January 5, 2011

As soon as you get your pup one of your responsibilities as a new puppy owner (apart from making sure your pup’s health issues are addressed) is to teach him or her about the world.  Your pup is at an age where he habituates to different things very easily so before he turns 16 weeks, he must be exposed to as many different people, dogs and environments as possible, so that he can cope with new experiences more easily when he becomes an adult.  Make a list of all the things your pup needs to be exposed to and in the next few weeks, work through the list to see where you are in exposing your pup to a variety of experiences.

The various categories could be:

  • Humans of all ages and appearances – men and women, children, toddlers, babies.
  • Humans wearing hats, or with peculiar gaits.
  • Crowds, bicycles, motorcycles, traffic.
  • Cats and livestock such as cattle and horses (if you live in the countryside).
  • Rides in the car – not only to the vet for vaccinations.
  • Other dogs.

In socialization to any category of person, the single best way to obtain this cushion is through hand-feeding. You cannot overdo socialization.  The payoff is enormous.


Puppies and Toddlers – do they go together?

December 24, 2010
Contrary to popular belief, puppies and toddlers or very young children do not necessarily go together.  Unless specifically socialized to toddlers and very young children, the pup cannot be expected to know how to behave around small children.  And, small children cannot be expected to know how to behave around puppies and dogs.  Puppies have very sharp teeth, and might bite if they feel threatened or are hurt or if they get over-excited.  Small children tend to think of puppies as fluffy toys and don’t understand that these are living things. They think they’re just really cool toys.  They tend to hug too tightly, pull ears and tails and carry or hold puppy inappropriately.
There are things you can do if you have pups and toddlers together to make things go smoothly and without incident.
1.       Never leave young children and puppies alone together – even for a moment.  If you cannot supervise, either put your pup into a crate or into another room.
2.      Do not allow your toddler to hug, kiss, follow or chase the pup, pull ears, fur or tail.  Show your toddler, by example, how to pet your puppy.  If your toddler does get rough, tell him or her firmly “NO NO. That hurts puppy. He’s a BABY DOG.”
3.      Make your pup’s crate or sleeping area off-limits to your toddler. 
4.      Do not allow your toddler to take away a bone or toy.  But make sure you play the Take/Leave game with your pup to show him or her that it’s ok to have things taken away.
5.      Do not allow your toddler to carry your pup.  The only way pup can be held is if your toddler is sitting down on the floor.  Even then, supervise closely to be sure that pup isn’t being squeezed too tightly.
Use food rewards to desensitize the pup to the things a toddler may do. Recognize warning signs from the pup, such as moving away, half moon eye, licking chops when not eating, yawning when not tired, sudden scratching.  If the pup becomes fearful of small children because he has been traumatized this fearfulness may become aggression towards small children later in the dog’s life.  Try to make your pup’s interactions with toddlers as pleasant an experience as you can in the critical period of socialization.

If you are thinking of getting a puppy as a “playmate” for your toddler, please give it a lot of thought. Do not be seduced by sentimental pictures such as these in this article. Toddlers require so much time, and puppies can be almost as demanding as children. And the early stages of a puppy are so important – the time and effort you put into the first two years in training and shaping their behaviour pays off years down the road. It would be a real challenge to train and socialize a puppy at the same time as having a toddler.”

Separation Anxiety

November 10, 2010
Consider this: Your pup has just spent the first 8 weeks of his life in the company of his litter mates and mother. He comes to your home, and because he is so cute you spend an entire week with him before your life returns to normal and you return to your everyday routine, leaving your pup on his own (for the first time in his young life) . Spending time with your pup is a good thing as it strengthens the bond, BUT you can have too much of a good thing and puppies need to understand that being alone is OK.
If puppies are not taught at an early age that being left alone at home is not a bad thing, symptoms such as digging, barking, destructive chewing of things like furniture and other things can appear. The best way to treat separation anxiety is to train the pup from day one so that it never becomes an issue. Once your pup has settled down in his new home, you can start this part of his education by picking up your keys and calmly stepping out the door, closing it behind you. Before your pup even starts stressing, you step back into the room and give him a treat. Continue this, adding more time as you go along, until your pup is being left alone for an hour or two without fussing. He will soon realise that his people are coming back and that he is being calmly rewarded on their return.
Often what happens is that you unthinkingly contribute to the puppies anxiety by making a production of leaving and returning. The very best thing you can do to alleviate your pup’s stress levels when left alone is to simply make leaving and returning a non-event! Owners often reinforce bad behaviors and contribute significantly to their dog’s level of distress without even realizing they are doing it.

One Puppy – or Two…

September 17, 2010

Anyone who has ever acquired a puppy has at some time or another considered getting siblings, or even pups of the same age but from different litters.  One puppy requires a huge commitment in terms of extra expense and time.  Two puppies, apart from the additional expense and time factor, require extra attention over and above normal training and socialization in order to avoid the problems inherent in two puppies of the same age being raised together.

Buying, or acquiring, two pups the same age, whether siblings or not, would seem to be the ideal solution to our busy lifestyles.  They would provide stimulation for one another, and provide companionship.  They could learn from one another – in fact, they could become best friends.  The reality is far from the truth and, unfortunately, irresponsible breeders and some animal rescue organisations encourage this romantic notion.  What actually happens is that their personalities merge, they become more and more withdrawn with the result that they may become fearful of all strange dogs and people, as well as being extremely anxious in any situation where they are separated from each other.  

       As they get older these problems become more severe and, if this is not enough, the pup’s are not particularly interested in their human companions. Why should they be?  They have one another.

      However, if you for whatever reason, acquired two siblings, there are some things you can do to ease the situation.  What you are trying to do in the next couple of months is to establish each pup as an individual with its own personality and with the confidence to be able to do things without the support of the other.  These are the things you need to put in place:   

      • Walk them separately
      • Feed them separately
      • Play with them separately
      • Limit their playtime to a few short sessions a day
      • Train them separately
      • Separate their sleeping areas.

      If you feel this is all too much for you, find a trainer with some experience with this “Littermate Syndrome” to help you.

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