Common Behavior Problems in Puppies

No More Nipping

Nipping is a common complaint with puppies. Puppies naturally play by nipping, and without canine playmates, your pup will turn to you. Some dogs have a greater tendency to nip and mouth than others. Retrievers, bred for generations to carry things in their mouth, are “mouthy” and tend to grab and hold your hands and legs. Terriers, bred to kill small animals by biting, tend to jump and nip in excitement. Some herding breeds, bred to drive sheep and cattle by nipping at their heels, will chase and nip at running people.

When your puppy bites you in play, there’s no need to react violently. In fact, grabbing at the puppy may only convince him that you, too, are playing roughly. Chances are he will respond by playing back even more roughly. Puppies react this way to one another, escalating their play-fighting until the going gets so rough one cries uncle and leaves. If a puppy bites another pup too hard, the victim will yelp and quit playing, or sometimes yelp and retaliate. This is a valuable lesson that teaches the pup that if he bites too hard, it’s game over. You can do the same. When your pup chomps down on you, yelp sharply and withdraw from him, standing still and ignoring him for 20 seconds or so. If he stops nipping and behaves, quit your statue act and give him a treat.

Remember, it’s better to reward proper behavior than to try to quash any behavior. Don’t just stop him from nipping. Reward him for not nipping by giving him a toy to carry, a ball to chase or a chewie to gnaw. It’s important that you are not rewarding the pup for biting. It’s fun to wriggle your fingers in front of the puppy’s face, pulling them out of reach as he lunges for them. It’s fun to run and squeal and to roughhouse on the floor. But if you want him to stop nipping, you can't do that. You must also convince the rest of your family and any visitors that they must not encourage the puppy to nip.

Get Help From Your Vet

Eating feces is surprisingly common in puppies. Your best prevention is to immediately clean up any feces. If you catch him in the act, give him a stern "No!" to show him it's not acceptable behavior. Your veterinarian also can prescribe a food additive that supposedly makes the feces taste bad — or, should we say, worse!

Carsickness, where the puppy drools or vomits, is common. Practice going for extremely short trips to fun places where he can get outside before he gets sick. Drive at a steady speed — acceleration and deceleration, as well as turns, bring on nausea. Your veterinarian can prescribe effective medication in difficult cases.

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