Pawsibilities NY

Puppies & New Dogs

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To Socialize, or Not to Socialize: This Is the Question

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks… Well not exactly, you can certainly teach an older dog a new “trick,” but you won’t likely be able to teach him to accept something he did not experience in the first 16 weeks of his life; this is your puppy’s crucial socialization period.

“…But my vet told me not to take my puppy outside…” If your vet tells you that your pup cannot leave your home until he has finished his vaccinations, then please ask questions, do not just accept this at face value. The questions you should consider asking include:

Can my puppy go outside if I carry him?

Your vet should be fine with this. Your puppy can, and should meet as many different  people as possible in his first 16 weeks of life. Carrying him around your neighborhood will help with this. Also your pup cannot catch anything from people, so if he is a breed that as a puppy will stay small enough to carry easily, this will be a great way to meet people. I find it is best to carry your pup around and look for people who notice him. Any time a person even gives me an “aww, cute puppy!” I ask if they would like to pet him. Try to find different looking people, in hats, or sunglasses, and of different races, sizes and genders. These positive experiences with people who all look different will create an adult dog who is friendly towards people of all shapes and sizes.

Can my dog play with other dogs?

To Socialize, or Not to Socialize: This Is the QuestionThis is where we have to be most careful. If you do not know the dog and owner very well, I wouldn’t risk it! It is much safer to find puppy play groups where your pup can play with other pups his age. If you choose to completely avoid dog-dog interactions until your pup has completed his shots, this can be fine, but it should be your main focus to find play groups, or make play dates for your pup right after his last shots. This is another reason to be sure you have tackled all other forms of socialization before this point. It is also important to remember that even if you have another dog, this does not count as dog-dog socialization. Give your pup a chance to understand more dogs by meeting as many possible; if you only knew your siblings you might not understand different kinds of people; the same is true for your dog.

If you live in a city I find it best to bring your puppy to a noisy street corner, and just sit; a bus stop can be a great place for this. If your pup gets scared, and you are not, you can comfort your dog and let him know that the noises won’t hurt him. He can accept this much more quickly and easily during his crucial socialization period. This is the time to expose him to anything and everything he may need to tolerate during his lifetime. Some common things include; car rides, different people, babies, children, different homes, other animals in the house, and even plane rides. If you can fit in the time to  practice these things with your pup early on, you will find these situations much easier when he is an adult dog. Socialization is crucial for your dog, and it can be done safely and still be effective, so don’t be so quick to just take your veterinarians advice without asking more about this very important time in your puppy’s life.

If I haven’t convinced you, then I strongly encourage you to speak to your friends with dogs. Ask them what they did, and how it has affected their pup’s behavior, training, and life. Try to find at least one friend who listened to the vet, and kept his pup locked away for four months, and try to find someone who did safe socialization. It can also be helpful to try to find people with the same or similar breeds as your pup.

As time passes and more studies are done about dogs, we as people should continue to evolve our opinions based on this research. If your vet simply cannot accept that dogs have a crucial socialization period, which on average is the first sixteen weeks of their life, then I would consider finding a vet who can accept this and reflects our current understanding of dogs. This may sound harsh, but unsocialized dogs take a lifetime of training and conditioning to catch up to the socialized puppies, it can be done safely and effectively without risking your puppies health, and it should be!!

By in Puppies & New Dogs 0

The Keys to House Training Success

House training, or lack of, causes more dogs to be re-homed every year than any other behavioral issue. No one wants to live with an animal eliminating all over the house, no mater how much you love your pet! If your dog is healthy, and has seen a veterinarian, who has told you there is no medical reason, then there is nothing stopping you from having a house trained pet! If you ever think that your dog simply cannot learn something, remind yourself that dogs are taught to lead around blind people. There is little they can’t be taught, but it will require our time, patients and consistency.

Can my dog use pads indoors and also go out for walks?

It is my experience that this is confusing for dogs! It is best to pick one, and keep this message very clear. Either your dog is allowed to eliminate outside, or he uses pads inside, but not both as this is too much of a mixed message. Also if you have a second home your dog will need to be house trained for this home as well! Even if your dog has shown you he is completely house trained in your apartment, do not take this to mean he will be house trained in your country house. The first time you bring your dog to new places it is best to be sure he has eliminated before he goes inside, and it is a good idea to monitor him and his behavior in this new environment, in a similar fashion to when you first began house training.

5 Rules of House Training

1. Supervised or Confined: your dog is either in you direct supervision, in her crate, or in an appropriate potty spot (outside or pad).

2. Learn your dog’s Schedule: Take her to the right spot as often as necessary. Keep a log to learn your dog’s habits, and when you can predict her potty time bring her outside, or to her pad.

3. Reward her every time she gets right! When your dog eliminates in the right place, give her lots of praise, and three small treats in a row. Make this reward bigger than any other!

4. Don’t scold accidents you didn’t see: If you catch your dog eliminating in the wrong place, then quickly get her to the right place. We don’t ever want to scold accidents we didn’t catch because next time your dog may try to get rid of the evidence by eating her poop, or even worse becoming too afraid to eliminate in front of you!

5. Clean up all accidents well: Do your best to not clean up in front of your dog, she may try to imitate you, and this can also lead to coprophagia.

We consider habits to be changed once a dog has gone 30 straight days without having any accidents, so you should not consider your dog house trained until you have had at least 30 accident free days! I also encourage owners not to fade the food rewards for house training… ever! Certainly make them more sporadic so that your dog isn’t expecting a treat every single time he eliminates, but every once in a while he does get rewarded for getting it right. This will keep your house training in tact, as your dog will never know when the sporadic reward is coming, so he will try to keep up the behavior! Rainy, cold or snowy days are great days to add a reward.

If you are considering sending your dog to a house training boot camp, please be aware that this will not definitely solve your problems as your dog may learn not to go to the bathroom in the house where he is doing his boot camp, but not in yours! House training is the one thing that you have to be committed to with your dog, trainers and dog walkers can offer support and help, but as a dog owner it is really up to you at the end of the day to be sure your dog learns the proper potty habits. Take the time to do it right so that your dog never finds himself homeless over such a simple thing!