this, you’ll have to proceed with a negative consequence so that your puppy associates a behavior with a consequence. By making this connection, he’ll learn that the behavior was bad, and he’ll stop doing it. 

For example, if your puppy nips you during playtime, you should make a high-pitched “yelp” sound. This sound mimics the cry of a hurt puppy. Your puppy would never want to harm another puppy during play, and so, when he hears the “puppy cry,” he should stop nipping. The sound of a puppy cry is a negative reinforcement. But let’s say that your puppy is a little stubborn and continues nipping. You can then discontinue playtime and put him in his crate to be alone. By abruptly stopping the playtime, you are creating a “negative reinforcement” that will teach your puppy that nipping will get him nowhere. 

That wraps up our article about the 5 ways to encourage positive behavior in your puppy! We hope this information helps you train your new bundle of joy to be the best dog companion ever!

Puppy training is made easy when you get your puppy from PuppyBuddy. We offer 6 weeks of free puppy training to every new PuppyBuddy puppy owner! So, head into PuppyBuddy in Boca Raton, Florida. We have both purebred and hybrid puppies for sale in Florida. Our most popular breeds are Goldendoodle puppies for sale, Pug puppies for sale, and Australian Shepherd puppies for sale. We offer a no puppy mill guarantee, and only work with humane, ethical dog breeders in Florida and across the nation.