No No! Uh-Uh! New Puppy and Total Confusion

We get a new puppy with the belief that it must fit in with our family life. He must learn what is acceptable right from the start.

No No leaves puppy confusedThis sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

What most people do is to try to teach the puppy what is NOT acceptable instead.

Cocker Spaniel Cookie is nine weeks old, and they have had him for just two days.

They have three very young children too. There are toys everywhere. The children have furry animal slippers. They run about and they make lots of exciting noise.

Imagine what a huge adjustment this is for a puppy, away from the only world he’s known.

Cookie gets excited and bites a child’s foot. Screams from a very upset child.

Dad goes ‘No No!’.

Cookie chews the carpet. ‘No No!’ A loud sound from a human. Or ‘Uh-Uh!’ It temporarily stops him. It’s possible he doesn’t even know the barking noise is aimed at him, but it’s very loud.

The most important message I can give this family in my first visit is to be creative. To find all sorts of ways of showing Cookie what he can do instead.

I showed them how to teach the puppy to come when called – for food. ‘Cookie-COME’ in a kind and bright voice. This then puts him on some sort of remote control unless, of course, he’s too aroused. Instead of ‘No No!’, they can call him away from what he’s doing and reward him for coming.

Then they can give him something else to do instead. It’s hard work and constant while puppy is awake.

The second important message is, when Cookie uses his teeth on something inappropriate, to keep showing him what he can chew. This means they need many more small and chewable objects to hand. 

A puppy needs to chew.


They also need pockets full of tiny tasty rewards – to reinforce everything he does right and to reward him.

Cookie has run of the downstairs and the quite big garden. He charges around, chasing the children as he would other puppies. With space comes uncontrolled wildness.

Parents are continually having to rescue their children from a puppy hanging onto their clothes.

So, the third most important thing in this very first visit was to lend them a puppy pen. Having had complete freedom for a couple of days Cookie may object for a while of course. They can make the pen into a kind of wonderland with, for instance, lots of stuff from their recycle bin for him to chew and wreck.

This will be Cookie’s safe place. Children don’t go in there.

Even outside the pen, they should let sleeping dogs lie. This is hard with youngest not yet two years of old. Cookie needs protecting too. I suggested the little girl imagines Cookie, when asleep, is in a bubble. If she bursts it a horrid smell comes out. She drew me a picture.

Cookie’s Bubble

One forgets how exhausting a tiny puppy can be.

I shall be going again in a few days when Cookie has had time to settle in. There is a lot to cover to make sure a puppy gets off to the very best start. We will be pre-empting possible future issues like resource guarding or separation problems.

They should be ‘socialising’ him to life outside – other dogs, cars, bicycles, people of all ages, shops and so on. This even before he has finished his injections because the earlier they do this the better. He’s so tiny they can carry him.

‘No No!’ is confusing. Correction and crossness can at best result in a puppy that is unmotivated to do what we want, scared of us even. At worst it can lead to confrontation or aggression. Focussing on trying to stop puppy doing puppy behaviours means everyone will be frustrated.

‘Yes Yes!’ is motivating. The puppy will want to please. Focussing on and reinforcing what puppy does right means everyone will be happy.

Barking and Biting



The family has two adorable little Poodle Chihuahua mixes they believe originally came from a dubious breeder or puppy farm about three years ago and who are both highly strung. Although it looks surprising from my photos, the smallest thing winds them up.

I was called out because of their barking and biting – Dizzy’s barking and Dobby’s biting which has been getting worse over the past few weeks.

Dizzy instigates the barking at anyone who passes the house and any dog he sees on walks – most particularly when he is on lead – and Dobby joins in. They get too much practice of their ‘barking at people skills’ at home. It’s not surprising that dogs who spend a lot of their time looking out of the front window, waiting for people and dogs to walk past to bark at, become very short-fused.



Human reaction is to shout at them which may work in the moment but only make things worse long-term. If shouting worked, why are the dogs still barking so much?

Dobby never has liked being touched – unless he chooses, and he has used growling to say so since he was a puppy. Some family members scold him for growling.

