Is there anything better in this world than a puppy?
The covid-19 pandemic saw a further rise in new pet owners, many of them seeking the comfort a new animal can bring to see them through the potential loneliness and boredom of extended lockdowns.
Pet ownership has generally been on the rise in recent years, also thanks to wider acceptance of animals in public spaces and transport, and more pet friendly eateries and events spaces, and it looks like this might be the way of things to come.
But while these little bundles of joy might be incredibly adorable, fluffy, and great for our mental health, they can also be a handful.
Just like little humans, puppies can be prone to misbehavior and overexcitement. While this is perfectly normal behavior, there are several things you can do to calm down a lively puppy and restore a little peace and quiet into both of your lives.
Where To Start?
The notion of “training” can seem like a daunting task in and of itself. Even the word “training” seems like a lot of work, but under the right circumstances it can become part and parcel of your daily routine, just like personal exercise or daily errands.
The most obvious answer is to play with your puppy. As any parent or pet owner will know, playtime is a sure fire way to expel some of that built up energy and tire them out in no time.
As well as proving useful for blowing off steam, playing with your pet is great for their emotional well being, and mental stimulation.
Like humans, your pets need attention and affection to thrive and lead happy, long lives, and playtime is a great way to give them this much needed love and care, whilst also having fun yourself.
Of course, this is only really an option if you are blessed with the space, time, and energy to do this.
If you don’t have a yard, try a local park, or if you work longer (or unpredictable) hours, why not try a dog walker service, or even a neighbor, family member, or trusted friend who has the time and inclination to help.
When the health and happiness of your puppy is at stake, the important thing is not to simply give up or leave them alone. This only leads to the development of negative behavior down the line, and as with children, the best lessons are learned early on.
Obviously, it is important when playing to keep a handle on their energy levels. Energize them enough to blow off some steam, but don’t forget to bring the energy back down gradually so as to avoid them becoming too wound up.
Exercise is a great way to tire out a lively puppy, not to mention offering significant benefits for the health and wellbeing of the owner.
Like with humans, exercise can be a great way of instilling an inner calm that is vital for long term mental health, not to mention getting your pet familiar and comfortable in the outside world.
Whilst similar to playtime in logistics, exercise can be more goal focused, either through set distances, inclines, or pace of movement.
Depending on the age of your puppy, you shouldn’t go too crazy straight away, but why not try a gentle hike, a light jog, some swimming, catch, or tug of war?
All of these activities are proven to burn off some energy, and they can be fun to boot.
However, it is worth mentioning that exercise should only be attempted after the eight week period. Before this time the puppy is too young, and could be injured by anything more strenuous than general movement.
Stick to playtime and cuddles early on, and then progress to the more adventurous when they are a little older.
All puppies are different, but like us they have activities or objects that they enjoy.
This is something that you will learn over time, but keep an eye on what they like and dislike, as this can be a useful tool to calming them down and keeping them happy.
This can also be a specific person that they enjoy spending time with, like a young child or a member of your household who they feel especially close to.
This generally helps them to form better bonds over time, and can benefit them mentally, physically, and emotionally too.
More specifically though, it can really help to keep them calm and attentive to the needs of others in the home. Dogs are perceptive animals, so this kind of bonding only helps to bring them into the family fold.
Chew toys are a great way to let a puppy burn off some steam on their own, and are cheap and easy to purchase.
Just like humans might use a punching bag to burn pent up aggression and energy, puppies can use chew toys to get rid of excess energy, and can be a good way of soothing them over longer periods of time.
Be careful when selecting a chew toy, as toxic materials and hazardous components could risk the health of your puppy. Treat them as you would a child, and only buy them toys that are appropriate to their age and capability.
Whilst bones might be something a cliche when it comes to dogs, they are that for a reason. They are beneficial, and healthy, and can keep a puppy or older dog entertained for hours. Just make sure your pup is always supervised and you buy bones which are safe for dog consumption.
Of course, there has to be some benefit to calmness, and if your pet can realize that then they are more likely to be well behaved more often.
It is a stretch for a dog to understand the complexities of its own mental and emotional well being (after all, we struggle most of the time), but physical rewards can do the trick when it comes to helping them be calmer and better behaved.
I never recommend you punish bad behavior, but it is important to help them see the benefit of behaving well, and this can take the form of anything you want, as long as it is something that the puppy will enjoy (and of course, something that is safe).
