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Puppy Tantrums: How To Deal With Them

February 5, 2022

Picture this: you are at the park with your dog, and there are countless people and dogs around. Everything is an apparent frenzy of activity, and even you are having some trouble keeping up. If this is your experience, just imagine how your puppy might be feeling. After all, they were only just born in the past few months. They have much less experience with processing outside stimuli and regulating their emotions.

As a result of this constant activity, you notice that your puppy is beginning to act a little strange. They are not listening, and perhaps they begin to growl and bark even when there is nothing threatening around at all. You can sense and watch the frustration coming off of them in droves. That’s right; this is a puppy temper tantrum. Luckily, we have tips on how you can handle them while also making them less likely to occur in the future.

How could something as incredibly cute as a puppy be so upset over basically nothing? And, possibly even more importantly, what can you do to stop this from happening?

Why Do Puppies Experience Temper Tantrums?

After viewing your puppy seemingly flying off the handle at nothing at all, it is perfectly natural to wonder why puppies even experience temper tantrums at all. Much like how human children will feel overwhelmed, overstimulated, or just be frustrated with a situation, puppies can do the exact same thing.

What Causes a Puppy Temper Tantrum?

In all likelihood, you have noticed that your puppy’s tantrums occur after trying to get them to do something that they are not currently in the mood for. This is certainly an annoyance, but it does not mean that you and your dog cannot still go about your day exactly as planned.

Some other reasons that your puppy might feel especially frustrated include that they are overly tired, they are overstimulated, or they have previously learned that tantrums get them what they want. We will discuss all of these possibilities in more depth a bit later in this article.

What Are the Signs of a Puppy Tantrum?

In some cases, it might be completely crystal clear to a pet parent that their puppy is currently experiencing and throwing a temper tantrum. That being said, if you have never seen one before, you might be a bit confused at first regarding what you are seeing. Here are some of the most common signs that can help you identify when a puppy is throwing a tantrum.

Refusal To Listen

If your usually obedient and eager to please puppy is suddenly not listening to a word you say, it does not mean something is wrong with them. Well, other than the fact that they are in the midst of a tantrum. This is often one of the first indications that a dog is getting overstimulated and frustrated, but you might still be able to avoid a full meltdown at this stage.

Barking or Growling

A clearly identifiable sign of a puppy temper tantrum is when they begin to bark and growl. They do this to express some kind of displeasure over what they are currently experiencing. This behavior might strike you as especially strange considering that there is likely nothing in particular that you think they should be barking and growling at.

Nipping or Biting

When your dog is especially frustrated, they might show those unpleasant emotions by nipping or biting you and their surroundings. If this is an issue for your puppy, it is possible that this will go beyond just a nip, will actually become uncomfortable or destructive, and you may feel that you might need additional help. In that case, do not hesitate to reach out to a trained professional who regularly deals with this kind of misbehavior in dogs.

How Can You Stop a Puppy Temper Tantrum as It Is Happening?

The moment that you recognize the classic signs of a puppy temper tantrum, your immediate reaction is undoubtedly going to be to try and stop it. However, many people are surprised to find out that some of your first instincts might actually be harmful rather than helpful.

It is important to do your research on how to react to a puppy tantrum ahead of time before they happen. This way, you can be completely prepared to deal with them appropriately rather than acting in a way that could make them worse going forward.

Let Your Puppy Cry It Out

This tip can be difficult to achieve for a number of reasons, but it is very important that you sometimes let the tantrum simply run its course. If you do not let your dog cry it out and instead try to cater to their needs in one way or another, you are showing them that this behavior gets them exactly what they want. If they interpret the situation that way, they will continue to throw temper tantrums often and freely in the future, because they know it works.

It is never fun to see your puppy upset, even if you know full well that this overreaction is in no way justified. Although it is tempting to attempt to soothe your puppy in these times of stress, it is best to let them learn self-soothing mechanisms. Not only will this show them that throwing a tantrum gets them absolutely nowhere, but they will be much better at regulating their emotions in the future.

If you are at the park or in another public place and your puppy starts to have a tantrum, this can be somewhat embarrassing. However, any other current or former puppy parents will know full well that this is just an unfortunate part of the process. It does not reflect poorly on the pet parent or the pet, this is just how puppies sometimes express their frustrations.

Do Not Adjust Your Behavior

While it might be tempting to change what you were doing and adjust your behavior, it is crucial that you do not do so. In most cases of a puppy temper tantrum, you were simply doing something or asking your dog to do something that they do not like. This could be going on a leash, going inside, or any number of other triggers. If this is something that your dog needs to do, they cannot learn that a tantrum will sufficiently stop it from happening.

In this situation, make sure to remain completely calm, no matter how frustrated you may be. Even if you possibly feel like throwing a bit of a temper tantrum yourself, it is crucial that you resist that urge. Even when your dog is overwhelmed, they can still mimic and mirror your behavior.

If they see and perceive you as being cool, calm, and collected, they are much more likely to do the same thing. Similarly, if they see you clearly uncomfortable or panicking, they will quite possibly do the same.

