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Archive for the ‘TRAINING TIPS AND BEHAVORIAL ISSUES’ Category

By Dr. Becker

Many dog owners at some point realize their pet no longer seems interested in being with other canines.

Their formerly friendly, social dog has grown standoffish or even guarded when other dogs are around.

What happened?

Socialization is a Lifelong Pursuit

J.C. Burcham, a DVM with a special interest in animal behavior, thinks this widely reported phenomenon could be the result of a lack of ongoing socialization.

According to Dr. Burcham:

Being polite and friendly takes practice!

Perhaps your dog got along great with other dogs when he was younger—you took him with you on errands, visited the dog park regularly, and had play time with your friends’ dogs.

But then, as time went by, life became more complicated in a way we never quite have the foresight to see, and you were no longer able to take your dog with you everywhere and socialize him all the time.

Besides, you reasoned, you socialized him well while he was young and impressionable, just like a good dog owner should.

Dr. Burcham believes even dogs well-socialized as puppies, if not given regular opportunities to interact dog-to-dog as adults, can lose their ability to mix comfortably with others of their species.

In her experience, some pets are naturally skilled at dog-to-dog dealings, but many others need regular practice through activities that provide the chance to socialize with unfamiliar people and pets.

Is the Dog Park the Best Place for Your Pooch?

If your dog seems to have lost the knack for being around other canines, there are lots of things you can do to help him regain his social skills.

But before I get into that, I want to caution you not to assume just because your pet doesn’t do well at the dog park, he’s anti-social or unfriendly toward all other canines. According to Kathy Diamond Davis, author and trainer, writing for Veterinary Partner.com:

It is actually more “normal” for a mature dog to NOT be able to “play nice” with strange dogs in a dog park than it is for the dog to be able to do it! Dogs in the wild are not “social” in the sense of making friends with every dog they meet. This is a human idea, and currently a big fad among people with dogs. It’s causing a lot of serious problems.

I encourage you not to use your pet’s behavior at the dog park as a gauge of his sociability.

Adult canines aren’t wired to mix and mingle with large groups of strange dogs, so think of socialization in terms of exposure to other dogs and people through directed activities.

Tips for Keeping Your Adult Dog Well Socialized

  • Obedience classes provide an environment where all the dogs are kept under control. This can be very helpful if your pet seems wary or fearful around other dogs. Organized classes give him the opportunity to be around other pups, but from a slight distance.
  • If you have friends with dogs, arrange play dates with one (carefully selected) dog at a time. Put your dog and his doggy friend in a safe, enclosed area and let them get to know each other. This is another low pressure social situation in which your pup can hone his skills without being overwhelmed by too many dogs, or an overly dominant dog.

    If things go well, you can arrange future outings for the four of you to take walks or hikes, toss Frisbees, fetch tennis balls, go swimming, etc.

  • If it makes sense for you and your dog, get involved in dog agility competitions. These events provide a great opportunity for your dog to be around other dogs and people while getting lots of exercise, mental stimulation, and shared time with you.
  • If agility isn’t appealing, there are lots of other activities that might be, including flying disc, dock jumping/dock diving, flyball, flygility, herding, hunt and field trials, musical freestyle and heel work, to name just a few. Dogplay.com is a good resource for exploring organized exercise and socialization possibilities for your dog.
  • Another fabulous socialization activity you can share with your pet, depending on his temperament and personality, is training to be a therapeutic visitation dog. These dogs and their owners visit hospitals, nursing homes, detention units, rehab facilities, certain schools, senior citizen apartments and other places where people aren’t permitted to keep pets or aren’t able to care for them.
  • Another possible option for socialization and exercise is to enroll your pet in a doggy daycare program one or two days a week. You want to ensure the facility you choose has at a minimum a knowledgeable staff trained in dog communication and interaction, separate play areas for dogs of different sizes, and supervised playgroups. Extensive temperament tests should be performed on all dogs to evaluate their behavior in the daycare environment. Introduction to the pack should be gradual for all new dogs.

