Should you allow dogs to tell your puppy off?

Popular but often damaging advice

Let them get on with it? He’ll soon learn! It’s ok he needs to know he can’t do that!

Sound familiar? Most advice you get told about in regards to puppy interactions is simply allowing them to get on with it. This advice however can be incredibly detrimental longer term. When puppies are beginning to learn about what is and isn’t appropriate we need to be on hand to help guide them when needed. While it is perfectly ok for an older, skilled dog to help our puppies learn what is and is not acceptable, we need to know when to step in for the benefit of both parties. We should not be allowing older dogs to repeatedly tell our puppies off and we should not be setting our puppies up to fail.

We should be:

  1. Picking our puppies play friends well
  2. Stepping in when we need to

Remember that time when you were trying to learn a new skill? I bet you had someone with you patiently guiding you through, letting you know openly when you made a mistake, but helped you fix it so that you could do it better next time? Now imagine if that person just kept yelling at you over and over that every move you made was wrong. Bet that wouldn’t make you feel so good? I bet that would put you off continuing to learn wouldn’t it? Interactions are a skill our puppies need to learn and having good teachers will always be beneficial; having bad teachers will only cause more problems.

Picking our puppies play friends allows us to select older dogs that are, at a minimum, tolerant of puppies. Dogs that can help our puppies learn what is appropriate and calmly let them know ‘thats not it mate’ when they get it wrong, are hugely beneficial. Allowing our puppies to repeatedly play with dogs that dislike puppies, have no tolerance of puppies or are likely to shout excessively at our puppy when they step out of turn is a bad idea. Interactions with these dogs are only likely to knock our puppies confidence and give them a complex around other dogs.

Stepping in when things aren’t going so well will allow your puppy to not practice the unwanted behaviour. It also prevents other dogs having to tell your puppy off which is exhausting, stressful and not fair on them either. It wasn’t their choice to get a puppy, don’t make it their responsibility to raise them.

All in all there is a big difference between ‘watch what you’re doing their kid’ and ‘GET GONE NOW’. Allowing puppies to have conversations with dogs about what is and isn’t appropriate will always be what I recommend but as an owner we need to not allow it to go too far that it sets them up for future failure and puts other dogs under unnecessary stress.