Hold Them Steady

It is possible that your puppy was experiencing a tantrum as a result of you holding them in the first place. However, this can still be a calming and distracting tactic to take while they are in the midst of an episode. Be sure to hold them firmly, but never harshly. They should be unable to move or wiggle too much, and certainly unable to escape your hold. However, this handling should never be painful or uncomfortable for your dog.

After you have your puppy in an appropriate hold, it might take them a little while still to settle down. Let them whine and cry it out as you keep holding them. In a few seconds to a few minutes, they should reach a much more tranquil state.

Give Your Puppy a Familiar Command To Distract Them

When your puppy is deep in the throes of a temper tantrum, it is likely that they are so overwhelmed with feeling and stimulation that they are not thinking particularly rationally. Well, as much as a puppy will ever think rationally, that is. In order to snap them out of this spiral, giving them a well-known command is an excellent way to help them to focus.

If your puppy knows the command “sit,” “lay down,” or “settle,” any of these would help immensely in getting your dog to calm down. Simply clearly state the command and use any accompanying hand movements that your puppy has learned to go along with it.

Once your dog registers this cue even through the fog of a tantrum currently in progress, they should still listen and perform the action. Once they have done what you asked, they will be in a clearer frame of mind, and more able to process incoming stimuli.

How Can You Prevent Puppy Temper Tantrums?

As far as preventing puppy temper tantrums goes, it is possible to do to an extent. While it is never possible to eliminate the possibility of a tantrum occurring, there are some steps you can take to make this possibility much less likely. By following these tips, you will have to use the suggestions to stop a puppy tantrum much less often.

Do Not Indulge Their Previous Tantrums

As we mentioned previously, sometimes you just need to let your puppy cry it out. This is not an enjoyable process for either you or your puppy, but this teaches them that this behavior does not accomplish what they want. Once they learn this tough lesson, their incentive to act out in this way in the future will be greatly diminished. Eventually, once they learn better emotional regulation skills, they will likely stop having these kinds of episodes entirely.

Make Sure That They Get Enough Sleep

Similar to tantrums thrown by human children, being tired is a common cause of frustration in puppies. This reason might seem overly simple, but it is true. If your dog is feeling especially tired, they are going to be much more prone to bouts of frustration and being overwhelmed. The remedy for this particular issue is a fairly easy one: make sure that your dog is getting enough high-quality rest.

Puppies often need between 18 and 20 hours of sleep per day, so they will need to be left undisturbed for prolonged periods of time. Resist the urge to cuddle, play with them, or generally bother them as they are sleeping. They are using that time to fuel their growth, which is a constant during puppyhood. Do not worry, there will absolutely be plenty of moments of boundless puppy energy soon after they wake up on their own.

If your dog is having trouble getting this amount of sleep, or cannot find an area of the house that is quiet or where they feel comfortable enough to get some rest, you have options. It might be time to look into getting your puppy a cozy crate for them to call their own.

You can make this space wonderfully comfortable for them by including a memory foam mattress pad where they can rest their weary head after a long day of playing. If that was not already enough to get your dog ready for bed, try tossing in some soft blankets and their favorite toys as well.

As long as you understand your puppy’s sleeping needs and give them the proper tools to be able to fulfill them, your puppy should be able to get exactly as much rest as they need. If you do not think your puppy is getting enough sleep, then it might be time to call their veterinarian.

Do Not Put Them in Unnecessary Over Stimulating Situations

Many of the situations in which a puppy is experiencing a temper tantrum are necessary for you and them to go about the day. Some dogs have difficulty with leashes at first that could prompt a tantrum, or perhaps they do not like being held. This does not mean that their walk will suddenly stop, or you will no longer need to carry them from point A to point B.

In those scenarios, it is best to let your dog just experience what they are feeling and eventually calm down. However, if you realize that your dog is regularly triggered into a tantrum in situations that they do not need to be in, it might be best to avoid those in the future.

Make Sure That You Keep Calm

As we referenced earlier, it is incredibly important that you keep calm around your dog whenever possible. In many ways, your puppy will determine how they should be acting based on your demeanor. If they regularly see you acting calmly, it is much more likely that they will do the same. In fact, it has even been found that dogs are capable of recognizing six different emotions just from a human’s facial expressions.

All of this is to say that dogs are capable of picking up on so much more than we regularly realize. Rather than just acting calm, try your best to truly be calm.

Keep Calm and Puppy On

There are so many reasons that we all love our puppies. They are beyond adorable, their boundless energy is enviable, and they bring so much joy into our lives. While all of that is absolutely true, there are also some situations in which raising a puppy can be a bit less than perfect, to say the least. Yes, bathroom accidents are unpleasant to deal with, but puppy temper tantrums reign supreme when it comes to frustrations caused by our dogs.

Sources:

How To Teach Your Dog Emotional Self-Control | American Kennel Club

How Much Sleep Do Puppies Need? Here's How to Make Sure | American Kennel Club

Yes, Dogs Can ‘Catch’ Their Owners’ Emotions | National Geographic

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