    A word of caution about doggy daycare facilities … most require at least yearly re-vaccinations for rabies, distemper, parvo and bordetella. This isn’t the vaccine protocol I recommend for your pet.

  • Last but not least, never underestimate the socialization value of regular daily walks with your dog. You both get fresh air, stress-relieving and perhaps even heart-thumping exercise, and opportunities to encounter old and new two- and four-legged friends.

Mercola Healthy Pets

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Dogs are not as colorblind as you think.
Published on October 20, 2008 by Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C. in Canine Corner

Probably one of the most frequently asked questions about dog’s vision is whether dogs see colors. The simple answer-namely that dogs are colorblind-has been misinterpreted by people as meaning that dogs see no color, but only shades of gray. This is wrong. Dogs do see colors, but the colors that they see are neither as rich nor as many as those seen by humans.

The eyes of both people and dogs contain special light catching cells called cones that respond to color. Dogs have fewer cones than humans which suggests that their color vision won’t be as rich or intense as ours. However, the trick to seeing color is not just having cones, but having several different types of cones, each tuned to different wavelengths of light. Human beings have three different kinds of cones and the combined activity of these gives humans their full range of color vision.

The most common types of human colorblindness come about because the person is missing one of the three kinds of cones. With only two cones, the individual can still see colors, but many fewer than someone with normal color vision. This is the situation with dogs who also have only two kinds of cones.
Jay Neitz at the University of California, Santa Barbara, tested the color vision of dogs. For many test trials, dogs were shown three light panels in a row–two of the panels were the same color, while the third was different. The dogs’ task was to find the one that was different and to press that panel. If the dog was correct, he was rewarded with a treat that the computer delivered to the cup below that panel.
Neitz confirmed that dogs actually do see color, but many fewer colors than normal humans do. Instead of seeing the rainbow as violet, blue, blue-green, green, yellow, orange and red, dogs would see it as dark blue, light blue, gray, light yellow, darker yellow (sort of brown), and very dark gray. In other words, dogs see the colors of the world as basically yellow, blue and gray. They see the colors green, yellow and orange as yellowish, and they see violet and blue as blue. Blue-green is seen as a gray. You can see what the spectrum looks like to people and dogs below.

One amusing or odd fact is that the most popular colors for dog toys today are red or safety orange (the bright orange red on traffic cones or safety vests). However red is difficult for dogs to see. It may appear as a very dark brownish gray or perhaps even a black. This means that that bright red dog toy that is so visible to you may often be difficult for your dog to see. That means that when your own pet version of Lassie runs right past the toy that you tossed she may not be stubborn or stupid. It may be your fault for choosing a toy with a color that is hard to discriminate from the green grass of your lawn.

Dear Wendy Wendt

This note should serve as permission to repost my article on canine color vision which was published on the Psychology Today website. The reposting should contain a credit to me as the author and an active link to my Psychology Today blog website which is http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner

Cordially
Stanley Coren, PhD, FRSC
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Department of Psychology
University of British Columbia
2136 West Mall
Vancouver, Canada  V6T 1Z4

E-mail: scoren@psych.ubc.ca
Website:  http://www.stanleycoren.com
Blog: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner

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Introduction
Lure coursing, the most popular event for the sighthound breeds, entails an open field competition. This competition attempts to create a simulation of a hare’s zigzag path to evade a pursuing hound. The hare’s path is generated by a continuous-loop line through a series of pulleys simulating a non-uniform set of turns. Instead of a live bunny, a set of white bags or plastic strips attached to the line attract the hound’s attention.

A typical lure course is between 600 and 1000 yards (548 to 914 meters) long. In Europe the course length can be over 1000 meters, and may incorporate some obstacles or jumps. The course must have a minimum number of turns in order to simulate prey (the jack-rabbit or hare) changing direction in a chase.

Competition is usually limited to dogs of purebred sighthound breeds and principally run in braces only of the same breed.

