Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Do's and Dont's Of Socializing Your Puppy

Gone are the days of leaving your puppy home for the first 6 months of their life for fear of them contracting a disease.   It was common practice to keep puppies isolated at home until well into their adolescence.    Not only would puppies be kept away from people but owners were often advised to keep them away from other dogs too.  YIKES!! it's no wonder we have raised so many fearful and reactive dogs.    We know that lack of proper socialization has a lifetime of negative consequences.

This is the AVSAB Position Statement on Puppies and Socialization with regard to Vaccinations.

Early socialization is important and needs to be done in a way that allows your puppy to experience the world in a safe and comfortable manner.  Here are some Do's and Don'ts when it comes to socialization:

  • Do take your puppy to a group class once they have received 2 of their 4 puppy shots
  • Don't enroll in a class that is overcrowded and poorly supervised
  • Do arrange playtime for your puppy with other puppies and dogs
  • Don't pick poorly socialized dogs or puppies as playmates
  • Do expose your puppy to riding in the car in a crate or seat belt
  • Don't allow your puppy to ride on your lap or unrestrained
  • Do let your puppy meet LOTS of new people of varying ages, sizes, etc
  • Don't force your puppy to be handled by someone they are afraid of
  • Do expose your puppy to new places and environments
  • Don't overload them with multiple trips in one day, keep outings short and sweet
  • Do make visits to your Vets office to be petted and receive treats
  • Don't use a Vet who uses harsh handling methods 
  • Do educate yourself about puppies and dogs
  • Don't believe everything you see on TV
The following Chart explains the Developmental Stages that puppies go through from birth thru 2 years of age.

The socialization process is a marathon not a sprint!  Take your time, enjoy spending time with your puppy, they grow up quickly.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Use It Or Lose It!

There's nothing better than a well trained dog.  Life is so much easier when your four legged friend has great manners, loves people, obeys the 'house rules' and follows all your cues.   The process takes time, but once you've arrived, it's a beautiful thing!  The challenge then is to maintain the training because quite simply, "if you don't use it you'll lose it".  If you don't maintain the skills you've worked so hard to train, they will begin to fade away and be replaced by less desirable behaviors.

It's easy to let your training backslide, busy schedules, work, activities, etc.   It can be hard to keep yourself on track much less fit Fido into your busy schedule. 

How do you know when your training is backsliding?  It's pretty easy to figure out.
  • you find yourself feeling frustrated with your dog
  • your once responsive pooch is paying little, if any, attention to you
  • your dog stops responding to cues they were quick to respond to in the past
  • they become much more vocal or demanding of your attention
  • their house manners have gone out the window, they are replaced with counter surfing, jumping on guests, digging, chewing, stealing
  • your dog thinks his name is NO!
  • you question why you ever got a dog
  • you blame the dog or the training method for the breakdown in behavior
Getting back on track won't be as hard as you think.
  • dust off your clicker and put it to work
  • practice the skills your dog learned in class, it will come flooding back
  • reward/reinforce appropriate behaviors, positive attention is always better than negative attention
  • find time for daily short/fun training sessions
  • remind yourself why you got a dog, to be a friend and companion
The good news is your dog will be ready and willing to spend time with you!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Back To School Blues

For most families it's soon to be 'Back to School' week.  After 3 months of fun and family many dogs are finding themselves home alone.  With all the hustle and bustle of getting our kids back to school we often overlook how this impacts our dogs.  Not only are the kids back to school, but after school activities are also starting which takes up alot of evening and weekend time too.  For months our dogs have enjoyed more walks, more petting, more rides in the car, more of what they enjoy most, YOU!   This is the time of year that I start getting phone calls from frantic pet parents who's dogs are misbehaving.   The offenses include barking, digging, stealing things, destructive behavior, house soiling, etc. 

To help your dog adjust to the new routine, keep a few things in mind:
  • Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise!  We often don't realize the decrease in exercise when our kids return to school.  Your dog may go from having hours of playtime to suddenly laying around all day.  All this pent up energy has to go somewhere.  If you have to leave your dog home alone all day be sure he is getting sufficient exercise in the evenings. 
  • If your dog suffers from separation anxiety consider hiring a dog walker to split  their day and give them some human companionship midday.  To go from having constant companionship to suddenly being left alone for 8-10 hours is very distressing, a mid day break can help ease the pain.
  • Provide your dog with a variety of food dispensing toys, these provide mental stimulation and allow your dog to entertain themselves in your absence. 
  • Schedule play dates with other dogs,  puppies and adult dogs enjoy socialization and play
  • Allow your dog to ride along on the carpool, walk to the bus stop with you, attend the after school soccer game when appropriate. 
If you find yourself in a quandary as to why your typically well behaved dog is suddenly acting like a terrorist they may have a case of 'Back To School Blues".