Puppy mischief


New Member
Hi. I am hoping someone may have some ideas to help me retain my sanity!!

We have a wonderful, completely mischievious and I think, very intelligent headstrong 3 month old puppy. When we bought him home, we didn't know "dog rules" too well and have inadvertantly taught him a few bad habits which are now proving difficult to break. He gets about an hours off leash walk/run per day and is getting enough sleep most days. (he is particularly nippy when he has not had enough sleep). I work from home so he is not lonely! On the whole, he is a good puppy but as many puppies do at this age so I am told, has about an hour a day (usually after meals) where he is just a ball of mischief!!

1) Nipping ankles. he does this if he is not getting enough attention and stopping dead in our tracks and yelping loudly has helped but he still does it fairly often and it REALLY hurts. Any other ideas?

2) Thieving. He knows what he is and isnt allowed but any chance he can get he jumps up (on the couch, table, washing basket, bedside tables, bath!!) and "steals" what ever he can find and then hightails it away - the more sure he is that it is an "illegal" action, the faster he runs!!!

He does have loads of toys which are limited to about 3 at a time and rotated regularly - he seems to need new and interesting toys to keep his attention otherwise he gets bored with them and finds something new himself!! so....

3) Toys. Any ideas for interesting homemade toys (so I dont go broke) to keep his mind off working out new and clever ways to steal socks?

I look forward to hearing any ideas. Thanks:dognowink:


Experienced Member
Hi Fletcher.

The first bit of good news is that at twelve weeks, there are no bad habits that cannot be nipped in the bud from now on, if you are really committed to doing so. I'll try to give you my take on each one, as an owner of a now eighteen week old puppy:

1. Nipping Ankles
You don't mention the breed. Some breeds are particularly prone to this habit. My own breed, Border Collie can be prone to it, particularly against children, as can other breeds, such as Blue Heelers.

There is never going to be a better time than now to start correcting this. For every week you leave it to continue, the dog gets better at it through practise. I see two possible ways of tackling this. The first is related to the fact you mentioned that the dog does it when it isn't getting enough attention. When the dog does it, use that time to train new tricks, so that the dog is getting attention and his mind isn't focused on this habit. This would be my preferred method.

However, failing that, and given the potential long-term seriousness of the habit, you might want to try encouraging the behaviour at set times, so that whenever the pup goes for your ankles, you can issue a "leave" command and then immediately squirt it in the face with water. Because the puppy is so young, this should work quite quickly.

Whichever method you choose, be consistent so as to make the rules very clear for the puppy.

2. Thieving
You say that the puppy knows what he can and can't have. I would say, reading your post, that he doesn't. It would be incredibly rare indeed for a puppy so young to testing limits, and so, we must assume that it just doesn't get the rules yet. Failing that, it may be associated to the previous issue, and the puppy is bored. A bored puppy is like a tornado running through a house.

You say that the dog isn't lonely as you work from home. I am in a very similar situation to you. I work from home too, but since getting the puppy, I've had to lessen my time at the computer, to ensure that the pup is getting enough attention. At eighteen weeks, my puppy is now out with me in the local park, for about two hours a day, running around with me, chasing Frisbee, and catching balls. She will also go through about four ten minute training sessions at home too. After each training session, she will get to play "tuggy" with a tug toy. You can be at home all day, but if you are not taking time to interact with the puppy, you might as well be out of the house.

Sometimes it seems like your entire day is taken up by interacting with the puppy, but I promise you, the rewards soon come around. You just have to burn off that excess energy which pups are famous for having.

So, I would certainly look at increasing the quality time spent with puppy. I would then begin a systematic and consistent routine of taking anything from the puppy that doesn't belong to him, and replacing it with one of its own toys. Do NOT chase the dog around the house when it runs off with something that it shouldn't have. A puppy will very quickly make a game out of that and learn to enjoy it.

Also, try to minimise the number of things left lying around. I know it's not always that easy, but nobody ever said that puppies were easy. It will get better very quickly, I promise. You just have to get through this difficult period. But for each week that passes, the puppy gets more stable -- presuming good training is taking place.

3. Toys
I'm a big fan of KONG toys. They are a little expensive but they last forever and are so flexible. I use the Kong Chew toys, and the rubber Frisbee. For home made toys, I have used pieces of dowelling wood before which act as chew toys, and is incredibly cheap. Old towels can be used as tug toys. Old socks rolled up in tape of some type make for cheap balls too!

