Help! My Puppy is Driving Me Insane!

Troublesome Beagle Pup

Dunder, our troublesome beagle

If your children have begged you for a puppy and now you feel stuck doing all of the work, you’re not alone. Puppies are not, by any means, easy, but if you’ve had a baby and gone through that, then you can definitely get through this too.

Is your puppy persistently biting you? Barking in his crate at night and keeping you awake? Tearing up your house? Not walking well on a lead? Running around like he’s on speed? Peeing all over your house and home? Fear not. This is totally normal and things WILL improve. Hang in there!

Below we address some of these issues and give you essential tips on how to survive a new puppy based on my own experience of having a Beagle puppy – possibly the most misbehaved of all breeds!

Understanding

This sounds silly, but having some understanding will go a long way if you can find the strength to muster it up. Imagine being torn from your siblings and mother and brought to a completely new environment where nothing was familiar. This is how your puppy feels.

To Crate or Not to Crate?

Crate

Enjoying his crate

Your pup barks at night in his crate, because he feels alone and scared. There are multiple schools of thought here. Our breeder told us you should leave the pup in the crate, close the door, and ignore his cries. She advised that after 2-3 days, the pup would learn to settle on his own.

This might be okay if you live in the country and have no nearby neighbours to annoy. If you live in a London flat, however, it’s another story. I’m sure by now you know just how loud a little pup can be.

Our dog behaviourist advised us of the complete opposite. Make him sleep in his crate but put it next to your bed, he said. Soothe him when he cries at night, as he is feeling alone and scared and needs your reassurance. After he settles and sleeps through the night, move his crate one-metre a day to the place you eventually want to keep it.

Yes, this was sound advice and our pup did not make a peep sleeping by our side – aside from his sweet snores. As beagles are pack animals, however, we were never able to successfully move him out of the bedroom, so he continues to snore by our side and that’s okay too – there’s no right and no wrong way to do things – just whatever works for your family.

Some might feel that crates are like prisons, but our Beagle often retreats into his on his own when he wants a bit of peace and quiet. It is his safe place where treats magically fall from the sky and he very much likes it.

Patience

The key with any dog training is patience and, of course, a pocket full of treats at all times. If you’ve already done some basic training, you’ve probably got a cue word lined up that marks your pup’s actions so he knows when he has done something right. With our Beagle, we use the word ‘good’ and when he hears this, he’s sit likes a soldier, and waits for his treat.

Lead Walking

Lead

Walking with a loose lead

Do you get jealous when you see a dog walking perfectly by the side of its owner with a loose lead, ignoring the rubbish on the ground, not going mental when it sees another dog? Rest assured that that person was once you, pulling his dog along the road, red-faced, and frustrated beyond belief.

Lead walking is a learned trait and not an easy one at that. So, in order to get your pup to walk nicely, wait for him to have a loose lead and say your cue word (like ‘good’) to get him interested. He’ll most likely walk nicely by your side because he is now waiting for his reward.

Now, when we first started this, we had to use a treat every other step to keep him moving. But, slowly and slowly, we used less and less treats and now we only use them on the odd occasion that he is pulling or finds something delicious along the road that he wants to eat. And, after 9 months, it is still very much a work in progress.

Eating Rubbish on a Walk

Eating Rubbish

Destroying and eating everything in sight

Beagles are notorious for being food crazy, so maybe you are lucky in that your dog ignores rubbish whilst out on a walk. Our beagle does not. But when you grab something from his mouth, he thinks you are taking away something good, so struggles to try to swallow it as quickly as possible before you get it off him.

Have you tried just letting him chew it for a bit? Unless it’s something dangerous that’s going to hurt him, let him chew on it for a minute to learn on his own that this rubbish on the ground is, well, RUBBISH! Cigarette butts must not be nice to chew, but they don’t know this until they’ve tried it. But, if you really don’t want him to have something, or your dog is the type to eat it anyway, try bribing him with a treat from your pocket and do a swap. This is also where teaching your pup the cue ‘Leave It’ comes in handy.

Tearing Up Your Home

Frozen Kong

Enjoying a Kong with frozen yogurt

Your pup is chewing everything in site because he’s teething. If he’s destroying your house, chewing the rug, scratching the wall, eating your shoes, and just generally doing what puppies do best, you need to muster up some more of that patience. Puppies are not perfect, cuddly creatures, so just get that idea out of your head right now.

