Having a poorly behaved puppy is not fun! Chewing everything in sight, peeing and pooping on the carpet, not listening when you call, grabbing food off the counter and the list goes on. Although I use the word puppy throughout this post, the information and tips provided will apply to dogs of all ages.
It is much easier to prevent problem behaviors then deal with them after they’re ingrained, and the good news is it’s super easy. All you have to do is train your puppy! Something else important to note is, bad behavior in dogs is almost always a result of boredom. See what happens when you start walking him more often.
What does “bad behavior” in a puppy actually mean?
What we would call bad behavior is often just normal behavior. We consider it bad because it may not fit into how we think life with a dog should be.
Why is my puppy so badly behaved?
Unless you show your puppy what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, we cannot expect them to know not to pee in the house, or that your shoe is not the same thing as a chew toy.
It can take months for your dog to understand how to live in your world, and the only way to help him is to teach him.
Now we know training is key, but there are other reasons:
Boredom – Dogs need physical exercise and mental stimulation every single day. When they don’t have that outlet to release pent up energy, it manifests itself in ways we aren’t going to be happy with. Ripping your pillows, chewing the table legs and excess barking are a few examples of what you can expect to see.
Pain – If your dog has become aggressive or snaps when you touch him, it’s possible he’s in pain. He could have injured himself on a walk or jumping on the furniture without you noticing.
Getting mixed signals during training – Although you’ve been training him, sometimes we unintentionally give mixed signals which confuses the dog.
For example: You’re doing a great job of training your puppy to spend time alone so he doesn’t develop separation anxiety, but sometimes you check on him when he barks. By checking you’re teaching him barking gets him what he wants, meaning you.
A more helpful way is to wait until there’s a break in the barking, even if only for a second and then go in. That way he’ll learn not barking is a better way to get your attention.
Not trained – If you don’t teach your dog, how can you expect him to know?
What kind of behavior problems can you prevent?
While some behaviors we never want to see, others are natural and going to happen. It becomes a problem when it’s ongoing, destructive and/or causes issues in the home.
- Jumping on people
- Counter surfing
- Pulling on the leash
- Door dashing
- Barking incessantly
- Peeing and pooping in the house
- Leash aggression (towards people and/or other dogs)
- Urine marking
- Begging at the table
- Digging in your garden
- Separation anxiety
- Resource guarding
- Fears and phobias
- Barking when someone comes to the door
How to raise a well behaved puppy
Training is the foundation for sharing your life with a happy and well adjusted dog, but that’s not the only thing. Attention, play time, exercise and a nutritious diet are just as important.
What is the first thing you should teach your puppy?
You want to create a bond between you and your new puppy, and as you go through the training process that bond will get stronger. In order for that to happen, the first thing you need to teach your dog is his name.
Cues like sit, stay and come, as well as house training and dealing with puppy biting are all super important, but unless he knows his name it’s going to be pretty hard for him to understand you want his attention.
♦ Set up a mini training session, with you sitting on the floor and delicious treats in your hand. To get his focus on you make a sound, when he turns his head and comes over, give him a treat. Since he responded to the sound you made, do that again but this time say his name, again when he responds give him a treat.
♦ Assuming your puppy is still near you, when he looks at you say his name, the word “yes” then treat.
♦ Mix it up so he learns his name in a variety of locations and scenarios. For example, you’re on the couch reading a book and he’s playing on the floor at your feet. Say his name and give him a treat when he looks at you.
♦ Do this several times each day in different rooms, when you’re standing, sitting…but always when he’s pretty close to you because he doesn’t know the word “come” yet.
How can I improve my dog’s behavior?
Here is a list of common behavior issues, and what to do about them.
Jumping on people – This is not only an annoying behavior to contend with, it can be dangerous.
Are you okay with your dog jumping on you all the time?
Have visitors stopped coming over because they don’t get left alone when they walk through your front door?
How do you think strangers feel when out for a stroll in the park, and your dog comes bounding over and jumps on them? What about if your dog has wet or muddy paws? I can tell you it really pisses me off.
Many owners of small dogs aren’t that concerned because they don’t see what harm such a little animal can do. A child or elderly person can easily get knocked down and sustain a potentially serious injury, especially if caught off guard.
This article “How to Stop Your Dog Jumping on People in 3 Easy Steps” will give you the tips you need to stop that behavior and get your social life back on track!
Nipping/biting – This is natural puppy behavior, the way they explore the world around them. Unfortunately teaching a dog not to nip or bite is not always taken as seriously as it should be.
Puppies have razor sharp teeth and it hurts when they nibble on your body parts. If you do nothing to teach your dog what he can and cannot chew on, the problem will only get worse. He will get bigger, his bite will get stronger and you run the risk of him seriously hurting someone. If your dog is reported to the police for a dog bite and is considered dangerous, your dog will likely be killed.
♦ Whenever your puppy bites turn his attention to something he’s allowed to chew on, meaning a toy. Try different textures to keep him interested and see which ones he prefers.