However, in February 2011 The American Kennel Club launched a new event – the Coursing Ability Test (CAT) which is open to all registered dogs at least 12 months of age. The purpose of this test is to provide all dogs and their owners an enjoyable, healthy activity in which they can participate.

The course shall be basically rectangular in shape with turns no more acute than 90 degrees. The total length of the course shall be no less than 600 yards and should be as close to 600 yards as is possible. The lure will consist of plastic strips. Depending of the size and type of dog, the dog will run either the full course or a 300 yard course.
Safety is of utmost importance. Many of the dogs running the Coursing Ability Test will not possess the agility of a sight hound and this must be a consideration in the design of a course.

For dogs shorter than 12 inches at the withers and / or brachycephalic (“flat-faced”) dogs the distance is 300 yards. A dog must complete this course in less than 1 ½ minutes. For all other dogs the distance is 600 yards and the dog must complete this course in less than 2 minutes. If there is a question which course a dog should run, the judge will decide.

The Coursing Ability Test is a non-competitive pass / fail event. Dogs run singularly. To pass dogs are required to complete their course with enthusiasm and without interruption within the maximum amount of time for the course length.

The AKC awards the following suffix titles:
CA – Coursing Ability: Three qualifying scores in the Coursing Ability Test from 2 different judges at 3 different tests. A dog must complete the course with enthusiasm and without interruption within a stated maximum amount of time.
CAA – Coursing Ability Advanced: Ten qualifying scores in the Coursing Ability Test.
CAX – Coursing Ability Excellent: Twenty five qualifying scores in the Coursing Ability Test.
CAX2 – Coursing Ability Excellent 2: Fifty qualifying scores in the Coursing Ability Test.
A higher numbered title will be awarded for every additional twenty five passes.

Coursing Corgis
On Saturday, 26 February 2011 Janet Suber’s Spencer (Caduceus Spencer Batrille CD HT GN RAE3 OAP NJP CA) and Scout (Am. Grand Ch. Cardiridge Jean Louise Finch HT RN CA) became the first Cardigans to earn AKC’s new Coursing Ability (CA) title. And the next day Janet was told that Scout was also the first Grand Champion of all breeds to earn the title. Janet who lives in Chattanooga, TN, says that it was a great experience and that the sighthound people were super in helping out all of the newbies.
Mocking Bird Cardigans


Spencer and Scout (in front)

Veni Harlan, breeder of Borzois from Baton Rouge, LA, also has a Cardigan, AmCh. Cornerstone’s Mardi Gras, HT, CGC. Back in 2003 when lure coursing was for sighthounds only, Veni reported that when Mardi was about 5 months old, she brought her along with one of her Borzois to a practice and quickly realized that Mardi was keen on that lure. She wanted it every bit as much as those fanatical whippets. When finally, someone yelled, “let the corgi run!” she slipped her and off she went. The course was straight and about a block long and Mardi stayed right on the lure (shreaded plastic) all the way there and back while everyone clapped and cheered her to the finish. The “coursing cardi,” was so popular, she was asked to be the “official” course tester for the upcoming Louisiana KC Coursing Trial!
Farfield Borzois


Mardi, the coursing cardi

Also in 2003, Sue Hallock reported that her 2½ year old Cardi Louie got the chance to try lure coursing and he LOVED it! What he lacked in speed he more than made up for in enthusiasm. Sue belongs to a medieval living history organization that occasionally does hound coursing. When she was at an event where they were doing it, Louie was frantic to get the lure so Sue decided to give it a try. The course was about the size of 1/3-1/2 a football field and had 3 turns. Afterwards his tongue was hanging out but he was completely focused on the lure and never lost interest or track of the lure at any point.

And Sue added: “Since herding behavior is a modification of a dog’s prey drive, I would think a strong herding instinct would go along with a great desire to chase fast moving things. I would think that most herding dogs would be pretty good coursers (although not matching the speed of the sight hounds). So don’t let those stubby legs fool you. Cardis are natural coursers!”

But Cardigans are not the only ones interested in coursing, there are also some very keen Pembrokes.