There have now been about five episodes where he has snapped at someone – including a person who insisted on touching him when they were out, a neighbour and a friend – all people who reached out to touch him when he didn’t want to be touched.

Human reaction was to be very cross. People understandably feel ‘this sort of behaviour can’t be accepted or go unpunished’. The little dog should see his humans as ‘protectors’, but it must seem like all his efforts to tell people how he feels by way of body language and then growling are ignored or scolded. So now he’s forced to take it to the next level to make the person entering his personal space go away, so he snaps. Then it must seem like his own humans attack him. These are the same humans who love him dearly and give him so many cuddles at other times.

Just as with the barking, the growling and snapping should be treated completely differently. As Dobby is fearful, what should they be doing about that? For starters, they should make sure he’s able to be at a distance from people where he feels safe even if it does seem rude. They should be helping him out and not getting cross. Growling is good! Teach a dog not to growl and you teach him to bite.

We wouldn’t like people coming up to us and touching us. If we turned away or said ‘I don’t want you to touch me’ we would expect that to be respected. What would we do if the touching didn’t stop? Slap the person?

Interestingly, with the groomer who also may look after them in her own home, they are completely different dogs. They don’t bark, they run around happily with other dogs and there is no growling from Dobby. This seems to confirm that if their own family does things a bit differently, the dogs could be behave differently also.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for these two. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly in cases involving potential aggression. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).


First Season and Driven by Hormones

PartonCleoWhen I knocked on the door there was no barking and I wondered whether I had arrived at to the wrong house!

I was greeted by two very friendly and curious German Shepherds, one of which was jumping up at me while the lady was trying hard to restrain herself from grabbing or scolding her because I had asked her not to.

We sat down at the kitchen table and for a while I didn’t quite know where to start. The situation was worse than usual because six-month-old Cleo, on the right, is coming into her first season and eleven-year-old (castrated) Leo can’t leave her alone. When he does eventually lie down, Cleo then pesters him. The house is small for the family and two large dogs.

At one stage the fire alarm went off and both dogs erupted into frantic barking, followed by a slightly aggressive episode between the two dogs. Cleo has now begun to show her teeth at two of the daughters, once when being over-fussed on the sofa and the PartonLeoother time when being pulled off the sofa.

The lady felt she needed to be on their case all the time with ‘no’ and ‘uh-uh’ etc. She works as a carer and I asked her how she spoke to her elderly people to get them to cooperate. She was brilliant after that! I wanted to start working with rewards. While both dogs are currently driven by their hormones, there was little we could do with both together, so we put Leo into the other room where he cried on and off to come back in.

The plan for the first couple of weeks is to ‘prepare the ground’ so to speak, for the family to work hard on cutting down on scolding, cutting down on too much excitement and on introducing praise and rewards. They will get a gate to go between kitchen and sitting room in order to make separating the dogs easier. They will, hopefully, cut out rough play and look for constructive games along with finding things for Cleo to chew to help calm her and occupy her.

There are problems with walking the dogs which we will need to address when Cleo has finished her first season as she badly needs exercise and stimulation, spending many hours a day in her crate which is the only place she can be trusted not to chew walls and cables. Currently most interaction with their humans is in the form of either fussing, excitement or else being told off. They must have got a lot of things right though – the dogs are so friendly, and each dog when apart from the other becomes biddable and attentive when approached in the right way.

Against a calmer background we can then get down to work properly. What Cleo in particular most needs is basic training presented in such a way that she has something fun and rewarding to work for. Both dogs badly need some rules, boundaries and self-control. It is going to be a fairly long road.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Cleo and Leo, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Aggressive to Callers

Black German Shepherd Kody on the left does not like people coming to her house


 Kody on the left does not like people coming to her house and she makes that very clear with a lot of barking. While white GSD Portia is less reactive, she will join in.

The evening didn’t start like this, with two calm and happy dogs.

After a very noisy start in the sitting room with both dogs on lead barking at me, I went back outside, rang the doorbell and started again. This time we went into the kitchen and sat at the breakfast bar with a bowl of tasty tit-bits prepared and to hand.

The dogs were then let in to join us.

