Ask A Vet: How Can I Satisfy My Ultra-Energetic Puppy?

Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on Dr. Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist who counsels guardians whose pets’ issues are beyond the scope of training. Think of her as a pet shrink…at your service. Ask your own questions in the comments!

Q: I adopted a 5 month old puppy and I am absolutely in love with him, mostly. I work from home and sometimes I need to just focus, but he won’t let me. When I sit down, he wants to be in my lap and play. If I ignore him, he terrorizes my Tory Burch slip-ons that live on my closet floor. Help, please!

A: That’s play behavior and attention seeking combined. Your puppy wants your attention — and probably has a surplus of energy at this age. You can’t quell the energy or the enthusiasm that your puppy has – and that’s what we love about dogs! But you can control the environment to set your puppy up for success. After a good walk and play outside, confine your puppy to a “dog safe” area. Have you been doing crate training? This would be the time to crate him. It can also be an x-pen or a safe room with a baby gate. I like the x-pen as you can easily move it around in your house and keep your puppy close by. Once the space is under control, redirect your puppy to play with his own toys. You can’t make him not want to play, so give him ample choices of appropriate toys to harass (ones that are less expensive than your shoes).

If your puppy needs more mental exercise, offer all his meals in food dispensing toys.  You will be providing him with an outlet to satisfy his chewing and hunting needs. The reason his behavior is a pattern is because your is. Each time he tries to get your attention, then ultimately gets your shoes, you get up from the couch. As far as he is concerned, it “works!” Don’t take calm behavior for granted either. Make a habit out of praising, petting, or tossing your puppy a treat whenever he’s laying around quietly and playing with his toys.

By now your puppy should have all his vaccinations and you can also consider enrolling him in classes. Play time with other puppies is a constructive way to get out that extra juice. We offer puppy play groups here – you can also find them at your local dog park. Training is key at this point in their development, so please enroll in a positive reinforcement training course. It will make for a long and happy relationship.

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