7 Tips to Discourage Destructive Behaviors in Your Puppy

All puppies will chew on something that they aren’t supposed to or have a bathroom accident inside the house at some point. While these situations are par for the course in raising a puppy, that doesn’t mean that you can ignore these kinds of destructive behaviors unless you want the dog to keep doing them. Follow these tips to help curb destructive behaviors in your dog — from getting them enough exercise to giving them treats for puppies when they do something good.

Prevent as much destruction as possible.

A certain amount of destructive behavior is natural and normal for a puppy. They chew when they are teething and they also don’t know that destroying carpet or furniture is bad yet. The best thing to do is to stop as much of the distraction before it starts. Put away precious items that you don’t want to be chewed or peed on. Puppy proof your house as much as possible, including putting protectors on your furniture or rolling up rugs. Supervise the dog at all times and quickly intervene if they begin to engage in destructive behavior. If you need to leave the puppy alone, put them in their crate or in an empty room where there isn’t really anything for them to destroy.

Investigate what is causing the behavior.

Sometimes, destructive behavior is just your puppy teething – but sometimes it stems from an underlying cause, such as boredom, need for attention, or even separation anxiety. Educate yourself about puppy body language and investigate your dog for these underlying causes. For instance, if your dog is engaging in destructive behavior in order to get your attention, yelling at them will actually count as a success in their eyes because it got you to focus on them. Understanding the underlying causes can help you address the behavior more effectively and keep you from accidentally enforcing it.

Exercise your dog.

A hyperactive dog is usually a destructive dog, while a tired dog is a quiet and calm dog. One of the first things that you should do when your dog starts engaging in destructive behavior is to make sure that you are exercising them enough. Each breed is different, but your dog might need a couple of long walks a day in addition to an extended period of play, playing fetch or another similarly active game. Sometimes dogs engage in destructive behavior because they have a lot of energy and don’t know how else to channel it, so exercising them until they are tired really makes a difference.

Work their brain as well as their body.

A lot of focus is given to physical exercise for dogs, but they need mental stimulation just like humans do. For puppies, this often takes the form of training, teaching them to sit, lie down, calm, fetch, and other common commands. You should also consider getting them puzzle toys, dog chews, and other interactive items that will challenge their brain and keep them from getting bored. Going on adventures together, such as visiting a new dog park, will also mentally stimulate your dog and help fend off boredom.

Praise the behavior you want to enforce.

It can be hard to wrap your head around ignoring your dog’s bad behavior and praising them for good behavior such as lying down, but you have to look at it from the dog’s perspective. If you ignore your dog when they are happily chewing on a toy or resting quietly on the couch, they will assume that you don’t care about that behavior. If you only engage with your dog when they are chewing, digging, or peeing indoors, that teaches your dog that they need to engage in these behaviors in order to get your attention. By praising them for not destroying things, and ignoring them when they do destroy things, you will teach the dog how to get your attention using positive behaviors instead of negative ones.

Reprimand them while the behavior is happening.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t do anything if you catch the dog in the act. If you come upon your dog chewing or peeing on something they shouldn’t, you can clap your hands or say a sharp “no” or “off.” This should interrupt the dog’s behavior and allow you to refocus their attention elsewhere. Never reprimand or punish a dog after the fact. They may not be able to make the connection between their previous behavior in the later reprimand and you might create a negative association for a behavior that you actually want to encourage. In general, it’s best to interrupt the dog if possible and then focus on getting them interested in a toy of their own or a dental treat for dogs.

Don’t give them old objects to chew on.

Many people give their dogs old socks and shoes to chew on, reasoning that they are free toys for the dog to play with. While these items may cost a lot less than a dog toy, by giving your dog old clothes and shoes, you teach them that it is okay to chew on them. Your dog doesn’t understand the difference between old socks and new socks — they just know that it’s okay to chew on socks and will try to do it whenever the opportunity arises. Instead, set aside some money to get them their own dedicated toys so you can teach them the difference between what belongs to them and human objects that should not be chewed on.

Training the destructive behaviors out of a new puppy takes work, but it will totally pay off as a dog ages. Full-grown dogs are not nearly as easy to control as a puppy and they can do more damage to your furniture and house. Follow these tips to help stop destructive behaviors in your puppy before they can take root and form a habit.

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