Common puppy problems

Answers to some of the most common puppy problems.

Q. How often should I feed my puppy?

Puppies are fed little and often to accommodate their very fast growth and high nutritional requirements. By ten to 12 weeks, the number of meals can be reduced to three and puppies should stay on this routine until they are around five to six months, when they can drop down to two meals a day until reaching adult body weight (this would normally be at any time from nine months to two years, depending on the breed).

Q. Can I leave my puppy home alone?

Puppies can learn to spend time alone, but in the first few days before the puppy has settled into his new home sudden isolation can cause distress. Ideally, spend a few days at home with your puppy, allowing him to become familiar with his new surroundings and to relax. Then, gradually build up the time he spends alone, from a few minutes up to longer periods. Asking a family member or friend to pop in can help you get through the early stage of house-training. As your pup grows over the next few months he will learn quickly to hold on for two hours and will feel more secure in your home.

To create the safest environment for your pup, identify a puppy-proofed area where he can be left. A large puppy crate could be used. He will need to get used to this space with familiar blankets and toys placed inside it. Feeding him inside the crate will also add to its attractiveness. At first, place him inside the crate when he is very sleepy so that he snuggles down without a fuss. Shutting him inside and leaving him would be a mistake as he would then associate this space with isolation. Plug in an Adaptil pheromone diffuser near to where he will rest as this will help to make him feel relaxed and panic free.

Q. Why does my male puppy try to mount me?

Maturing males are strongly driven by their hormones but there can be other reasons for mounting behaviours. It’s commonly observed in excitable puppies; they may mount during play, as a response to tension, or because they have learned that it brings them great attention. It might only take one or two trials for the puppy to learn that mounting is a game worth repeating. The good news is that as long as the puppy is adequately exercised and mentally stimulated each day, and he isn’t given attention for this behaviour, the mounting habit should reduce. When he is of an appropriate age, neutering would help deal with any remaining hormonally driven behaviour, although as the dog matures this usually settles down naturally.

Q. My puppy chews everything.

Chewing is normal puppy behaviour. If your puppy had remained in the litter to his current age he would have learned what is called bite inhibition. This is the ability to use his mouth in such a way that his teeth do not cause pain. If a puppy hurts another pup there will be an immediate loud squeal and the pup backs off. Play may cease for a short period of recovery before starting again with the offending participant taking greater care.

In the absence of another dog you need to make it clear that teeth touching skin is a no-no. This is best started as soon as the puppy arrives, with you continuing the teaching from littermates and mother. At this stage the loud squeal still works effectively. By 12 to 14 weeks, the pup has progressed to a stage of social development where the squeal merely encourages him to see if he can get you to make even more noises and jump about in pain. When playing with the pup all interaction stops as soon as teeth touch skin and you freeze. Ignore the pup until he calms down. This may mean that he is picked up calmly and put in a place of safety, such as in the garden, behind a baby gate, or in an indoor kennel, until he is quieter. Alternatively he may simply be given a bone, toy, or something legitimate to chew to distract him for a short time.

Q. My pup knows where he should toilet but still wees in the house.

House-training takes a little time and effort on your part. He needs to learn the simple rule — don’t do it in here, do it out there! He needs to go outside accompanied by you and then be rewarded for relieving himself on the spot as soon as he has finished. Take him out immediately on waking, after eating and vigorous play, last thing at night, or at any other time when he breaks off from what he is doing and starts sniffing. These are all times when he is likely to need to relieve himself. After a short time you will notice him moving towards the door so be ready to let him outside when he does so. As with all behaviour that you want to teach your pup, this is best taught through rewarding what you want and ignoring what you don’t want.