When our first dog was just a tiny fluffball, I remember wondering, “Is there something wrong with her? Why won’t she play with me?” Even though she had been to the vet and received a clean bill of health, I couldn’t figure out why she preferred sleep to a game of tug of war. Turns out puppies need fifteen to eighteen hours of sleep per day! Her behavior was completely normal, and necessary to her development. So, what else is your puppy up to that you don’t need to worry about? Check out the following “normal” puppy behaviors and then rest assured knowing your puppy is on the right track, developmentally.
- Sleeping a lot. Just like my teenager, puppies will crash when they are tired and can sleep through just about anything. Also similar to a toddler or teen, sleep is important to your puppy’s healthy growth, and you may notice your puppy sleeping more during a growth spurt. While he is sleeping, his central nervous system, brain, immune system, and muscles are developing. Let sleeping dogs lie! See How Much Do Puppies Sleep for sleep tips and guidelines.
- FRAP (Frenetic Random Activity Period) Finally, I have a technical name for what we call Random Running at our house! This behavior usually occurs in the late afternoon hours and includes crazed running, nipping, and rolling. Let this insanity play out - this is a great way for your puppy to get some of his energy out. If you are worried about him hurting himself, you can try to redirect with a toy or bone.
- Nipping during petting. This behavior can be a tough one to handle, especially when all you want to do is snuggle your puppy and all he wants to do is taste your hand! Around sixteen to eighteen weeks of age, it is common for puppies to nip their humans when they reach out to pet them. Nipping is a normal part of development, and is actually quite crucial to a dog’s maturation. It is important that you teach your dog how to manage his teeth. See Puppy Biting: Training Methods and Tips for ideas on how to curb biting.
- Pottying in the middle of playtime. Do I compare puppies to my children too much? My preschooler is often in the middle of an intense Lego building session when he abruptly stops and runs to the potty. Puppies are no different. They can often get so caught up in the thrill of a game that they forget to ask to go out and suddenly squat on the carpet. It is important to take your puppy out to go potty before engaging in play, and to take frequent potty breaks - about every twenty minutes - during play.
- Stealing laundry/dish towels. Whenever my dish towel or one of the kids’ stuffed animals went missing, I knew where to find them - in our puppy’s bed. When our first dog was a puppy, she could not leave a hanging dishtowel alone, and she went ga-ga over stinky socks and sweaty gym clothes. Why? They smelled like her people! These items were not dirty laundry to her, they were treasures! My kids learned to put their dirty laundry in their laundry baskets in their closets and to keep their stuffed animals off the floor, which actually worked quite to my advantage. Don’t want your stuffed animal to smell like dog breath? Clean up your room! If your dog does steal a stray towel or sock, do not engage in the chase. Puppies who confiscate items that are not theirs are often bored and want to play. Offer your dog one of his own toys or take him outside for a quick walk or game of catch.
So, go on and enjoy that puppy of yours! Puppyhood is fleeting, so as long as your vet has signed off on your puppy’s health, you can enjoy the quirks and craziness of your young dog.