Kathleen Mallery from Parma, Idaho writes in February 2011:
“When the Idaho Lure Coursing Club was active, they always offered demo and full courses that we could all run. I ran the Pems every time it was available and found my dogs were quite talented.
I’ll never forget the year our dear Ribbon (Am/Can Ch. Castell Blue Ribbon Special PHC ran for the first time. The course then was just a straight line. Ribbon chased down the lure, shook it “to death” then brought it all the way back to me. People were in awe! At first, when she took off, they laughed because our command was “kill”! Ribbon had a game we played with her by that name so she related and took off like a flash! After that you could hear the “oh, Wow!’s in the audience.”
Castell Pembroke Corgis


Years later, when she was 12, Ribbon ran a full course and never stopped.

 


Ribbon on her 15th birthday

Peggy Newman from Salt Lake City, Utah used to take her homebred Pembroke bitch Solo (Taflar Scott’s Sweet Solo) to some practices with her whippet Gambler. As Solo did well there, Peggy took her to some trials put on by the club she was involved with and ran her after the trial. Solo would run about half the course, sometimes a little more than half (which is what is needed for the JC title.) A full course is 600-700 or so yards total.


Solo – Photo: Leaping Lizards Photography

Solo was the unofficial mascot for the Utah Sighthound Club for several years and had her own fan club. Soon exhibitors and judges would ask Peggy if she was going to run her corgi and so she did after the trial. The judges told Peggy that Solo was as “keen” on the lure as the sighthounds and had great “follow” and several would gladly have awarded her the legs needed for the JC (Junior Courser) title, but the AKC does not award it to any dogs but sighthounds. This was also before the Idaho club started to offer CAT (Coursing Ability Test) titles.
The only time Solo ever had trouble following the lure was when the grass was a foot over her head. And after that trial the grass was cut down as the basenjis had trouble too!

Coursing Corgi on YouTube
www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7w12VL7CQQ

If you would like to test your dog, go to http://www.akc.org/events/performance/ and click on “Coursing Ability Tests” to find one near you.

www.welshcorgi-news.ch

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Today I’m going to discuss a totally disgusting topic, coprophagia.

Coprophagia is a pleasant term for stool eating.

Although the idea of this activity is totally gross, there is actually one stage in a pet’s life when coprophagia is expected.

When mother dogs and cats have litters, they deliberately consume the feces of their puppies or kittens to hide their scent while the litter is vulnerable and sheltered in the den.

Wendt Worth Corgis Jr Low Riders

Wendt Worth Corgis Jr Low Riders

Beyond that, stool eating — although a very common complaint among pet and especially dog owners – is just plain gross.

Reasons Behind Coprophagic Behavior

Pets eat poop for a variety of reasons. Medical problems are a common cause, including pancreatic insufficiency or enzyme deficiency. Intestinal malabsorption and GI parasites are also common medical reasons that can prompt a dog to eat his own poop.

This is why I recommend dogs have their stools checked by the vet’s office every six months to make sure they’re parasite-free. Healthy dogs can acquire intestinal parasites from eating feces, so twice-yearly stool analysis is a great idea for all dogs.

The pancreas of dogs does secrete some digestive enzymes to aid in the processing of food, but many dogs don’t secrete enough of these enzymes and wind up enzyme deficient. Since the feces of other animals are a source of digestive enzymes, dogs with a deficiency will ‘recycle’ by eating the enzyme rich poop. Gross, I know, but true.

Rabbit poop is one of the richest sources not only of digestive enzymes, but also B vitamins. Many dogs, if they stumble upon rabbit droppings, will scarf them right up to take advantage of those nutrients.

And dogs on entirely processed, dry food diets, who eat no living foods at all, will intentionally seek out other sources of digestive enzymes to make up for their own lifelong enzyme deficiency.

Cats with enzyme deficiencies, malabsorption, or who are fed poor-quality diets can provide litter box temptations for dogs in the family. Many cheap dry foods contain ingredients that are not bioavailable, so ingredients are passed out in the stool undigested, providing scavenging dogs with the opportunity to “recycle.”

