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I got a new puppy and am constantly being told not to let him do things he likes to do, like tussle with other puppies, play tug-of-war, eat treats, and jump on the furniture. Is this true? I don’t want him to get hurt, but he needs to enjoy life!

Puppies roughhoused long before they became domesticated. Certainly, puppies can be hurt by some of the activities you mentioned, so let’s take a minute and examine each one.

Puppy Play

Puppies love to play. Play behavior helps pups develop coordination and motor skills needed as an adult. That said, owners should supervise their puppy at all times to make sure the play doesn’t get too rough and that games like tug-of-war won’t hurt your puppy’s developing teeth or allow him to swallow pieces of rope or fabric. Also, pups need to learn how to be appropriately rough when playing. This is all part of your dog’s socialization.

Treats for Your Puppy

Too many treats can alter your growing puppy’s appetite for his better-balanced, nutritious meals. You don’t want to spoil him. Puppies quickly learn that by begging, crying, and acting out, they may get their way. Do you really want to raise a spoiled, overweight baby with behavior problems? Treats can be used in moderation as training rewards and should never be high-caloric, human junk food.

bulldog pups playing

Rules for Your Puppy

Finally, as soon as a puppy is brought home, you must decide which furniture or parts of the house are off-limits and be consistent about the rules. Don’t scold a dog one day for being on the couch and then let him up there the next. Also, keep in mind that like human babies, small puppies can hurt themselves leaping from beds to the floor, falling down stairs, or jumping from people’s arms. It is up to you to protect your new puppy by providing a safe environment. Look around your home and yard, and locate obstacles that could harm your pup. Find places where he can get hurt, where he may fall or become trapped, or where he may blunder into substances that can sicken him, for example the garbage, medicine on nightstands, pesticides in gardens, rodenticides, and so on.

Having a new puppy is a lot like parenting. We need to find the line between being overprotective and providing the puppy with a safe environment to let his personality develop. Your veterinarian can be a great partner — through vaccinations, socialization, and obedience training — in helping you develop a well-balanced, terrific companion.

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