♦ Get his attention on a rope toy, but don’t just put it on the floor and expect interaction. Make it more exciting by moving it around and playing tug of war. He may get your skin or clothing once in a while so re-direct him to the rope toy every time. If you’re playing tug of war while standing and he jumps up and gets your skin, make a sound like a yelp or a squeal, stop playing and turn your back. When he’s calmed down, turn around and start playing again.
♦ Give him something easy to do every time he starts to bite – ask him to sit for example, then give him a treat.
♦ It’s not enough to simply correct your dog in the moment, you need to be proactive. Initiating training sessions will teach your dog to respond to you rather than you always having to react to something he’s doing.
Counter surfing – What dog wouldn’t love to get their paws on a freshly cooked steak left on the counter. Unless you teach him that behavior is unacceptable, you will be dealing with it forever. He will never stop on his own because he was rewarded – he found a tasty snack and will keep looking for another!
It won’t be long, if it hasn’t happened already, before he tries it at the dinner table. Eating the high fat food he grabbed could cause pancreatitis; dishes that fell and broke could lead to cut paws, and I shudder to think what would happen if there were lit candles on the table.
For helpful advice on how to stop this behavior, read ⇒ “How to Stop a Dog from Counter Surfing”
Pulling on the leash – Walking is such an important form of exercise, and it should be an enjoyable time for both you and your dog. Taking a dog out that has never learned to walk nicely on a leash can be a nightmare. Nothing worse than being dragged down the street, feeling like your arm is coming loose from its socket!
Things often get so bad no one wants to walk the dog anymore, and he’s stuck not seeing anything beyond his own backyard.
This article “How to Train a Rescue Dog to Walk on a Leash” will help. Although the title says “rescue” it will help all dogs.
Door dashing – Also known as running out the door, this is so dangerous and needs to be dealt with right away. If your dog takes off and is never found, it will be tough wondering what happened to him. It’s also possible he will get hurt and even killed.
You can find easy tips to start right now in this article “How Do I Stop My Dog Running Out the Door.”
Chewing – Like biting, puppies chew as a way to learn about their new environment. However, there are also other reasons which include teething, boredom, anxiety relief and attention seeking.
Attention to a dog isn’t just tasty treats and high praise. If you don’t have much interaction with your dog, he may chew something he shouldn’t even though you’ll yell, because he knows you’ll at least notice him.
Give your dog safe toys and bones to chew on
Provide your dog with plenty of exercise in the form of walks, hikes, swimming and visits to new areas for added mental stimulation. If you have a young puppy you’ll need to make sure he has all his shots before it’s safe so speak to your vet
Take time each day for one on one play with your dog. Check Pinterest for lots of easy to make DIY toys and games
Barking incessantly – Dogs bark, it’s the way they communicate, but if you don’t know why he’s barking how can you ever hope to stop it!
Read this ⇒ “How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Barking at Everything?”
Peeing and pooping in the house – One of the things new puppy parents struggle with is constantly finding pee and poop around the house. It’s annoying for sure, but you can’t blame the dog for not knowing where it’s okay if you don’t tell him. Unfortunately, lack of house training is a big reason why dogs are dumped in shelters.
House training takes a long time, several months, but you’re not alone in this. The key is consistency.
Here are some great tips you can start implementing as soon as you finish reading them!
This point is super important – The fewer opportunities your dog has to have an accident in the house, and the more opportunities he has to go where you want him to go, which is outside, the faster house training is going to be.
♦ You need to take your puppy out every single hour, at least at the beginning, and a couple of times in the middle of the night. Once he reaches about 3 months he should, theoretically be able to wait about 2 ½ hours or so.
♦ You will need to be vigilant for roughly 6 months, although an exact time frame is not possible. It depends on how consistent you are and how quickly your dog learns.
♦ Control access in the house by attaching his leash to you using a carabiner on the handle and clipping it to your belt loop. Standard leash only please, no flexi leashes.
♦ When you can’t have him attached to you because you’re going out or simply need a break, use a puppy play pen, block off an area using a baby gate, have a crate or even a laundry room. You still need to take him out as often.
♦ You cannot expect your dog to let you know when he has to go out, because that’s not house training. It’s your responsibility to take him outside every hour, and even a couple of times during the night. Night time outings should just last a few weeks.
♦ Always take him out on a leash so he can’t wander off and start exploring. These are pee breaks not play time, make them as boring as possible, let him sniff around but don’t distract him.
♦ Each break should be 5-10 minutes. He won’t pee every time but it’s important to constantly give them the opportunity.
♦ Never punish your dog for having an accident in the house. You weren’t consistent enough in getting him out regularly.
♦ If you catch him in the middle, pick him up and rush him outside.
♦ Clean up the mess and eliminate any odors.
Leash aggression towards people and/or other dogs – Unless a puppy has been abused or mistreated, it isn’t typical for such a young dog to be aggressive.