The best thing you can do is make sure your pup has something to do. Kongs filled with low-fat yogurt, which is then frozen is a great way to keep your little pup from chewing your things. Food puzzles, rope toys to play tug, cardboard boxes taped up with treats inside are all great distractors. Be sure to give him plenty of different toys, but don’t let him have them all at once or he might grow tired of them. Give him a toy, let him play, and put it away when he is done so that the next time you take it out, he is again excited to see it.

House Training

House Training

Out on the lawn

Your puppy will pee all over your house until he learns to control his bladder: fact. Yelling at him is not the answer, because when he pees on the floor it’s no ones fault but your own. You did not take him outside in time.

Give your puppy plenty of opportunities to go where he should – outside on the grass, on the street, or wherever it may be. When you first bring him home, you will probably have to take him out every 30 minutes or so until he learns some bladder control. You’ll even start to notice some of his signs of when he needs to go out – usually circling or sniffing.

Mark the action of him weeing on the grass with a cue, such as ‘Go Wee!’ When he finishes, mark the action with your cue word ‘good’, tons of praise, and a high-value treat – something he loves more than anything in the world.

With a bit of persistence and patience, your pup will soon learn that when he wees on the grass, he earns a treat and your praise, but when he wees inside, nothing happens. For our Beagle, he learned in a matter of weeks with a few accidents here and there afterwards, but for others, it might be a longer process. Every dog is different, so just hang in there. They’ll cotton on before you know it.

Acceptance

Acceptance is another state of mind you’ll need to find. Your puppy is just that – a puppy! Did you really think it was going to be so easy? Puppies are very much like babies – except, thankfully, they grow up a lot quicker and also respond well to the right guidance from such a young age. They also very much like leadership and order, so it’s entirely up to you to teach them.

Biting

Biting

Chewing my husband’s shoe

Like your baby, your pup is teething and is biting everything in site. You really need to keep an eye on him around small children and always supervise them, as a young pup most likely has not learned yet that human skin is very sensitive.

Mastering the ‘Soft Bite’

If you have older children who can withstand a bit of the pup’s biting, it’s good to let the puppy learn how to ‘soft bite’ in the event that they one day get startled and bite a human. A ‘soft bite’ is when the pup barely clenches his teeth to your skin. The process of learning this skill usually yields some teeth marks on your arm, but it’s worth it if you can manage it, as it could one day save his life. When the pup bites too hard, you must YELP very loudly. This is how puppies in a litter let each other know when they’ve been hurt.

After your pup has mastered the soft bite, make him stop biting altogether by following the instructions below. This is an important step.

Stop Your Puppy Biting Altogether

Stop Biting

Relaxing in the sun

When the pup bites you, remove him from play, pick him up, and say ‘too bad’ (or whatever cue word you fancy), as you place him in another room away from the fun and action. Wait only one-minute, ignoring any cries, and then bring him back to the room where he can play again. The pup will constantly make mistakes and bite you and this is fine, as you are giving him plenty of opportunities to learn that biting a human is not okay.

Do not yell at him, just simply pick him up, remove him from the fun, and let him be on his own for one-minute. Repeat and repeat and repeat until your pup stops biting. For our beagle, he learned to stop biting in just 2 days, but you must be prepared to be entirely consistent. If he just ever-so barely soft bites you, you still need to remove him from the room. Now on the very odd occasion that our pup tries to bite us, he turns it into a yawn, so as to say ‘I wasn’t biting you!’.

NOTE for Parents with Small Children: When you have small children around the house, teaching a puppy to ‘soft bite’ might not be an option and you will need to keep them from biting altogether. Use the removal trick above to get him to stop biting.

Crazy Puppy Energy

Crazy Energy

Trying to work with a puppy has its challenges

Every night around 9pm in the evening our sweet Beagle puppy would start running around like a crazy dog. There was no rhyme or reason to his newfound energy – it just happened like clockwork. Based on what I’ve heard from other dog owners, this is totally normal for puppies.

There’s nothing you can really do here other than laugh it off and hope it doesn’t last too long. Our pup would soon tire himself out and have a sleep afterwards – and these crazy fits only lasted a couple of months before he grew out of them. Patience here in key.

Consistency

Perfect Pup

Our best friend

Everyone in your family needs to be consistent with your puppy’s training or the learning process will very slow and tiresome. If you’re doing one thing, but your children are doing another – how does the puppy know which is correct? Half of the training is training yourself and your family members to know how to effectively teach your dog how to behave well in society.

The tips in this article are based on classical conditioning using positive reinforcement, which not only helps you build a strong, positive bond with your pup but also helps your pup integrate happily into his or her new family.

Best of luck and enjoy your new puppy whilst you can! They are not puppies for long.

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