Your commonly asked puppy questions answered by a dog behaviour specialist
- Credit: Wood Green
Bringing a new puppy home can be a special time, but it can also come with its challenges.
We call on the expertise of Sue Ketland, who has 30 years’ experience as a dog behaviour and training specialist at Wood Green, The Animals Charity.
Below, she answers your most commonly asked questions about puppy care and training.
Q: How can I socialise my puppy?
A: Socialisation is key to a puppy’s development, but it should be done gradually and calmly. For shy puppies, unwanted attention from unfamiliar people can lead to fear issues later down the line. For confident puppies who lavish all the fuss, your dog may end up being more interested in other people than you.
Habituation is also just as important as socialisation. Socialisation is the process of getting your puppy used to interacting with dogs and people, whereas habituation is teaching them to accept things as part of the environment, like traffic and livestock. It’s a good idea to habituate your puppy to other dogs and people too, so they check in with you for a treat rather than chasing off after everyone and everything.
Q: How do I stop my puppy from mouthing and biting?
A: It’s common for puppies to explore the world through their mouth, but if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of those pin-sharp teeth, you’ll know how much it can hurt! Puppies should eventually grow out of mouthing and biting after they have stopped teething, but there are ways you can help to discourage the behaviour. One of the best solutions is to give them safe toys to nibble on, and to reward them with a treat when they use them. Keep a variety of toys around the house so you’ve always got one on standby if they start to bite.
If this technique doesn’t work, remove yourself by leaving the room or putting your puppy in a play pen for a few minutes. This will teach them that you won’t play with them when they are biting.
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Q: How can I stop my puppy from chewing everything?
A: All puppies chew, and prevention is better than cure when it comes to discouraging this behaviour. Puppy-proof your home by clearing away anything that you think they might chew, especially valuable items. You can also put lose items in secure boxes with lids. This doesn’t have to be a permanent change – just until they are out of their house-training period. It’s also important to make sure potentially harmful things like grapes or chocolate are kept well out of reach.
Q: Should I crate train my puppy?
A: At Wood Green, we’re advocates of crate training as it can be extremely valuable to have a dog who is comfortable in a crate – for example, when travelling in the car, or if they need to stay at the vets. However, you shouldn’t put pressure on yourself or feel like this has to be done straight away as this can be stressful for very young puppies and for you, the owner. You have plenty of time and you’re not irresponsible if you don’t crate train a puppy as soon as you get them home.
Q: How can I toilet train my puppy?
A: For most dogs, house training is relatively straightforward but it does take time and consistency. Your puppy is likely to need the toilet after eating and sleeping, so encourage them out into the garden after every meal and nap (even if they’ve only been asleep for 10 minutes). Sniffing, circling and wandering towards the back door can also indicate they need to go.
If you’re struggling, keep a toilet diary. This will help you predict when nature will call, so you can make sure your puppy is in the right place at the right time. We don’t recommend the use of puppy pads as, by teaching them that it’s okay to go to the toilet indoors, it just adds another step into the process.
If you have a puppy or are thinking about getting one, Wood Green is offering free monthly events where you can learn more training tips and tricks from their expert team. Find out more at woodgreen.org.uk/events.