Puppy behaviour is one of the things you thought you’d never have to learn about, but will find yourself Googling. Especially if you’re a new puppy parent, you’ll want to know what your puppy is trying to tell you when they’re being funny. 

Yellow Labrador Retriever Puppy in front of black backdrop
Photo by Taylor Kopel on Unsplash

If you ask us, it’s pretty important figuring out why your puppy does the things they do. Many of what humans call behaviour problems are really just, well, puppy behaviour. It turns out that behaviour problems aren’t problems at all, and are perfectly normal parts of a dog’s behavioural repertoire. They only seem like a problem to us because we don’t fully understand the meaning of puppy behaviour and why they act the way they do. 

Our puppy behaviour overview will be helpful for you. Maybe you don’t know it yet, but it will. It will help you understand why your puppy might be acting in a certain way, but most importantly, that this kind of puppy behaviour is often perfectly normal and not something to worry about.

Of course, if you think your puppy truly has a behaviour problem and you want help with it right away, just download the Zigzag app, and you’ll have access to our puppy experts, who will be happy to help you along the way. Our experts are all qualified dog trainers and behaviourists and will be able to put your mind at ease. Their brilliant minds will come up with an action plan to help your puppy learn good behaviour for not only your sanity, but their wellbeing.  

Why you should understand puppy behaviour

It’s important that you understand, at least to some extent, the basic ropes of puppy behaviour. After all, since they are literally lost for words, this is how your puppy will communicate what they are feeling. Mostly, this will be through body language, vocalisations and expressive gestures.

Many things can influence puppy behaviour; from genetics, to learning and experiences, to environmental factors, to health.

What’s good to know here, is that if you understand your puppy’s behaviour, you can understand what they’re trying to tell you. Once you get what they’re trying to say, this will help to build a fantastic relationship between you and pup. As they say in every book about relationships – communication is everything.  

puppy with brown lead in mouth
Photo by Pauline Loroy on Unsplash

Top 3 puppy behaviour problems to look out for

Okay, here’s a list of top 3 common behaviours that puppy owners see in their puppies. Note that the keyword is common. Typically, these are often behaviours that seem to be a problem for us humans; but for dogs, not so much. To them, they’re just doing what comes naturally. Sadly, it’s not always a great way for them to behave in the human world. 

Turns out we’re the high maintenance ones.

1. Barking 

In puppy behaviour terms, barking is a language. It’s a way of communicating all sorts of emotions and messages such as:

  • Fear or anxiety
  • Excitement
  • Alarm
  • Being territorial

Some breeds of dog such as Dachshunds, Schnauzers, Terriers and Spitz breeds have been bred over centuries to bark. Barking is something they find hugely rewarding since they’re generally thinking that they’re being helpful. What feels better than expressing yourself?

To learn more about barking behaviour in puppies, check out our guide to puppy barking.

2. Digging 

Digging is also a common puppy behaviour that we often don’t like to see; especially if it’s at the expense of our flower beds.

It doesn’t stop at flower beds of course – they can dig entire lawns, or even holes in sofas and carpets. However, dogs don’t see the damage in this, to them it is harmless fun. They’re just here for the fun of it, and for how amazing it feels. Especially for certain breeds like Spaniels and Terriers.

However, digging can also be a stress response or displacement behaviour which can signal toward your puppy not being too happy about something.

Check out our article to learn more about why your puppy might be digging.

3. Biting as a puppy behaviour problem

Puppy biting is a puppy behaviour that we feel no one really warns you about. It makes sense – the thought of it can be quite off-putting. However, it’s just part of the package; no one’s perfect, not even you. Puppy biting occurs for a few different reasons:

  • Puppies are used to using their teeth on their littermates to play, but now need to be taught that this actually hurts quite a lot for us humans, so it’s no longer an option. 
  • Teething puppies have sore and ‘itchy’ teeth which makes them want to bite on just about anything to rid of the sensation.
  • Tired puppies bite a lot as they’re overstimulated and irritable, which is often a sign that a good nap is in order.  
  • Puppies may learn to be using their teeth defensively when they don’t want you to handle them in a certain way. This means you’ll have to learn how to do it properly.

In our guide to puppy biting, you can read a lot more about it and learn how you can prevent it as best you can – or just steer them clear of your ankles and toes.

black puppy on field with toy
Photo by Chris Andrawes on Unsplash

How you can help puppy behaviour development

For your puppy to grow into a well behaved canine member of human society, you’ll want to show them what the rules are of our world.

The best and easiest way to do this is through positive reinforcement based training. Dogs naturally do and repeat what they find rewarding, so if we reward them for all of the things we want to see from them, they will do that much more. Pretty simple, right?

Training with positive reinforcement is just magic, and works like magic too. It guides dogs into becoming optimistic and positive beings; rays of sunshine, one could say. It’s also helpful to think about setting up the environment your puppy is in, and how this will able them to succeed, and not get them tempted to getting into trouble. Puppy proofing the house is one example of effective management, which will be really important when you bring your puppy home. 

You can learn how to train your puppy in books, training classes, or apps like the Zigzag puppy training app. Whichever way you decide to help your puppy’s behaviour develop and for them to turn out as an emotionally well adjusted dog, it will all require training. 

There is always so much to learn about puppies and puppy behaviour. Perhaps you’d like to learn some puppy facts? We also have tons of puppy training content and collected wisdom on puppies in our Zigzag puppy training app. Download a trial today and you’ll get access to our puppy experts, who are always there to help you anywhere; on WhatsApp, email or on a quick call.