Behavior Training for Puppies

puppies photo
Photo by Lisa L Wiedmeier

Your puppy loves to investigate his world. From nipping, chewing and digging, he wants to investigate it all. In order for puppies to become well-behaved household pets, they need to be trained in what acceptable behavior is and what isn’t. While it might be fun to watch your puppy acting cute, it?s not fun to listen to barking, pick up scraps of what was once your favorite pair of slippers, or repair the once-landscaped backyard that has been dug to pieces. Behavior training for your puppy is absolutely necessary, for your peace of mind and your little dog’s own protection.


Nipping and Biting

Your puppy naturally gets his teeth into everything; for him, it?s fun. For you and your family, not so much. He can, however, learn that people have delicate skin and not to bite.

When you watch a litter of puppies play, you?ll notice they love to pounce on and bite each other. This is normal behavior, and when a pup gets too rough, his playmate will yelp and stop playing. This confuses the biter, but he learns how to be gentler in his approach.

When your puppy bites, tell him ?no? in a loud and firm voice and stop playing. Start to play again until he stops using his teeth. Your puppy will learn that not biting will get him playtime, while biting will put an end to playing. Keep repeating that until he knows not to hurt.

If he starts to gnaw on your finger, give him a chew toy to bite.

There are many reasons why dogs become aggressive and bite. The dog may feel over excited or that he is threatened. A lot of dog aggression comes from the lack of confidence and positive training. It is very important that you socialize your puppy with different people, dogs, children, and environments. Socialization boosts his confidence and reduces his fear in new environments. Remember to give lots of praise and treats to reward good behavior. Go see a vet if your puppy shows signs of aggression constantly.



Puppies tend to view their yard as their personal playground to be dug up and explored. They also enjoy ?hiding? favorite toys. That is natural behavior, but you can teach him to restrain himself.

When you see him digging, clap loudly or use a whistle. This will distract him and let him concentrate on you.

Don?t allow the puppy to play in the yard alone until he learns to control this behavior. When he starts to dig, immediately use distraction to get his attention. An excellent distraction is to toss treats around the area. He?ll go after them and forget, at least momentarily, about digging up dirt.

Since digging comes naturally to your puppy, it helps if you are able to provide a specific area where digging is allowed. To confine him to the designated area, hide a few treats or toys in the digging area. Call him and let him explore for buried treasures. If he moves to areas of the yard that are off-limits, bring him back. Make sure the rewards he loves so dearly can only be found in the marked and specified area. Praise him when he digs there.

You could also discourage him from digging at unwanted places by putting small amounts of diluted pepper in the area. The best way to stop digging is to spend more play time with him and give him more activities and exercise to drain his energy.


Crate Training for Puppies

It might seem cruel to confine a dog to a metal crate. However, crates make puppies feel safe and secure as they mimic the dog’s natural den habitat. Crate training your puppy is an excellent idea, especially if you want your dog to sleep in the crate at night or you plan to be out of the house for most of the day. This protects your property by keeping your puppy from destroying your house while you are unable to supervise your puppy. It’s also a way for your new puppy to feel safe. While there might be some whimpering and resistance the first time you confine your pup to a crate, the training will work quickly and your dog will become accustomed to the security of the crate.


Buying a Crate

Crates come in a number of different sizes, and you can find crates that are metal, plastic, and even fabric. When shopping for a crate, look for crates just large enough for your puppy to stand and turn around in. If your puppy will soon grow too large for a crate, look for larger crates that include a crate divider. This way, you can use the crate divider to block off half the crate until your puppy grows large enough to fill the crate space, and you avoid the expense of buying multiple crates. If you?re unsure about what kind to buy, consider renting one from an animal shelter. This would work especially well for a puppy that has yet to grow.

Put the crate in your bedroom at night if your dog has separation anxiety. Many people also find that placing an article of clothing or an old towel inside the crate is a good idea; the dog will be comforted by your scent.


