Prevention

Flying Solo (Time Alone)

Thirty years ago, at least one member of the family was home and could take care of the dog. Times have changed and dogs now spend a lot of time alone during daylight hours. This is simply a reality of our times. You will need to prepare your puppy for the time they will be spending alone each day. Your puppy will need to ramp up to the final goal of possibly being alone for extended periods of time. He can not be expected to do this overnight.

It is naturally stressful for dogs to be separated from us. They rely on us for their existence.

This can be a rather agonizing aspect of getting a dog, but if handled properly, your pup can make the transition successfully. We need to condition the puppy for alone time. Do this by leaving the puppy at home alone for short periods of time. Do many little comings and goings over the course of the day.

Be sure when you leave that the pup is safely in his crate or a dog-proof area.

Avoid big emotional hellos and good byes. (Illustration: Katie Taylor Corbridge)

Avoid big emotional hellos and good byes. (Illustration: Katie Taylor Corbridge)

Coming and Going

Avoid big emotional hellos and good byes. We do not want to punctuate a naturally stressful time for the puppy with our own emotions.

Downplay your arrivals and departures. Your puppy will learn that they are an everyday occurrence and there is no reason to get distressed.

A good rule of thumb is to ignore the pup ten minutes prior to leaving the house and ten minutes after getting home.

Taking Vacation Time When You Bring Your Puppy Home

Some people have planned getting a puppy and have scheduled vacation time specifically to help the pup make the transition into their new home. If you are home for the first couple of weeks, make a point of leaving your pup alone each day for a period of time, in his crate, in the house. He needs to grow accustomed to the idea that you will be going back to work. You do not want to spend the entire vacation with him. It would be a big shock to your puppy when you are all of a sudden not there.

You can check our Resources section for additional sources of support during this transition.

If There is Always Going to be Somebody Home With the Puppy

Conversely, there are those people who work in home offices or don’t work (lucky you) and are able to be with the pup all day. It is nevertheless important to plan some time away from the house and your puppy. If your situation should change during the course of your dog’s life, he will be able to cope with being left alone thanks to the work you did with him as a pup.


Nipping and Biting (Problem Solving)
The Ankle Biter – Nipping and Biting

Puppies can become hyper-stimulated. Often this type of behavior is due to too much free, unchallenging and unsupervised time. If your puppy has become wild and is nipping and biting at your ankles, hands or clothing you need to review the amount of time he’s spending out of the crate and what is happening during this time (for proper crate use review House Training).

This is similar to babies and children. Babies need plenty of nap time in the crib, otherwise they get over tired and cranky. Small children also need naps and structured time during the day, otherwise they become unruly and wild. Puppies are the same and require structure, boundaries and plenty of crate time.

Watch the Clock

Do a clock watch. Let’s say that you see this behavior begin to take place 30 minutes after you take your puppy out of the crate. The next time you take your pup out, put him back in the crate after 20 minutes for some quiet down time.

Stay Engaged with your Puppy

Make sure his time out of the crate is stimulating and interesting for him. Is there a challenge in place, something fun and exciting for him to think about and do? By motivating and properly supervising your puppy you not only preempt the development of wild behavior, you are wisely and effectively making use of your time together. Better yet, you will feel confident that you are putting your pup back in the crate when he is tuckered out and needs a rest. Both you and your pup will be happier because you are providing what is necessary for him to blossom into a great friend for life and you are setting your puppy up to succeed.

With a clock watch in place and every effort to keep your puppy successful you should see a decline in wild biting behavior. Isolated incidents may be solved successfully with the following suggestions.

Problem solving for nipping and biting
  • If your puppy is wild and biting you need to give him feedback to let him know this is not acceptable.
  • Ouch in a loud, sincere tone works for some. For others it just gets them more wild and biting harder.
  • Direct your puppy to an activity that is acceptable.
  • Make a delicious chew toy available to him. Something more delicious than chomping on your leg or arm.
  • Lure a sit or a down or both with rewards. It is less likely for a pup to be wild and rambunctious if he is sitting.
  • A quick time out by folding your arms and walking away from the puppy may be the most effective solution. Only do this if it is safe to do so.
Nip it in the Bud — Be Creative!

When it comes to nipping and biting there is no single, easy solution for all puppies. This type of problem solving requires you to be creative. You need to stay engaged with your puppy and set him up for success. It also means not putting any responsibility on the puppy, but rather, assessing each situation on an on going basis and coming up with an appropriate solution.

TIP:

Dogs explore the world with their mouths. It is very important to keep in mind that biting is a natural behavior for your puppy and to get angry with him or punish him is not solving the problem. You need to teach a young puppy what is acceptable. This takes patience, effort and consistency.

modern day idle dog 1
Cabin Fever

Have you ever been quarantined to the house? Maybe due to a bout of chicken pox, or measles when you were young? Or maybe you experienced being cooped up inside for several days during a severe snow storm. Do you remember what it felt like to finally get out of the house? Well, our dogs are the same. They need to leave the property. Not just for the sake of exercise but because cabin fever is a very real problem with dogs that never go further than their own backyards.

Dogs love to go places and it does not necessarily have to be to the park. A walk to an outdoor cafe, going with you to work when it’s possible, running errands in the car (when the weather is not too warm). These are all things our dogs not only need, but love to do!


A Final Word on Preventative Exercises

All of these exercises should be done regularly during the first year of the dog’s life. Make a point to do these exercises once or twice a week during his first 14 weeks. Progress to once every couple of weeks and then periodically until the dog is sexually mature (see Your Puppy’s Development.) Even after sexual maturity, every now and again it is important to lay some of these exercises on your grown-up dog. Just like people, dogs can get rusty.