German shepherd puppy sitting in black and white on a white background

Understanding your puppy’s behavior

You are an important social partner to your puppy, and whether they're trying to catch your attention or not, it's important you're able to understand their behavior, how they express themselves, and the meaning behind their actions.

Your puppy's body language

Your puppy can't communicate through speech, so look at their body language and try to recognize how you can meet their needs.

Black puppy licking a young boy's face

Relaxed

A relaxed or calm posture is thought of as the neutral point for all other body languages. It's important that you know what your puppy's baseline body language is so that you can recognize any subtle changes in their behavior.

Alert

If your puppy is showing alert body language, this means that something has caught their attention. This isn't exclusively a reaction to something negative, and merely shows your puppy's interest in specific items/situations. That being said, pay close attention to the development of your puppy's behavior to be sure they feel comfortable and confident in each situation.

Playful

A common indication of a playful puppy is the stereotypical "bow". As well as this stance, a playful puppy can also be recognized by exaggerated movements. Engaging your puppy in fun games when they are presenting this body language is a great way to ensure they are getting plenty of physical and mental stimulation.

Fearful

It's important to recognize the signs of fear or distress in your puppy. If your puppy appears to be fearful, you should take them away from the trigger and allow them to calm down.

Defensive aggression

Puppies displaying this behavior are afraid and could attack if they're provoked. It's important to pay close attention to your puppy's body language and avoid pushing your puppy too far.

Offensive aggression

If your puppy is showing aggressive behavior, it's important to try and diffuse the situation before they attack.

Encouraging good behavior

Husky puppy walking outdoors through grass and branches

The evolution of a dog's behavior

Domestication has seen dogs change from wild animals to household pets, which has resulted in drastic behavioral changes. As dogs no longer need to source food or seek shelter, they need to be able to communicate their needs to their owners, which they learn to do from an early age.

Puppy behavior explained

Discover some of the reasons that may be behind your puppy’s behavior.

Your puppy may be experiencing separation anxiety. To prevent this, introduce your dog to the idea of being alone. If your dog can stay home alone for at least 30 minutes, it’s usually easier for them to be left for longer periods.

This can be due to boredom or curiosity; however, it can sometimes be associated with specific diseases, and if you are concerned about your puppy’s behavior you should consult your veterinarian.

Boredom is one reason, so it’s essential to provide chew toys and plenty of exercise. Prevent chewing behavior by redirecting their attention to a toy, and never punish your puppy as this can sometimes increase the bad behavior.

If your puppy hasn’t had enough exercise, they could be trying to burn off excess energy through digging. Your puppy may also be inclined to bury their toys or chews, so keep an eye if they're taking these outside with them. They might also be trying to cool off by lying in freshly dug soil if they are too hot.

Excessive panting is possibly a sign they are too hot; however, it can also indicate stress if they are in an uncomfortable situation. Excessive panting can be a sign of disease, so always consult with a veterinarian if you are unsure.

Some suggest puppies roll in poo because it helps to disguise their scent, and this spans back to a time when dogs were not domesticated. Others say dogs do this simply because they like the smell!

Dog’s noses are cold because of the moisture which evaporates off it, so if there is no evaporation their nose will feel warm. Your puppy’s nose should never be dry or chapped though, and you should consult a veterinarian if you are concerned.

Puppies only have a short attention span when learning new skills, so it’s possible your current training sessions are too long if there is too much distraction. Try and keep sessions to a maximum of five minutes, choose a quiet and familiar training location, and make sure your puppy is not distracted.

This is more likely to be a more common problem for puppies under six months of age. Some people suggest they do this if they have a vitamin deficiency, internal parasites, or simply when they’re bored.

Your puppy could be upset for a number of reasons, including hunger, loneliness, injury, boredom, or because they need to relieve themselves. Reading the context and their body language using our tips above could give you an insight into what they want.

It was previously thought dog’s eat grass to induce vomiting; however, a more likely explanation is that they simply like to eat it.

This could be a sign your puppy is trying to communicate something, such as affection. In new situations, they might lick the face of a stranger to try and figure out their intentions.

First, it's important to rule out medical issues, so contact your veterinarian if you’re concerned. Other reasons for shaking can include stress, fear, excitement, and cold temperatures. Try to remember what was happening before your puppy started shaking to figure out the cause.

If you are concerned your puppy’s behavior is not normal, it is always advisable to speak to your veterinarian.

Jack Russell Terrier puppy sitting in black and white on a white background

Your puppy's health

Learn all about your puppy’s health and well-being and how to spot early signs of illness.

Puppy health

Training a puppy

Understand the basics of puppy training and teach them how to be a well-behaved member of the family.

Training a puppy
Dachshund puppies playing in black and white