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Puppy Not Always
a Welcome Gift

My boyfriend gave me a 3-month-old puppy as a birthday present. I am frustrated because she nips me all the time and is not potty-trained. I am at my wit’s end and don’t know what to do.

I strongly advise against giving a pet as a gift unless the recipient has taken part in the selection. That way, they can determine if a dog is the right match for them, if they have time for a pet or even want the responsibility.

Nipping or mouthing is a common puppy behavior. Puppies may bite during play, to taste or test an object or get attention. Puppies learn bite inhibition through play with other dogs. You can do what their litter mates would do—say “Ouch!” in a high-pitched tone and walk away. You can also supply a variety of appropriate chew toys.

Your puppy may nip due to teething. I would recommend providing hard rubber chew toys such as a Kong that you can fill with canned dog food, peanut butter, spray cheese, or other treats, and freeze. That can also be soothing to the gums.

Once your pup has all her 12-week-old puppy shots and clearance from your vet, I recommend an obedience training class, as well as a play group. This is a great way to learn bite inhibition and other necessary social skills, through exposure to people and other dogs.

Here are a few tips for potty-training a pup:


• Keep a consistent feeding and potty schedule. Take the pup outside every hour when she’s not in her crate, then watch to make sure she “goes.” Otherwise, she should not be given free run of the house.

• To help prevent nighttime accidents, you may have to set the alarm and take her outside until she’s 6 months old or so.

• Take the dog out immediately after waking, drinking, eating, playing, or actively sniffing, and keep watch for signs of searching for a place to eliminate indoors.

• Always praise immediately after she does her business in the correct area.


• Don’t punish for accidents. She may refuse to eliminate when you take her out,then sneak off to “go” in another room, out of sight.


• Clean accidents with an odor-neutralizing product rather than regular cleaning products. Otherwise you increase the chance that the dog will be drawn back to that area.

Puppies are fun and cute, but they also require a lot of time and patience. Spend time socializing your pup so she is not afraid of sights, sounds, people, or other animals.A pup also needs structure and training to learn how to be a well-mannered dog. By investing time and energy up front, you will develop a strong bond with a loving, fun companion that lasts for years.

Angela Buckley is a certified dog trainer and vet assistant who owns Positive Rewards dog training and pet services. She also volunteers with rescue groups, preparing dogs for adoption. Reach her at 697-1469 or visit