Pass the Puppy
Today, Jeff from Cornerstone Pets presents a very informative article about what to do when you bring a new puppy into your life. He provides helpful tips, and addresses some myths that are associated with our furry friends.
Pass the Puppy
It is that time of year when you see many new puppies combing the streets of Hoboken. You may have purchased a puppy from a breeder or pet store (both of which I do not recommend) or adopted your puppy from a shelter or rescue group. Either way, you now have a new little one in your life that will be with you on average for 11-years or more.
I am writing this article in the hopes of shedding some light on the need for puppy socialization. While there are many stages in a dog’s life, the 12-16 week period is one of the most important stages of which you will ever be a part. It is during this period when a puppy is removed from his pack and placed in a home where you become responsible for ensuring that the learning process continues. How do you make sure that you raise a dog that will be deemed “socially acceptable” especially in an urban environment where new experiences present themselves every day? Look around and you will see dogs that are scared, out of control, don’t get along with other dogs or don’t like people.
Chances are that somewhere in the early months of the young pup’s life he learned, possibly from the owner or possibly from his mother, that there is a need to be afraid — or not. Yes, genetics play a role in a dog’s behavior but without getting into genetically problematic dogs let’s stick to what you can do to make sure that your dog is not held to a narrow, limited environment in which he feels comfortable.
Read the rest of Jeff’s article after the Jump.
(Pass the Puppy, continued…)
The Preemptive Strike
In real estate they say, “Location, location, location.” Translate that to the world of puppy training and we could say, “Socialize, socialize, socialize.” You need to socialize your new puppy like this may be the only chance you ever have because chances are, it will be.
It is very difficult to change a dog’s mind once it has decided that cars are scary, it should hide from loud noises, big dogs are mean, wheel chairs are mechanical monsters and people with hats on are evil. Now is the time for socialization to happen. You cannot take an 8-12 week old puppy, protect it from everything you feel is dangerous, keep it in the house or the basement or a crate and then expect to have a well socialized pup with an “I love life.” attitude once it has to face the unseen world. If you have adopted an older dog with socialization problems, don’t get me wrong, there is hope. Going back to school however, can be a real bitch. (I can say that.) It took me well over a year, and it’s never over, to socialize my rescued female who has a very narrow view of life. She visibly shook most of the time. At 7-years-old, she is about 80%, but I know that she will never be perfect. I will always need to be cautious around running or screaming children, or people who stand still like statues. Her fear of loud noises will not likely subside.
Other than that, she’s perfect, of course.
But my Vet Said….
This is where it gets controversial and you will have to make an informed decision about socializing your pup. Many veterinarians and breeders will caution a new dog owner to keep their dog “protected” from unforeseen illness by keeping them inside or away from other canines until they are fully vaccinated at 16-weeks. Some will even tell you to wait until 6-months. There are owners and professionals on all points of the spectrum. Educating yourself regarding immunity and vaccinations is an important part of caring for your dog.
With maternal immunity protecting your dog for the first 6-weeks and then an initial set of vaccinations, most professionals are beginning to understand that the importance of socializing a puppy far outweighs the risk of infection that may or may not occur. Puppies are pretty resilient and even if they do get sick, they will likely get over it. If, however, they are not given the proper chance to socialize during that critical period, they may never get over it. You are not going to put your puppy in situations where they are at risk to harm and disease, like unleashed dog parks, until they have a full set of shots. Even then, you must be aware of the risks and what will stamp a positive experience on a dog’s life. Plopping your puppy down in a dog park with a bunch of overzealous, under-exercised dogs may not be the life altering experience you want to experience at this time. Understand the risks.
Dr. Ian Dunbar, a world renowned behaviorist said it best when he said, “It does no good for vets to tell people not to socialize their puppies before they are fully vaccinated if those same puppies end up dead because they can’t get along with other dogs or people. Lack of socialization kills more dogs than any disease.”
Now that’s something to think about.
100 Exposures in 100 Days
I didn’t make that up, but it’s a common statement by dog behaviorists. Positive experiences while the window of opportunity is open will set the stage for a well-socialized puppy for life. Notice, I said, “Positive experiences.” Making sure that your puppy is happy and the experiences are somewhat controlled with lots of positive reinforcement and tasty treats is the way to go. Make it fun. Make it a game. What are we going to introduce puppy to today? He needs to be introduced in a controlled manner, to big dogs, little dogs, and kids who climb on rocks. (Is that a song?) Anyway, you get the point.
Overzealous children who pull the puppy’s tail or drunken partiers who want to pick up your pup and throw them up and down in the air may not be the most positive experience you can provide. Taking your puppy out for St. Patrick’s Day or to one of the art festivals in town may be too much if you can’t control the experience and make it positive. You do, however, need to look for opportunities to provide as many positive experiences as possible. They need to experience all kinds of people and pets if they are going to garnish the “I don’t have to be afraid” factor. Take your dog with you whenever possible. Up stairs, down stairs, in and out of doors, on elevators, in cars and everywhere a new possibility for exposure exists.
And please, let your puppy walk. You can coddle them into fear mode if you are too cautions about letting them walk. Just walking with your dog down Washington Street will provide a plethora of new experiences. Spare the socialization, spoil the pup
I hope I have offered you some insight into puppy socialization. I will be glad to answer questions on Hobboken411 and will log in as Cornerstone. My name is Jeff Laylon and you can come in anytime and speak to me or one of my staff at Cornerstone Pets, 105-9th Street in Hoboken.