What Is Normal Puppy Behavior?

Published: 12th August 2008
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It's not easy to tell what is normal puppy behavior when the symptoms of bad behavior are similar. Puppies love to chew things, attack objects, and play with anything and everything that crosses their path.

This is all normal puppy behavior. Chewing helps to strengthen and clean their gums and teeth. Chasing objects is a natural preying instinct. It teaches them basic survival skills they once needed when their ancestors were wild creatures living off the land. Playing with objects is part of that learning.

Even puppies can get bored if they don't occupy their time in some entertaining way. In fact, this energy and level of curiosity causes puppies to be easily distracted and exhibit a short attention span.

When these and other behaviors become exaggerated, they are abnormal behaviors that need to be addressed early. Otherwise, you could end up with a problem dog on your hands.

Let's compare these normal behaviors with similar abnormal ones.

Easily Distracted

While a puppy will quickly leave one interest and move on to another, it is abnormal behavior when the puppy cannot stay focused for any length of time at all. If the puppy is to learn, it must be able to stay focused long enough to grasp the lessons. Puppies should be able to concentrate for at least five minutes or more. Those that can't will be difficult to train.

Switching from one play activity or object to another is normal puppy behavior. When the behavior becomes exaggerated, the puppy likely is hyperactive. You are likely to need considerable patience to teach a hyperactive puppy.

Chewing and Biting

Puppies normally chew items such as clothes, books, furniture, tassels on rugs and other fascinating objects. They like to mouth the hands of their owners and nip at people's feet. When puppies resort to snapping or attempting to bite people and other pets, or attack in a non-playful or threatening way, they are demonstrating abnormal behavior.

It's important to teach your puppy from the start what is objectionable and what is acceptable behavior. Puppies will not outgrow their bad behavior. It's up to you to teach them.

Chewing and biting is one of the biggest concerns for owners because puppies tend to get into things you cherish, like your favourite pair of shoes or the edge of a sweater protruding from the laundry basket.

Discourage Bad Puppy Behavior

When your puppy attacks in an aggressive, rather than a playful, manner it's important to correct him immediately. Stop him firmly and tell him "No". If he persists, give him some quiet time away from people and other pets but make sure he can still see what's going on. Isolating him behind a closed door will cause him anxiety and lead to problems later.

After about 30 minutes, let him out again and go through the steps again, telling him "No" and removing him from the action until he begins to understand. Praise him when he cooperates so he knows he's doing the right thing.

Make sure he gets a lot of exercise, as lack of exercise will contribute to boredom and bad puppy behavior.

If he continues to exhibit aggressive or destructive behavior, talk to your vet for advice. Ask if there might be a medical or physical reason for his behavior.

Encourage Normal Puppy Behavior

Because of their curious nature, puppies are always looking for new objects to play with, new items to chew. You can deter this wandering spirit by experimenting with different kinds of toys. See which ones he likes the best and look for more that are similar.

Rather than giving your puppy all the toys at once, rotate them. Puppies have short memories. When you return a toy after a few days, they will think it is something new and take to it readily. Allow your puppy to have four or five toys at a time and then replace them with a different set after a few days.

You'll soon see how this technique can distract your puppy from going after your important items.

Toys you can fill with puppy biscuits or peanut butter make excellent toys for the treasure seeker. The work involved in getting those entrapped goodies piques your puppy's sense of adventure and in a way, appeases his prey instincts.

Remember that all puppies are inquisitive and have an insatiable appetite for adventure, to examine every aspect of their environment and test their skills. Recognize when their actions are excessive and take appropriate action. By taking steps right away, you can encourage normal puppy behavior and look forward to enjoying a well-behaved adult dog.


Sylvia Dickens is an award-winning journalist who is also a lifelong dog owner. You can read more Dog Training tips on her site. Pick up your free copy of her latest booklet, "Unveiling the Myths & Mysteries of Owning a Puppy"

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