Give them their favorite snack or treat, or buy them something fun or interesting to play with when they are especially good. This is important to general training, as it can help motivate your dog. It’s important to note removing toys or treats should not be used as a way of punishing bad behavior as this will cause your dog to become frustrated and confused.
With puppies (as with small children), a calm and happy home is the best way to develop a calm and happy dog.
Try to avoid raised voices where possible, and keep the loud music and hecticness to a minimum, at least some of the time. This will help your puppy to stay relaxed and at ease in your home, helping them to see it as a safe space where they can sleep, relax, and play.
This can of course be difficult, especially if you have a busy household with small children or teenagers, but at the very least try and set aside a special area (or room) for your puppy.
Make this their refuge, where they can find some peace and quiet amongst the chaos of family life.
This safe space doesn’t even have to be the family home. This could be a cozy, sunny spot in the garden, a nice, fluffy dog bed by the fire, or even a nice quiet part of the local park where you can take them in the afternoon.
Everyone needs some time for safety, comfort, and relaxation, and puppies are no different.
Lead By Example
As we mentioned in the safe space section, a dog’s environment will very much guide their behavior. The same is true with the behavior of their human owners and their children.
If they see erratic behavior, over excitedness (especially in children), or volatile emotions, then they are going to mirror (and probably even exceed) it.
Develop patterns of calm familial behavior at home, and practice what you preach when it comes to rewards and punishments. This will help to reinforce their training and help them to see the consequences of certain behaviors.
It is worth saying that dogs, as well as other animals, can detect and experience underlying stress, so for a well behaved dog down the line, it is important to remain calm when around your puppy, and establish positive emotional behaviors from an early age.
When human beings are stressed or worried, soothing music can be a good way to bring down their energy levels and instill a sense of calm and relaxation. This also works for puppies, and can be a great way of relaxing both you and your pet during times of overexcitement or distress.
Classical music, or music that is equally soothing and gentle can be great for bringing down your puppy’s energy levels and promoting peace in your home.
Try this technique when your puppy’s hyperactivity becomes too much to bear, and you’ll see just how quickly things begin to simmer down.
Whilst this is not always recommended, and should only be employed when appropriate, excitable pets can become even more wound up when their owner tries to get involved in the situation.
Sometimes it pays to let your puppy calm down on its own, at least a little bit, before you greet them or give them the cuddles they are looking for.
Of course this is entirely dependent on their specific energy at the moment.
If the puppy is agitated, then engaging them is the best way to calm them down and make them relaxed, but when overexcited, the best way for them to get bored and calm down quicker can be not to immediately engage them.
Definitely don’t match their behavior, as this will only encourage them further, but be mindful, and try to act accordingly in the moment.
The concept of alone time can be a double edged sword, with positive and negative outcomes depending on the situation.
The negatives of alone time is that your puppy can become tense, nervous or anxious, taking a deeper toll over time and potentially even leading to defensiveness or aggression when this solitude is disturbed.
The positives of alone time can be seen when solitude is the animal’s choice.
Puppies will tend to enjoy quiet time like everyone else, so when they are ready to sleep or relax, let them have some peace and space, and try to base your own routine around theirs as much as possible.
The trick is to keep a close eye on them and interject when they want you to, but don’t crowd them when they are calm and happy on their own.
It’s tricky, I know, but with proper maintenance of their routine you can soon learn their moods and habits.
Preparing Them For Absences
When you leave the house to go to work or to the store for some grocery shopping, your absence can prove troubling, especially to a puppy.
Whilst older dogs can usually find a quiet spot and amuse themselves during your absence, younger ones can become nervous and scared when left alone for any length of time.
One way to counteract this is to remind them you’re coming back.
This could be through a blanket they like that has your scent, or even through technology such as a home baby monitor, where you can speak to them and soothe them if they become agitated.
Don’t Make A Fuss
It is important not to make a fuss when leaving the house. The more of a ceremony you make, the harder it will be for them to handle it.
Also, not announcing your exit might mean it takes longer for them to realize you are gone, reducing anxiety to a shorter period of time.
And there we have it, all the handy tips and tricks you might need to keep your puppy happy, healthy, and most importantly, calm.
If there is one thing it is important to remember, it is that you don’t need a huge house, massive yard space, or large choice of dog parks to entertain and engage with your pet.
All you need is fresh air, patience, and plenty of affection, and before long you’ll be surprised at the gentle dog they become.