P.S. Remember, as well as looking our for the bad, reward the good. I would routinely treat my puppy just for laying down in her bed. Now, she absolutely loves laying in it throughout the day. As the old saying goes: reward the good, ignore the bad. For the most part, it really does work.

Good luck with the puppy, and be assured that it does get easier as the weeks pass.


New Member
Wow. Thanks so much Collieman for all of your suggestions. I most definately am willing to put in the time - he really is a great little guy and deserves it.

Nipping: In answer to your question, he is a schnauzer poodle cross.
I will follow your advice on that and turn the nip into a training session. He is particularly bad at this when I am on the phone so I might also invest in the water pistol and use that so that it gives a consistent message when I cant stop immediately to train him.

Thieving: We have tried to keep as much away from him as possible but being a curious wee guy, he finds anything that has been overlooked! He does usually respond to the "leave" command - just seems to ignore it at certain times of the day - at these times he is particularly determined. Again, as you suggested above I might stop and try training him or taking him out at these times and see how we go.

Toys: We had a kong but it has dissappeared! I wonder if he has buried it (he does not normally dig so a bit puzzled) anyway I will go out and get another. I had been avoiding giving him socks as they are his favorite thing to "steal" and I didnt want to encourage it but several people have now suggested it so I just found an old one for him and stuffed it with a plastic bag (another favorite thing to steal if he can - I think he loves the noise) and he hasnt stopped playing with it for the last 10 minutes!!

Thanks again for all of your help


Jean Cote

Staff member
Hi Fletcher!

I'm glad you are looking for a high quality life for both you and your dog, and since he is still a puppy, this is the best time to correct his behavior.

First of alll; the nipping. Before you can correct this behavior, you must talk to all the members of your family and decide that nipping is no longer an acceptable behavior. If your dog is able to nip at you and there are no consequences, then he will never learn to stop this.

Anytime you want to correct a behavior, you will have to pinpoint it. Just like the sound of a clicker pinpoints the desired behavior, a sharp "ARGG!" sound with your voice can be used to pinpoint the unwanted behavior. Then, you will want to give either a correction, or remove something pleasureable (such as toys, freedom, etc).

It is the exact same thing as training dog tricks, except you are using your voice to pinpoint the unwanted behavior, and instead of treats you are giving something you dog does not like! He will eventually associate the behavior with the negative reinforcer.

One thing which worries me about your post, is that your dog is allowed to get away from you, especially after nipping or stealing something. And if you chase him, it becomes a game and actually reinforces him for doing it. So he will do it more often!!

There are a few solutions which I will list. I hope you follow them all, which is what I do.
  1. Always keep your dog in the same room as you.
    You are the provider of food, water, toys and FREEDOM! When you are happy with the way your dog is behaving, then you can let him explore a little bit more, slowly. If he has all the freedom in the world, then he can go and chew on your couch, socks, dig in your backyard and you'll never notice until it's too late. The pupose of keeping him in the same room as you is to catch him in the act.
  2. Keep a long line on him.
    Keeping a 6 foot nylon line on him may be your best training tool. Anytime he tries to run away from you, you can step on the line and give him his correction. (Of course you still have to pinpoint the unwanted behavior with your voice first.) Keep in mind that unles you are supervising him, always remove his line since he could get caught and choke himself.
  3. Create situations where your dog can screw up!
    Yes that's right! Bring out 2 - 3 pairs of socks and leave them in the middle of your living room, then on the other side place his toys. Wait for him to start playing with your socks and give him a correction! Wait for him to play with his toys and give him some treats! It won't take a lot of time until he clues in. You can do this anywhere, especially with food. Leave a plate full of food on a chair and wait, if he ignores it give him some treats, if not give him a correction. Eventually you can do this with mirrors so your dog thinks you are not watching but you are through the mirror! :)
Anyhow, this is all I can think of right now. I'm sure I will think of more later on, but maybe this will guide you in the right direction!


New Member
Hi Jean

Thanks for your reply. The behaviour is actually starting to get better already. I ensured he stays in the same room and have stopped trying to grab him when he runs away. There are not many stolen objects under stricter supervision and if he does find something then I have been exchanging it with a toy and this is slowing down the running away game. He is getting good at leaving "the mischief" and is getting lots of praise for doing so.

