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48–51 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Puppy

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Tips for Preventing the Return of Your Puppy's Bad Childhood Habits

If your puppy has stopped chewing shoes and diving for that piece of cheese, you may have let your guard down. If so, it's likely that shoes are suddenly getting strewn across the floor, the trash is piling up more than it was, and your puppy is once again pushing against your leg at dinner for some tidbits. This occurs not because your puppy has forgotten his behavior training but because he's seen that he can start to get away with things, inch by inch.

A dog does not have the ability to be manipulative but he is driven by instinct and he probably thinks, "Hey, the rules have changed! And in my favor!"

Your puppy isn't really rebelling - he's seizing the opportunity to do what comes naturally. You may not realize just how far he's gotten on this quest until there are many bad childhood habits back in place. The most common way we let our guard down is to start feeding puppy while cooking or at the table. From here it's a downward spiral toward your puppy gaining that Alpha crown. Luckily, it's easy to reinforce good behavior and stop these habits before they become, well, habits.

Common Bad Habits and What to Do

  • Begging - The first thing to do is to stop feeding your puppy people food, even as treats or as an addition to his food. Once he realizes that is not part of his diet, it makes stopping the begging easier. Then, when he begs, simply ignore him. He'll give up and realize the action is fruitless. Make sure no one breaks the no-people-food rule. Eventually, you can add pieces of cooked chicken back into his diet if he does not start the begging again.

  • Chasing the Cat - A puppy's prey drive is very strong, especially in herding and sight hound breeds, and the cat is often on the wrong end of the stick. Constant correction is necessary to break this habit again. Whenever your puppy starts chasing the cat, or another dog or your toddler, make a loud noise such as shaking a can full of coins. Say "No Chase!" firmly and shake again if he continues.

  • Chewing - The simplest way to avoid this is to keep everything put away but we want to break the habit as well. Again, a loud noise followed by "No Chew!" is effective. If your puppy won't stop, gently grab him by the scruff and say "Give," pulling the object from his mouth.

  • Trash Divers - It is also simple to prevent this from happening by having covered trash cans and emptying them often. Even when you break your puppy from this habit, do keep the trash out of reach as there can be dangerous items in it. To break the habit, leave the house with your puppy in the kitchen and a trash can nearby. Watch through a window and when he touches the can, rush back in shouting "No Trash!" Leave again and watch again and reenter if he's persistent.

  • Jumping on People - This can be a tough one to break even if your puppy knew not to do it previously. The best correction for a medium to large dog is to lift your knee into his chest as he jumps and firmly say "No Jump!" This should be a gentle movement. For smaller dogs, you can gently move them back with your foot and say "No Jump!"

If you don't correct your puppy's bad habits as soon as you see them reemerge, it will get increasingly difficult to change them. To prevent these habits from coming back again, keep up your training and be on the lookout for any bad behavior. Don't let it go because you're tired or don't have time. It will take much more time later on if you do.

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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