Puppies are just too adorable for their own good.
Their small heads, bug-like eyes, and the pitter-patter of their tiny feet can make any human heart melt like butter.
But when left to their own whims, they notorious at getting into trouble.
At 8 weeks, they’re exploring the world and absorbing all the information like a brand new sponge. They do so with their teeth, mouth, limbs, and noses, and sometimes that can lead to:
- Chewing on furniture or shoes
- Shredding grocery bags, boxes, or packages
- Nipping on our ankles
- Chewing on dangerous things like wires or medicine
- Soiling the house
- Any other behaviors we humans find undesirable
Unfortunately, I’ve grown up in a society where we either tolerate and ignore these behaviors or punish the puppy by yelling, spanking, leash corrections, or kicking them out of the home and into a cage.
Neither of these methods are humane nor effective. They’ll only instill fear in your puppy, causing them to either perform these behaviors without you around or react negatively when you’re punishing them.
Your puppy is behaving as nature programmed them
The first thing any dog parent or guardian should understand is that these are natural behaviors.
Your puppy is behaving as nature programmed them to behave.
The chewing, nipping, and shredding are how they understand their new environment.
At 8 weeks old, puppies can’t hold their bladders as reliably as your 3-year old dog. Soiling will happen till they learn to go to your chosen “toilet area” for them, so there may be an accident or two in the process.
It’s just not humane and ethical to punish your puppy for natural, canine behaviors. Worse, your puppy will associate you with negative experiences, which can lead to problematic behaviors that’ll be much difficult to address when they’re older, bigger, and with longer teeth. ?
The best way to address the situation is to teach them what you want them to do vs. what not to do.
What’s amazing about that shift in mindset is it gives you, the human, plenty of tools and strategies to help your puppy make good choices. Let’s go over the first strategy: management.
Create the ideal environments for your puppy
When Brooklyn was still 12 weeks old, we were managing him rigorously to help him learn to pee and poo outside the home.
We had a stainless steel pen and an old and detached screen door. We placed these outside and behind the house, which formed an enclosed space. This is to ensure he didn’t wander around the house and to assign that space as his “toilet area”.
We had another stainless steel pen inside the house and in the dining room. While we ate, Brooklyn would stay in that spot near the dining table and not pee in different areas of the house.
This is management in action—using tools proactively to create an ideal environment so that your puppy would not practice those natural behaviors we, humans, consider undesirable or unwanted.
Management is crucial during this period in their lives where they don’t know what they should or shouldn’t do. It’s up to you, their guardian, to manipulate the environment, so they always, always make the right choices.
When you integrate management into your puppy’s life, you’re able to:
- Teach them what they should do and reward them for those choices
- Help them learn what’s needed to live harmoniously with you and your family
- Build your puppy’s confidence and trust in your guidance
- Create a strong reinforcement history they’ll carry all the way to adulthood
This completely gets rid of the need for those dingy, steel cages most folks will tell you to get if your puppy or dog misbehaves.
You can live and thrive with your puppy inside the home, so long as you’re consistent with your management plans and extremely patient with your puppy’s learning.
7 ways to manage your puppy
There are plenty of management tips you can implement for your puppy, all of which would depend on your home, your family, and your community.
To get you started, here are 7 ways to manage your puppy as they learn about their new home and grow into the happy and confident dog you want them to be:
01: Use barriers
Baby gates, wired panels you can assemble, or play pens are safe barriers to block your puppy’s access to the house, the door, or objects. You want to make sure they don’t get to wires, appliances, the Christmas tree, or anything dangerous they can get in their mouths.
02: Let your puppy wear and drag a leash
At the beginning, we always picked Brooklyn up when we wanted him to get out of trouble or take him upstairs. One morning, he puppy snarled at Corgdad when he picked him up.
It made me realize that not all puppies like to be touched or carried. Having a leash clipped to your puppy’s collar and dragged along helps you keep them safe and prevent undesirable behaviors (for example: jumping) without putting your hands all over their bodies.
03: Choose a room away from your other pets or children
Let’s face it. When pit against other dogs, other animals like cats, children, or visitors, your puppy’s gonna have a real hard time listening to you.
All these distractions are just, well, more interesting than you at the beginning.
To ensure you have their focus, choose a room away from your other pets or children. Choose a room that’s quiet and spacious enough to move around, so it’s easier to work with your puppy.
04: Give your puppy chew toys or age-appropriate edible chews
If your puppy likes shredding or chewing anything they can get their mouths on, give them chew toys or age-appropriate edible chews.
These things are safe, they satisfy your puppy’s need to chew, and redirects them from nipping your ankles, chewing on slippers, or ripping your pajamas.
05: Put away objects your puppy will likely destroy
Instead of reacting to your puppy’s chewing or shredding as it happens, put objects they’ll likely want to chew or shred before they enter the space.
Place your shoes on a shoe rack. Put brooms in the storage closet or kitchen. Make sure important paperwork is kept in a drawer or folder.
Simple, proactive changes like these can prevent your puppy from destroying things you need for work or the home.
06: Establish a potty training routine
During the first six months of his life with us, Brooklyn was taken outside every 20 minutes and every time we finished playing or training. He’s taken out after coming out of the crate and before entering the crate.
We created this potty training routine to help teach him where to go when he needs to pee or ?.
For this to work, you need to be absolutely consistent with where and when your puppy should go to pee or poo.
If you only take them out once a day and allow them to roam and soil in different parts of the house, it’s going to take much longer to teach them where they should be going instead.
07: Crate train
Speaking of crates, this is another management tool I highly recommend should you need to leave your dog unsupervised.
The important thing to remember about crate training, though, is you have to associate it with wonderful things for you dog before you can even close the crate door and head out.
Crates should be a safe space your puppy can retreat to when they need to sleep (puppies need 18 hours of sleep a day) or be left unsupervised. When conditioned correctly and humanely, the crate will be where your puppy will rest and it limits their access to the house.
BONUS: Give your puppy an enrichment activity
Meeting your puppy’s needs is crucial to their well-being and development. As you’re managing them, let your puppy sniff, chew, dig, or solve an easy puzzle to tire their brains out and help them sleep.
One of the three key pillars to positive reinforcement dog training
In some countries, like the Philippines, management is either a new concept or it’s being done incorrectly.
I’ve seen many young puppies given free roam of the house or thrown out of the house for behaviors that are simply natural to them.
If you’d like more help implementing management strategies for your puppy, write in or leave a comment in today’s post. I’d love to start these conversations with other dog parents like you, and hopefully help raise sound and confident puppies in the country. ?
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