Dear Lisa: We have a 10-month-old puppy we got seven months ago from the local shelter. He has a lot of energy, and when he runs around the house he knocks things over and jumps on the kids. I keep him out in the garage most of the day now because he is so much bigger and creates havoc when he's in the house. He also started barking a lot more. How can I get him to behave more quietly in the house? --Running Around in Circles
It is clear that this pup has an abundance of energy, as most puppies should have. It appears you have dealt with the situation with an immediate short-term solution by just removing the pup out of the house and into the garage. While short-term solutions work for your instant relief, they only create long-term problems that are even harder to fix.
I see a few things going on here. You are creating a vicious cycle by keeping the puppy in the garage for long periods of time. Dogs are pack animals and need to be with their pack! His human family is now his pack. The reason he may be barking more is that he is beginning to feel a sense of separation from the pack when he is in the garage and everyone else is in the home. The more you separate him from the pack, the more his anxiety will grow about the isolation. He will begin to exhibit even more behavioral problems like chewing on himself, destroying items in the garage or non-stop barking, the longer you continue this practice. He wants more than anything to be with you and to please you!
However, because he is such a high energy pup he is uncontrollable in the house and you wouldn't be able to get his attention even if you wanted to try and alter his behavior. The solution to your problem will be three-fold and involves more exercise for the pup, definitely more training and removing him from the garage.
Remove him from the garage. You can bring him into the house, allowing him to be part of the pack by placing him in a crate. Get an open wire crate so that he can see you. Put the crate in the high traffic area of the house, the kitchen or family room, wherever he will see the pack the most. He will be less likely to bark if he can see you. By keeping him in the crate in the beginning, you will save the house and your kids from further destruction.
Exercise. One excellent way to deal with this overabundance of puppy energy is to expend it! Take the dog on long walks, or several short walks with periods of running and playing. If you have a fenced-in yard, get out there and play ball or toss a Frisbee. Have the kids be part of the in the fun, but do it under adult supervision. Don't let the kids fall on the dog or roughhouse too much. Simply running around with the dog can become a game for him. Make yourself or the kids his favorite toy! The more energy you expend through play and exercise, the less he will expend inside your house. He will also sleep more, especially right after exercise. So if you are planning for guests, get that pup exercised right before their arrival and he will not be as rambunctious.
Training. Now that he is a bit calmer from exercise and he feels he belongs to the pack sitting in his crate, you need to add training to the formula. The mental stimulation of training will also help expend energy. You need to let the dog know what you expect of him. Find an obedience class to attend and teach him the very basics of heel, sit, down, stay and come. Once he has mastered these, you have even more tools in your puppy toolbox to control the havoc that is plaguing your home.
Puppies are a full-time job for the first two years. In the beginning it may be all about housebreaking and chewing, but further development of a socially acceptable dog takes much longer. With a little extra effort (and, yes time) on your part, you can nip his barking problem in the bud and create a happy and welcome addition to your family.
If you have a question, send it to Lisa at AskLisa@AKC.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions she cannot offer individual responses.