Feeding your pet a diet containing human-grade protein, probiotics and supplemental digestive enzymes can sometimes curb the urge to find gross sources of free enzymes around the yard or in the litter box.

Coprophagia Can Also Be a Behavioral Problem

Another cause for coprophagia in dogs is behavioral.

Some dogs, especially those in kennel situations, may eat feces because they are anxious and stressed.

Research also suggests dogs who are punished by their owners for inappropriate elimination develop the idea that pooping itself is bad. So they try to eliminate the evidence by consuming their feces.

Another theory that seems to hold some weight is that coprophagia is a trait noted in all canines – wolves, coyotes and domesticated dogs – and arises when food is in short supply.

Sadly, I see this most often in puppy mill dogs. Puppies who go hungry, are weaned too young, have to fight for a place at a communal food dish, or are forced to sit for weeks in a tiny crate with nothing to do, are at high risk of developing habitual stool-eating behavior that becomes impossible to extinguish.

Coprophagic behavior can also be a learned behavior. Older dogs with the repulsive habit can teach it to younger dogs in the household.

Like a dysfunctional game of ‘monkey see, monkey do,’ one dog can teach the rest of the pack that this is what you do while wandering around the backyard.

Wendt Worth Corgis Low Rider

Wendt Worth Corgis Low Rider

When Poop Eating is Compulsive

Some scientists believe dogs eat poop simply because it tastes good to them.

I disagree with this.

Some dogs have weirdly strange ‘standards’ about the poop they eat. It’s strange to think any standard is applied to poop as a food group, but for example, some dogs eat only frozen poop (we affectionately refer to these as poopsicles at my practice).

Others consume only the poop of a specific animal. Still others only eat poop at certain times of the year.

So some dogs who stumble upon feces occasionally decide to sample it, while others become completely obsessed with eating certain specific poop.

Tips for Curbing Your Dog’s Revolting Habit

What we do know for sure is dogs don’t eat poop because they have a poop deficiency!

Fortunately, there are some common sense ways to reduce your dog’s coprophagia habit.

  • First on the agenda is to pick up your dog’s poop immediately, as soon after he eliminates as possible. Don’t give him the opportunity to stumble across old feces in his potty spot.
  • Next, if you have cats, get a self-cleaning litter box or place the box in a location in your home where you dog can’t get to it.
  • I also recommend you improve your pet’s diet as much as possible, and add digestive enzymes and probiotics at meal time.
  • Offer toys to your dog that challenge his brain and ease boredom.
  • Sufficient exercise is also crucial in keeping your dog’s body and mind stimulated. Bored dogs tend to develop far stranger, disturbing habits and behaviors than dogs that get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
  • Lastly, consider trying one (or more than one) of the many over-the-counter coprophagia deterrent products. These are powders you either sprinkle on the stool itself or feed with meals to create an unpalatable stool. But keep in mind these powders contain MSG, including most of the remedies you can buy online.

    Also, you may have heard you can add a meat tenderizer to your dog’s food or stool to discourage poop eating, but most meat tenderizing products also contain MSG.

    I recommend you look for a non-toxic deterrent than doesn’t contain MSG.

If your pet’s coprophagic behavior seems to be going from bad to worse, make sure to talk to your vet about your concerns. You definitely want to rule out any underlying medical reason for this very gross, yet very common behavior problem.

 

Dr. Becker is the resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian of HealthyPets.Mercola.com. You can learn holistic ways of preventing illness in your pets by subscribing to MercolaHealthyPets.com, an online resource for animal lovers. For more pet care tips, subscribe for FREE to Mercola Healthy Pet Newsletter.

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Halloween can be a frightening time for family dogs. Each Halloween, veterinarians nationwide see pet injuries that could have been avoided. Here are some ways we can protect pets:

Wendt Worth Corgis Males

Wendt Worth Corgis Males

* Walk your dog before trick-or-treaters start their visits. Keep a firm grip on the leash; many dogs are frightened by people in costumes.

