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16–19 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Puppy

A Guide to Your Puppy's Third Round of Vaccines :: Solutions to Controlling Your Puppy's Prey Drive :: How to Be Your Puppy's Partner :: How to Help Your Puppy While He's Teething

Solutions to Controlling Your Puppy's Prey Drive

This may seem like a bad thing (especially to the cat) but, in actuality, a puppy with a strong prey drive is very trainable. This drive, one of many, is the natural working instinct of a puppy. Whether you have a sight hound puppy, such as an Italian Greyhound, a herder like a Border Collie, or a lap dog such as a Maltese, all puppies have some level of prey drive. This dates back to their days as wolves when eating and procreating were the most important things. This drive is activated by movement and its purpose is to catch food.

Though we provide food for our dogs now, that instinct is still strong and is especially noticeable in a puppy who hasn't had much training yet. The key is to harness this drive for your puppy's and your benefit in his human world. This is important because it will direct your pup's energy to something productive and save you the embarrassment of explaining why your puppy stalks the pigeons.

To recognize your puppy's prey drive, consider these things:

  1. It is not an emotional drive, therefore it does not tax him emotionally. However, it can be very taxing physically as many muscles are tensed and hormones released to allow for the spring on the prey.

  2. It is often accompanied by a high bark.

  3. Your puppy will zone out when he's stalking which indicates the strong nerves it takes to accomplish this feat.

By developing your puppy's prey drive early on, you are creating a confident and well-skilled dog. This can be done easily using balls or toys and encouraging the "hunt" and the "kill." But, it is imperative to know when and how to curb this drive. Obviously, chasing children and cats and other small animals is not acceptable and neither is a puppy who thinks your ankles are a snack. Teach him not to chase certain things using the "Leave it!" command. As soon as you see those signs listed above, say "Leave it!" Work with him on a leash at first and do a quick, gentle jerk when he's starting. Another trick is to shake a can with coins first to get his attention and then say "Leave it!"

A good prey drive will help with obedience and agility training. It gives your dog permission to be a dog and, when managed correctly, is a benefit for all. But don't be surprised if, even with training, your pup still stalks that sneaky neighborhood cat.

Advice from Other Dog Owners 

Start Training Your Puppy Right Away

Even though the old saying goes, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," in reality you can start training a dog at any age - if the dog is nine weeks, nine months, or nine years old.

Even if you bring home a very young puppy, training and working on wanted behaviors starts immediately after the dog comes home with you. You would start teaching the dog to recognize her name and get her used to a set schedule of when you go outside, when she's fed, when it's time for walks and when it's time for bed time. Even playtime can be training - you're teaching her what she can and cannot play with, not to bite your hands, and rules for your games (such as, when you bite me, the game ends).

Formal training, such as sit, down, and come, can be started at a very young age as well. It's never too early to "shape" behaviors using positive rewards. A good time to enroll into a class is around 6 months old - puppy class.

~Chris & Brian C., owner of German Shepherd

Dealing with a Puppy That Chews Everything in Sight

Try offering your puppy a variety of chew toys. Notice the texture and softness of what he usually chooses to chew on (that he's not supposed to chew on) and try to pick a toy with that texture and softness. But don't get any toys shaped like any of the inappropriate items he chews. Dogs don't know the different between a chew toy shaped like a shoe and a real shoe.

Also, redirect the behavior. It's very simple to do this. All you need to do is when you see him chewing inappropriate items, show him the chew toy and encourage him to chew that instead. Praise and richly reward him for chewing the right things. Whenever he chews the wrong things, just redirect.

~Tiffany C., owner of Papillon mix

Tips on Housebreaking a Puppy

The best thing I found was crate-training at night, and when you're away from home. I didn't keep my dog crated when I was home with him, I locked him in the kitchen the first week, staying in there to play with him. On the second week we slowly let him have more freedom in the house.

We were always watching, and after all activity (sleeping, eating, playing) took him out right away. I took him out as much as every 15-30 minutes. We took him out the same door always, out to the same spot (by a big field we have beside our yard), said 'go potty, go potty' (he's 2 now, and still goes to the same area to poop) and petted/praised like crazy when he did (good BOY, good potty!) Then right back inside....no playing right after potty. If we played, it was inside, then back out to play, so he'd 'get it' that that trip out was for potty alone. When you pair whatever words (like "go potty") to the action, I think it helps...and he'd go potty on command after awhile. That's nice when you're getting ready to go somewhere in the car, and need him to go!

If he had accidents when in the crate, I never scolded...never. Just cleaned everything up. Nature's Miracle worked wonders for me; it cleans spots and odors great. We would never rub the puppy's nose in it if there were accidents in the house. That's what worked for me.

~Donna C., owner of Labrador Retriever

Training Your Puppy to Sleep Through the Night

My trainer told me that puppies can usually hold it longer during the night, when they are sleeping.

If your pup is waking up and crying to go out at night, you might try pushing her potty breaks back a little. If she normally wakes up at 12, wait an hour, then take her out at 1. If shes fine with that, push it back another hour, til 2, and so on. That's what I did with my dog and it worked well and quickly. Instead of taking her out at 5, I'd wait til 5:30. Then 6, then 6:30, etc. She was sleeping through the night by 12 weeks or so (but I'm sure every pup is different).

~Dana S., owner of German Shorthaired Pointer

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