As for the nipping - longer walks seem to be helping along with an increase in the number of training sessions per day!! We will keep persisting with the advise given and see if we can knock it on the head "so to speak".

Thanks again:dogrolleyes:


New Member
Thanks Collieman. Yes they are getting better most of the time. We seem to have cut back on the nipping for the time being (halalula) but have traded it for incessently jumping on the couch (just learned to jump up) and every time I catch him jumping I make a loud noise and he was jumping off but now the loud noise is being ignored and he just carries on sniffing around until i chase him off! I have been telling him good boy everytime he looks up and decides not to jump up but he is still jumping up MANY times in a day - he is always in the same room as me and I am spending alot of time training him, walking him and playing (My work is suffering!!). Any suggestions anyone?


Experienced Member
I used the following method. It requires that you keep a light-line attached to the dog while you are at home to supervise it. A light line is like a leash, but lighter, usually thinner, and longer.

When the dog jumps on the couch:

- Say nothing yet. Don't even look at puppy.
- Grab the empty end of the light-line.
- Throw the best lure (reward) you can to the floor, making sure the dog sees you do it.
- Pull the dog via the line and say "Off". Say nothing more and nothing less. The pull should be one short tug, not a tug-o-war. It should already be chasing the lure anyway...

The reason you use a line is because you don't want to have the dog associate you approaching it with something that it doesn't particularly like. (Being made to leave the comfy sofa.) This way, you are distanced from the dog.

Repeat this each and every time the dog jumps on the couch. (Keep rewards on you at all times. I wear combat style trousers with deep pockets!)

If you are on the couch and the dog jumps up...

- Without eye contact, say "Off", and push it back down, safely but firmly. Again, say nothing else! It may well try to repeat a few times. Keep on doing exactly the same thing. It may even then pretend it gets it, but give you the sad puppy eyes. Ignore them! If you can't ignore them, then go on the floor and play with puppy. Just don't give in and let it on the couch. Once puppy "gets it", reward it, in a low-key manner. If you get too excited, chances are he will want to jump on you again.

Some people really struggle with the above but not doing it can create havoc in the long-term. I love having my dog on the sofa with me, I really do. In fact, I'd be lost without it. But, it's on invite only. That way, I know I can have guests around and not have to worry about them being assaulted on the couch.

When I started, I taught "hup" and effectively reversed the above procedure (throwing the lure onto the couch) just so that I could get the dog on the couch, to get it off again, with an "off". Again, that is because I don't mind the dog on the couch on invite. If you feel differently, then don't teach the "hup" for the couch.

I used this exact same method for the dog jumping on the bed too.

In my experience, with this exercise, it's always the human who falls first, not the dog. The human caves into the puppy-dog-eyes, or he doesn't carry the rewards with him so isn't fluid enough in reacting, or doesn't keep the line attached, or sometimes wants the dog on the couch, but then sometimes doesn't.

I have never known the above routine not to work, sometimes immediately, but usually within three to four days.

When you issue the "off" command, issue it in a normal volume, but issue it firmly. Shouting commands at a dog results in a dog that waits to be shouted at before it complies.

Jean Cote

Staff member
Hi CollieMan!

That's a pretty neat exercise, you are basically just creating the behavior and reinforcing it! :) (Like all of my lessons hehehe) ... Dog training is so easy once you understand that concept.


Experienced Member
Yeah, pretty much it. And to really make my day, Ellie has just completed her first two minute stay at a distance of 15 paces in the park. This is a required exercise for her Bronze Good Citizen Award that we're working towards. Before today, she's had a habit of sitting there, and then laying down. I've had to go back and put her in the sit position and start over. But not today!


New Member
Well. I need to have my hand slapped. I still havn't got a line for the couch issue and we are still jumping up and down like a yoyo!! I will go down to get one over the weekend. I will let you know how I get on when I get onto it.


Experienced Member
fletcher;542 said:
Well. I need to have my hand slapped. I still havn't got a line for the couch issue and we are still jumping up and down like a yoyo!! I will go down to get one over the weekend. I will let you know how I get on when I get onto it.
Consider your hand slapped. :)