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What Is My Puppy Telling Me? Decoding Puppy Behavior

happy white puppy running through the grass

Congrats! You've brought your adorable new puppy home. These are exciting times, though you and your new pal may be feeling a little anxious. That's OK — it usually takes some time for both of you to adjust. If you're feeling unsure about how your puppy is acting, check out this helpful puppy behavior guide with training tips.

Puppy Behavior Basics

Learn what your puppy may be trying to tell you through common behaviors, plus some quick positive reinforcement tips to start training your new dog.

dog laying in bed at night

Why Is My Puppy Shaking or Crying at Night?

It’s normal for a new puppy to be nervous at night when they’re getting used to a strange, new place. They could be scared to be alone, especially if they’re used to being around other dogs or puppies.

Puppy Training Tips: Sleeping

Try keeping the puppy's crate in your bedroom for the first few nights. Make sure it’s a safe and comfortable space to rest with a sturdy blanket or dog bed and a quiet, “chew-proof” toy. Most puppies start to settle in after a few nights; after a week or two, you can move the crate to where you would like your new pup to sleep permanently.

white dog with brown spots stretching and yawning in the grass

Why Is My Puppy Barking Nonstop?

Though some breeds bark more than others, it’s not uncommon for puppies to bark, bark, bark and bark some more. A vocal puppy may be bored, wanting attention, excited, happy or scared.

Puppy Training Tips: Barking

Try listening to your puppy’s barks to decipher if they’re appropriate barks or problem barks, rather than training them not to bark at all. Are they greeting you? Trying to initiate play? Did they bark at a sudden loud noise or unexpected sight?

If there’s no obvious reason for the barking, give your pup a stimulating toy to keep them occupied if they’re bored. If your smart puppy has figured out that you come running any time they start barking, it’s time to stop rewarding the behavior. Instead, turn your back or leave the room until the barking stops. Once it’s quiet, praise your pup and offer them a treat!

Why Is My Puppy Biting Everything?

There's a good chance your puppy is just teething if they’re mouthing, nipping and biting everything in sight. While it may be cute at first, that can quickly change if your hand or favorite shoe falls victim to your puppy’s sharp teeth!

fluffy white dog with sock in mouth

Puppy Training Tips: Biting

Give your puppy their own toys to deter them from chewing your possessions. If they get hold of one of your things, always replace it with one of their own toys — and praise them for chewing the right ones.

Playing with other puppies is one way young dogs can learn the difference between playful nips and painful bites. They can also learn while playing with humans: When the puppy bites too hard, immediately yelp and make your hand go limp. Praise your puppy for stopping or licking your hand, and then continue playing, repeating with each hard bite.

yorkie standing on hind legs with paws on owner's leg

Why Is My Puppy Jumping Up?

Your puppy is probably excited and trying to be affectionate. This is another behavior that may cute while they’re small, but can quickly become a problem as they get bigger.

Puppy Training Tips: Jumping

First, teach your puppy to sit. Every time they jump, give them the “sit” command to prevent them from jumping. If they continue to jump, gently push them down and away and give them a “down” command. You can also make a loud noise or yelp when they’re about to jump, followed by praise and petting if they don't jump.

You can also try this one: When you come home, give your dog a “sit” command and reward them with a treat; soon enough, they'll be sitting pretty every time you walk through the front door. And best of all, your pup will be less likely to jump up on your guests.

puppy sitting in front of pee spot

Why Is My Puppy Going to the Bathroom Inside?

Part of being a puppy owner is dealing with occasional stinky messes. After all, puppies have small bladders and bowels. However, beginning housetraining as soon as you bring your puppy home can help reduce the number of messes.

Puppy Training Tips: Housetraining

Take your puppy out as often as possible, and praise and reward him when he relieves himself. Frequent outdoor walks can help, too.

Puppies have immature digestive systems that can’t handle a lot of food, so diet plays a role in housetraining, too. Feed your puppy a high-quality puppy food, like PEDIGREE® PUPPY™ Growth & Protection Dry Dog Food, and divide their feeding schedule into three small meals per day.

Though accidents often happen for young puppies, don't scold them if they make a mistake in the house. If you catch them starting to squat indoors, quickly pick them up and take them outside. Otherwise, try to train your puppy to urinate and defecate on command. As they perform, add words you choose, such as “be quick” or “busy.” Your dog will then build up an association of the word with the action, and feel good.

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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