1. Buy a crate of the proper size.
This is essential for several reasons. A: dogs are den animals and need a “den” to call their own, and B: just like babies, dogs need to be taught how, where and when it is acceptable to relieve themselves. For details on Crate Training, see the very helpful wikiHow on the subject. Do not put food or water in the crate at this stage, but one toy or a small towel or blanket is fine.
2. Supervise the dog when out of the crate at all times.
For all intents and purposes, this pup has to be thought of as a child who needs constant supervision – at least until it understands how to behave. If you cannot watch the pup, put him or her in its crate.
- Never leave the dog for more hours than months of age (2 months old = 2 hours; 3 months old = 3 hours) and never longer than 10-11 hours, max at any age. It’s not a prison – it’s a playpen.
- Never let the dog out while it’s flipping out. Wait until the dog has calmed and is quiet before you open the crate door.
- Take your dog out to relieve itself immediately upon letting him or her out of the crate. Walk calmly with your dog to the place you want him to go, and just remain calm and allow him to run around for a few moments. Encourage him gently by saying whatever you choose for his trigger word, again, do NOT get worked up or wind him up with overly zealous urging, just say it calmly – “Andy, Go pee.” or “Hurry and go, Sadie.” This actually has a twofold benefit – when it’s cold or rainy outside, your dog will go on command, because he or she will come to associate your cue with the action.
3. Take your dog out to relieve herself regularly.
If you’re letting your dog out first thing when she comes out of the kennel, then within 10 or 15 minutes after she eats, and finally, before you go to bed, she should be fine until morning. But be warned – until she is 100% reliable, you should let her sleep in her kennel, as she will be much less likely to make a mistake during the night this way. Allowing your dog to fall into a routine around relieving herself will help her state of mind all the time – she knows you will take her out after dinner, for example, and will wait. This will also help her remain calmer in between times.
4. Maintain calm, positive energy when greeting the dog.
Most people get all excited to see their dog, and the dog gets all excited, too. The difference is that the dog doesn’t understand how to modulate its behavior, and this often results in a hyper-excited state in which they yap incessantly and even nip or bite, jump on you, etc. The human thinks the dog’s excitement is cute and flattering, so people often get their dogs so twisted up and excited that it’s difficult for the dog to calm down again. If your dog is already doing this:
- From now on, when you first walk in the door, do not talk to or touch the animal. In fact, ignore the dog completely as you come in and put your things down. Be absolutely consistent in this routine, and practice it as often as possible until you are successful.
- Remember that the dog is fixated upon getting your attention and praise – do not reward this type of fixation if it’s undesirable. Until the dog is completely calm and in a neutral state of being, continue to ignore him. Do not praise or reinforce the excitement in any way. It is vital that you allow the dog to become calm and sedate before you acknowledge its presence.
- Once the dog is calm and cool, you can bend down and gently stroke and greet your dog in a low, gentle tone of voice. Do not use the high squeak that gets him riled up. Use a conversational, kindly tone in a low register, keeping things completely calm. It’s not nearly as flattering to your ego to be greeted this way, but it’s going to be a lot better for your dog and your guests in the long run. When your dog realizes that calm behavior is rewarded by the attention he so craves, he will know better than to get all wound up. If you weaken and praise or pet the dog while he is in this hyper state, you will set your progress back weeks, so do not do it.
5. Nipping is worse than barking – nip this in the bud.
If your dog nips in excitement, that may be something you can deal with simply by following the above steps. However, be warned – nipping is a sign of dog aggression and it should never be taken lightly. If you bend to greet the dog believing it has calmed down, but it nips in excitement anyhow, say “No.” very firmly, then say “Kennel.” Help your dog into the crate and let her stay there for about 5 minutes before letting her out. This shows the dog that her behavior is not wanted by you, and that if she does it, she will be separated from you. Don’t make it long – think of it as a “time-out.” Let her out and start over – no talk, no touch, calm and going about your business until she is calm and quiet before you talk to her again.
6. Keep up your reinforcement.
The barking behavior should be treated the same way as nipping – but say “Quiet.” Keep your voice down – yelling at a little dog does not make him less excitable. Speak low and firm and make your movements around him slow and easy to read. To curb barking, try using a citronella spray collar.
A dog that nips is exhibiting scary behavior. It is either (A) Aggressive – which is bad and has to be corrected for everyone’s sake, or (B) Nervous and Fearful – which is even more dangerous, because it’s more difficult to predict what will set a nervous dog off. Aggressive dogs are generally attempting to dominate another animal or human, or to protect territory (and a person can be territory to a dog). It’s not surprising when they exhibit this behavior toward a new person in the home or someone threatening the person they consider “theirs.” But a nervous dog can be set off by any number of things, and that makes them more volatile – you must be honest about this dog and decide whether it’s truly a good fit with your family if this is the case with your dog’s temperament. If the nipping or aggression does not respond to your efforts within a few weeks, consult a professional for help with your situation. Any dog that nips is a danger, regardless of size.