Understanding Your Puppy's Signals
How do you know when your new puppy has to go potty? How do you know when she is too tired and overwhelmed and needs a break? Some of it you pick up as you watch your puppy, thru trial and error, because every puppy is a little different. But there are some clues for you to look for.
Dogs communicate with body language, eye contact
Remember that dogs naturally communicate with body language and eye contact. So your puppy is almost always communicating with you about how he feels, what he needs, what he's thinking. It is your job to be observant and learn his cues.
Sniffing and circling to go potty
When your puppy needs to go potty, she will often circle, nose to the ground, sometimes "frantically", but often in a slower, more deliberate manner. Get her outside NOW! Sometimes, a puppy will circle and sniff because she smells something or is looking for a toy, but as you watch, you will learn to judge the difference. There are subtle differences to notice that let you begin to understand when it is 'potty sniffing'.
Very young puppies, usually under 4 months, will sometimes get overwhelmed by too much play, excitement, new people, and they need a break. Like young children, they cannot judge this and the reaction is to become more and more active, and "wound up". When you notice your pup is not listening as well as usual, and is very hyperactive, you should consider whether it is time for him to retire with a chew toy, to a quiet corner, or crate. This is not for punishment. This is so the puppy can regroup, calm down, and finally, sleep.
Puppy play signals
Puppies, especially very young ones, are still learning all of their doggy sounds and skills. They will often nip, growl, bark, in play. This can be too rough sometimes too, because they are still learning their strength and how to inhibit their bite. Many people find it hard to judge whether their puppy is just playing or is seriously growling. If your puppy is playing with you, or trying to get you to play and begins to growl, you shouldn't be concerned. However, if your puppy has a toy or food, and you try to pick it up or touch your pup, and she growls, this should be corrected immediately. If it happens more than once, you probably need the help of a professional.
- Be quiet and watch and you will start to be more aware of your puppy's cues.
- If you can start to learn your puppy's cues, you will start noticing when she is thinking of some mischief. The best time to stop a misbehavior is while your puppy is thinking about it, just before he does it!
- Try to avoid putting your own feelings onto the puppy's behaviors, and instead learn what the behaviors mean to a puppy, in "dog language".