Aggression could be explained by harsh training at the hands of a previous owner, or a complete lack of socialization. My dog Jack was very leash aggressive due to living in an abusive home, but often that behavior is due to fear and/or insecurity.
It took many, many months for him to be comfortable walking by most people and dogs, but consistency has paid off. I’ve outlined the steps I used in this article “How to Walk a Leash Aggressive Dog – The Right Way!”
Urine marking – Totally different from peeing in the house, this is a territorial behavior and not only will he do it in your home, he may do it in others’ as well.
Read this for tips on how to stop marking behavior ⇒ “How to Stop a Dog Marking in the House”
Begging at the table – You just sat down to enjoy a nice family dinner, and there’s your dog going from person to person barking for food. The first person that gave him food when he barked for it started him off on that path, and no amount of yelling is going to change that behavior…but this will! ⇒ “Step-By-Step: How to Stop a Dog From Begging For Food”
Digging in your garden – Your dog may be looking for a safe place to hide his bone, and meanwhile he’s successfully dug up a lot of your new plants. Very annoying.
♦ Fill a kid’s sandbox with sand and set it up in a corner just for your dog
♦vCover the soil where he digs with poultry netting or plastic carpet runners with the spike side up
♦ Put chopsticks in the soil a few inches apart, leaving no room for the dog to walk
Separation anxiety – Not being able to leave the house without your dog barking the entire time you’re gone, or worse destroying your home, is a tough issue to deal with. It’s stressful for you, your dog and your neighbors, but there are ways to help. You may not be able to totally rid your dog of all anxiety, but you can likely reduce the severity.
Read this ⇒ “Here’s How a Trainer Can Help with Separation Anxiety”
Resource guarding – Resource guarding is the term given when a dog protects something he considers of high value, and he will growl, snap or bite anyone that tries to take it from him. He could guard food, toys and/or his people.
It’s not a behavior you want your dog ever exhibiting, and certainly not if there are children in the home, so I have attached a step by step guide for you to follow. This particular training is for a dog that is food aggressive, meaning he won’t let you near his toy or bowl while he’s eating or even sitting close to it.
Read this ⇒ “The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing With Food Aggressive Dogs”
Fears and phobias – A lack of socialization can cause your dog to be nervous of loud noises, cars, bicycles, kids, vets… The process of getting him used to things he’s afraid of is called desensitization, and involves lots of his favorite treats in order to show him good things happen when…
If your dog is afraid of the vet read this ⇒ “Is Your Dog Terrified of the Vet? Here’s What to Do”
If your dog is afraid of kids read this ⇒ “How to Help a Dog Afraid of Kids: The Essential Do’s and Don’ts”
Barking when someone comes to the door – It’s not a bad thing for your dog to warn you someone is at the door, but when he doesn’t stop it becomes an annoying thing.
You’ll need to ask someone to help you with this training, because they have to knock on the door/ring the bell.
Keep your dog on a leash, a bunch of delicious treats in your hand and an easy way to communicate with your friend – cell phones on speaker??
Ask your friend to knock on the door. Your dog will start barking and be so focused you won’t be able to get his attention.
Show your dog the treat, bringing it close to his nose in an effort to get him to focus on you. Lure him away from the door with it, ask him to sit then give him the treat.
Chances are almost 100% he’ll go back to the door and bark again. Do the same think you did in the previous step.
Try that several times.
If your dog is so wound up you can’t get his attention, move further away from the door, but still within his line of sight. Get him focused on you and give him a treat. The further you are away from the thing that is setting him off, the easier it will be to get his attention so you can communicate.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
If you aren’t having much luck, try step three but please make sure your dog is still on a leash.
Leave the front door open so your dog can see who’s there, and have your friend knock once. As long as your dog isn’t barking give him a treat and do it quickly, because you may only have a second or two before he starts.
Have your friend knock twice, then three times while giving your dog a treat. Again, only if your dog is quiet.
Carry on with this sequence, each time getting your friend to close the door a bit more before knocking.
If you’ve done this several times without your dog reacting, have your friend close the door and knock. At this point your dog should be sitting quietly, and if he isn’t you may have progressed too quickly.
Go back to where he was still okay and move slower next time. Practice this with others in the house a couple of times a day for as long as it takes.
What breed of dog is best behaved
I came across this question and I was surprised, because I wouldn’t have thought behavior had anything to do with breed and everything to do with training.
Here are some of the breeds deemed to be “well behaved” seemingly without any guidance needed.
- Boston Terrier
- Burnese Mountain Dog
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Jack Russell
- Miniature Poodle
- Shih Tzu
- Standard Poodle
NOTE: If you think you can just buy or adopt one of these breeds and expect them to behave perfectly without any guidance from you, I would think again. Well behaved dogs don’t get that way on their own. Are some dogs easier to train than others? Of course, but they still need training.
For information about my virtual training and dog care consultancy service, and to book an appointment, please visit my services page.