Crate Training Steps

Start by putting the crate in a familiar and busy area, such as the kitchen or living room. Place a cozy towel, blanket, or toy inside and leave the door open. Most puppies will follow their natural curiosity and begin to investigate. If your puppy doesn?t, play or talk to him by the crate. When he?s used to the crate being there, toss a few treats inside the door, then further inside. If he still doesn?t go in, take a break and try again later. Keep throwing treats inside until he goes inside. Remain patient. This can be a quick process, or it can take a few days.

When the puppy is comfortable with the crate, start putting his regular food close-by. This will increase the good association he has with the crate. As soon as he easily goes inside, place his meals inside. For each feeding, move the food further inside and toward the back.

As soon as the puppy is relaxed with eating inside the crate, shut the crate door while he is eating. Open the door immediately when he is finished. Then start leaving the door shut for longer periods, until he?s comfortable staying inside for about 15 minutes. Let him out if he starts to fuss and whine. You may have rushed him. Start over by keeping him inside the crate for a shorter time.

Once your puppy is used to eating inside the crate, it?s time for him to get used to remaining inside for longer non-eating periods in your presence. Go to the crate and have a treat in your hand. Pick a cue word, such as ?crate,? ?kennel,? or ?inside? and point at the inside with the treat. When he goes into the crate, let him have the treat, praise him enthusiastically, and shut the crate door.

Remain quietly nearby for a few minutes before going to another part of the house. You might hear barking or whining, and that’s okay. Come back into the room after about 10 minutes and sit next to the crate again. Then, let the puppy out. Keep repeating this until you are able to leave the room without your puppy barking.

When you and your puppy get to the point that entering the crate is not a struggle and you can be in another room for half an hour without any barking or begging, you can probably leave the house and safely keep your puppy in the crate. Try not to be gone too long. Puppies don’t have the bladder strength of older dogs, and they will need to go outside every few hours. If you are away all day long, have a dog sitter take your puppy out every few hours. 

Use the crate at night as well. Keep the crate in your bedroom or close by, because the dog may need to go out during the night, and you’ll want to hear the warning signs.

One thing you should never do is use the crate as a punishment. Don’t put your puppy in there as a retaliation for misbehaving, barking, or biting. Crate training requires a feeling of comfort and security for your pup.


All dogs are different. You might have a puppy who loves the crate, or you might have a puppy who needs constant treats as bribes to get into the crate. If your puppy suffers from separation anxiety when crated, try having a specially favorite toy or treat that you use just for that purpose. If he receives this toy only when inside the crate, he might start looking forward to it!

How to Handle Accidents

Accidents are going to happen. Just accept accidents as part of the process and do not overreact to them. Your puppy is not being willful, disobedient, or resistant, it’s simply part of the process so do not punish him by spanking him, rubbing his nose in it, or yelling at him. If you notice your pup is beginning to pee or poop in the house, clap your hands or make a loud noise. You want to startle the puppy and get his attention, but you don’t want to scare the dog. Calmly say “No” and take him to his spot outside.

When an accident does occur in the house, simply clean up the accident and move on. You cannot apply a correction after the fact, the puppy will have no idea what is going on, why he is being told “No” or what he was supposed to do. Unlike humans, puppies live in the moment and once it has passed, they do not have a recollection of the accident. Trying to discipline a puppy for a past action will only make him scared and make it difficult for him to trust you. Never strike your puppy when you find accidents, or for any other reason. Hitting your puppy will only crush his spirit and break the bond you are trying to build; striking your puppy will not correct his behavior or make the process faster.

If you brought your puppy home when he was older than 12 weeks, he might have lived and eliminated in a cage. If that is the case, it may take a bit longer to house train him because you?ll probably have to ?untrain? a few bad habits. Don?t worry. You and your pup will get there.


Be patient and consistent with your potty training routine and be gentle, kind and loving with your puppy. You’d never yell at, punish, or berate a baby for accidents, so don’t do it to your dog. Follow these potty training tips and in just a few weeks, your puppy will be potty trained and you can feel good about a job well done.