As you can see, both dogs are happy and this was achieved very quickly. Portia is sitting beside me waiting for another piece of cheese, and Kody also was eating out of my hand. Usually she would have been barking at someone’s slightest movement and she has nipped people in the house.

White GSD Portia is sitting beside me waiting for another piece of cheese


I go to a great number of German Shepherds in particular that behave in an aggressive to callers coming into their homes. I believe one very big part of it starts in early puppyhood. These dogs need socialising with plenty of people (and dogs) from about six weeks of age, getting as much as possible in in before four months old. Even then it’s never ‘job done’.

Maintainance is key.

Meeting people and other dogs needs continue to be a regular feature of the dog’s life else they will lose their sociability. Sometimes people at work all day simply don’t have time, but they pay the price.

I have personal experience of all this with my own German Shepherd, Milly. She used to belong to a client who bought her from what was to all intents and purposes a puppy farm. The lady didn’t even see Milly’s mother, and Milly herself had met nobody at all apart from the person who fed them all until she was twelve weeks old. A recipe for disaster. The poor lady who bought her couldn’t ‘bond’. Milly was scared of absolutely everything and everybody – including the couple who bought her.

When the dog growls and barks at people most owners try everything they can to stop her – scolding, restraining and maybe threatening with something. It might ‘control’ the dog, but this is only a temporary fix and makes things even worse the next time. One reason we show anger to our barking and snarling dog is that we feel we somehow owe it to the person who is the brunt of it.  We need to get over that and put the dog first. We need to try to understand the underlying reason why she’s doing it, and deal with that, so she doesn’t need the aggressive behaviour to callers that she hopes will send them away.

If they continue to keep Kody and Portia away from all people, things will never change. As I say to owners, the only way you will change your dogs’ behaviour is to change what you do yourselves. In this case each dog needs to be worked on separately, outside in the real world where people can be seen from a non-threatening distance, and they need ‘obedient’ visitors!

The bottom line is, it depends how much we want something. If it’s important enough we’ll do it.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Kody and Portia, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).

Starting Toilet Training Early

Golden Labrador and Chocolate Labrador pup lying together peacefullyI went to another toilet training issue today. It is interesting just how important are the first eight to twelve weeks in a puppy’s development – including toilet training.

Archie is a 5-month old Chocolate Labrador who lives with Lizzie, a 6-month old dark Yellow Labrador. Archie lived with all his siblings until he was ten weeks old and the puppies were left to themselves for much of the time. Now Archie toilets indoors.

I have very recent personal experience of this sort of thing. My Cocker Spaniel, Pickle, until around twelve weeks old lived in gun-dog kennels. The puppies’ toileting was done on the concrete floor of the indoor run where also their dry food was thrown. Consequently, having never been in a house with garden or yard, the pattern for toileting outside hadn’t been set. Toilet training Pickle was hard work. On the other hand, at just nine weeks old my new Yellow Labrador puppy, Zara, is nearly houstrained already. She came from a clean family home environment where each puppy was given individual time and attention.

Archie sometimes comes straight in from outside only to toilet on the kitchen floor. This can be infuriating. His owners thought when they found mess in the house that scolding him would make him learn. But it never does. Archie also may eat  his poo (not nice, I know – but very common). In this particular case I suspect it’s fearing that for some unfathomable reason his owners are angry when they find mess indoors, so he is trying to get rid of the evidence. He even sometimes hides it in his bed. Archie is only five months old and a big puppy. I suggest he now should neither be scolded nor even praised any more. It’s another case of a natural function being made into too much of an issue. How can we be sure he is not confused – praised one time and punished the next – and that he may not have connected it’s to do with where the job is done!

Whatever Archie’s reasons for doing toileting indoors, it’s not naughtiness. There are various possible reasons, but none will simply be because the dog is  naughty.

To ignore all toileting, especially indoors, is going to be hard for the owners, but they can see that their present approach hasn’t worked so they need to do something different. The only appropriate time to react is if they actually catch him in the act, and then it’s not to scold – it’s to take his collar and rush him outside immediately.

Putting in place calm leadership for young dogs is the basic requirement – and plenty of trips outside.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.