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Help! My puppy won’t settle and it’s driving me crazy!

Having a new puppy is not dissimilar to having a baby – especially if you have not had one before, or it’s been a while. A puppy that won’t settle, barks or whines continuously, or that won’t allow you a minute’s peace can cause a lot of stress within a household – and even marital dispute – as one of my recent clients was at pains to tell me!

Here are some pointers!

Does the puppy need the toilet?

Always check first whether your pup needs to go to the toilet by taking him out and waiting with him or her (no matter what the weather!). If your puppy doesn’t need to go, then bring him back in after about four or five minutes. Don’t stay out longer because just being outside can sometime be sheer good fun for puppies and they can learn that rowdy behaviour ends in an exciting trip to the garden.

Is your puppy hungry?

Just like some people, some puppies get irritable and fractious if they are hungry. Puppies also vary in the amount of food they need each day and each week, as their growth isn’t steady but can come in fits and starts. Offer food and see if this calms your puppy. A pup with a full tummy will sleep better than one that is hungry and fretful.

Is your puppy over-tired?

Over-tiredness is probably the biggest cause of puppy versus owner conflict! A pup that is over-tired can behave just like an over-wrought toddler: inconsolable, whinging and even aggressive. Bear in mind that puppies need a lot of sleep. They typically have a short period of high activity – playing, racing round the garden, chewing and doing what puppies do, then need to fall fast asleep for between 2-3 hours. Make sure your puppy has a quiet bed area that he can sleep in without interruption (safe from kids and other pets) and leave him in it. An indoor crate can really help here. Once you have put your pup in the crate (and you know that he has been to the loo, and has had some activity), you must ignore him: the chances are he’ll be fast asleep in no time – relieved that someone else has taken control and limited his options to sleep.  You can even cover the crate so that he gets a clear signal that it’s ‘nap time’.

Barking and whining

If your pup is very noisy, have a think about why this might be. Is he or she distressed, or is the noise simply a way to get your attention? Dogs that are truly upset may pant, tremble, salivate and hide. Pups that are frustrated and trying to get your goat are more likely to dig, bark at you (towards your face), play or chew for while, then start again. Frustrated dogs don’t seem at all upset once they are released – after all, they have just got what they wanted. If your pup is genuinely upset about being confined or left, then you need to reintroduce the crate very gradually and practise brief separations from you in tiny stages. If your dog is just cross that you have put him in his bed for a while, then the best advice is to ignore all his strategies to get you to come back – unless you are prepared to give in to his demands for life!

Is your puppy’s food suiting him or her?

If your puppy’s activity level is constantly high, if he or she has temper tantrums, is biting and mouthing more than usual, is irritable, itchy, has inconsistent digestion, or is eating unusual things (such as tissues and grass), then there’s a chance the diet you are feeding is not quite right for him or her. Gradually change to a new diet, then feed nothing else for a minimum of 14 days – though results are often seen more quickly than this. The diet you choose should be high quality and easily digested, with ingredients such as lamb and rice, fish and rice or chicken top of the ingredients’ list. Ask your vet for advice on this, but do be aware that not all dog food brands are made the same.

Does your pup think that one room is for resting while the others are for playing?

Puppies learn associations far more quickly than you can imagine.  If you always encourage your pup to rest in the kitchen, but get him out to play in the living room, then don’t be surprised when he starts to think that the lounge is not for lounging, but for mad zoomies, while the kitchen offer calm karma. Create calm zones in each room, and get into the routine of some play then a settle down, so that polite behaviour gets generalised.

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