Tricks and Tips That Will Make Your Puppy the Star of the Dog Park

Getting a new puppy or older dog can bring so much fun and joy into your life. But dogs are a different species and sometimes we need a little help understanding them and their needs. Here, Dr. Mary Burch, the American Kennel Club's Director of the Canine Good Citizen and S.T.A.R. Puppy training programs, answers frequently asked questions.
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Q. Housetraining: I have a new puppy. I love him but he keeps on having accidents on our carpet. Do you have any suggestions?

Dr. Burch: There are a few fundamental rules that will help you with housetraining. First, feed your puppy a quality dog feed. Keep the feeding amounts and schedule consistent. Keep a regular schedule of trips outside. For a young puppy or adult dog who has never been housetrained, this might mean you start with 'potty breaks' every hour, then go to every two hours, and so on.

Q. Nipping/mouthing: No matter what I do, my 12-week old terrier puppy won't stop biting when I hold her. My hands look like a pin-cushion from her small, needle-like puppy teeth. OUCH! Please help.

Dr. Burch: Many people don't realize that with young puppies, mouthing and chewing is not a behavior problem. This is a developmental issue and just as with human babies, puppies need to mouth as a part of teething. The trick is to have plenty of acceptable chew toys readily available so when your puppy starts to bite your hand, you can quickly offer her an acceptable item for chewing.

Q. Help, this hyper dog is driving us crazy! I just adopted a beautiful new Border Collie who is just over a year old. He never stops moving. Do you think he could be hyperactive?

Dr. Burch: Chances are, your Border Collie is not hyperactive. It's important for dog owners to understand the breeds that they have chosen. Border Collies were bred for centuries to run miles after sheep. This is a breed for which a leisurely walk around the block when you get home from work won't be nearly enough exercise. Border Collies need a job, whether it be herding sheep or getting daily training and exercise through exciting sports such as agility, obedience, or flyball.

Q. Chewing my Jimmy Choos: I love my Husky but he has chewed up more than one of my designer shoes. This is getting to be expensive. Why do dogs pick the most expensive things in the house and chew them up?

Dr. Burch: It could be that your dog has an excellent sense of fashion, but it's far more likely he's chewing your Choos because he has access to them. For chewing, the first tip is to manage your environment. If he can't get to the shoes, he can't chew them. Before leaving your dog unsupervised, quickly patrol the area and secure anything he might chew. Provide puppies or young dogs a good selection of items to chew for teething. Look into some specially designed dog toys in which a treat or peanut butter can be hidden in the center. These give the dog something acceptable to chew as well as a stimulating activity. For dogs who engage in a high frequency of destructive behaviors (including chewing), crate training may be necessary.

Q. The benefits of training: If you had only one tip for me as a new puppy owner, what would it be?

Dr. Burch: Training, plain and simple. Puppies learn things from the moment they open their eyes. Training will give your dog something to wrap his mind around and keep him out of trouble. Teach your adult dog good manners and reward him with a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate or enroll your puppy in an AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy program that will help solve housetraining and chewing issues among others. Go to The American Kennel Club to find a training class in your area.


Originally published on, February 2009.


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