* Find a secure place in your home to keep your dogs, especially if you’re giving out candy to trick-or-treaters. Many dogs get loose when the door opens, and the presence of little (and big) costumed people often scares animals, increasing the chance dogs will run away or get hit by cars.

* Make sure your dog is wearing an up-to-date I.D. tag.

* Place a dog gate in front of your front door to block access in case someone accidentally lets your pet out of the place where he’s confined. Many dogs will run after trick-or-treaters.

* If your dog has any aggressive tendencies, fear of loud noises, or a habit of excessive barking, place him in a quiet room as far away from your front door as possible at least a half-hour before trick-or-treaters arrive.

* Consider crating your pet, which can make him feel more secure and reduce chances of accidental escapes. Provide chew toys, a favorite blanket, a piece of clothing with your scent on it, or whatever comforts the animal. Play soft music or a recording of soothing sounds.

* If you want to have your dog near the door to greet visitors, keep him on leash. Pets can become very stressed by holiday activities and unwelcome interruptions in routine. A nervous dog might feel threatened and growl, lunge or bite.

* Keep dogs indoors. It’s a bad idea to leave dogs out in the yard; in addition to the parade of holiday celebrants frightening and agitating them, there have been reports of taunting, poisonings and pet thefts. Plus they’re likely to bark and howl at the constant flow of treat or treaters.

* As for cats, as the ASPCA and other organizations advise, keep cats indoors at all times.

* Do not leave dogs in cars.

* Keep dogs out of the candy bowl. Dispose of candy wrappers before your pets get to them, since the wrappers can cause choking or intestinal obstruction. Make sure the dogs can’t get into the trash. Note: Chocolate contains theobromine, which can cause nerve damage and even death in dogs. The darker the chocolate, the more concentrated it is — and the smaller the lethal dose.

* Explain to everyone in your home (including kids) how dangerous treats are to pets. Take young childrenUs candy supply and put it somewhere out of reach of pets. Caution children about leaving candy wrappers on the floor.

* Make sure pets can’t reach candles, jack-o-lanterns, decorations or ornaments.

* Halloween costumes can annoy animals and pose safety and health hazards…so think twice before dressing up the dog. Make sure the dog can breathe, see and hear, and that the costume is flame retardant. Remove any small or dangling accessories that could be chewed and swallowed. Avoid rubber bands, which can cut off the animal’s circulation or, if accidentally left on, can burrow and cut into the animal’s skin.

* If the animal is very high-strung, consult your vet about tranquilizing for the night.

* When walking dogs during or after Halloween, watch carefully for what they might pick up and choke on. Bits of candy and wrappers abound on sidewalks and streets after holidays.

* If you notice these symptoms of chocolate poisoning, go to your vet or an emergency vet right away because your pet’s life may be in danger:

Wendt Worth Haunted Kennel

Wendt Worth Haunted Kennel

Excessive drooling
Excessive urination
Pupil dilation
Rapid heartbeat
Vomiting and diarrhea
Hyperactivity
Muscle tremors and seizures
Coma

If Your Dog Eats Chocolate:
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_EatChocolate.php

First Aid Kit and Guidance:
Keep a pet First Aid Kit in your home and car. Take the one you keep in your car with you on trips with your pet. This webpage lists items to include:
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_FirstAid.php

CPR and Mouth-to-Snout Resuscitation:
Print these life-saving brochures to have on hand!
http://members.aol.com/henryhbk/acpr.html
http://www.rescuecritters.com/cpr.html

When traveling, you can find a nearby veterinarian using AAHA’s Animal Hospital Locator:
http://www.healthypet.com/hospital_search.aspx

——

For more Dog Tips and other information about pet
care, adoption and the work PAW does, visit our
website at:  www.paw-rescue.org

Partnership for Animal Welfare
P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768

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By Dr. Becker

Puppies go through several development stages on their way to adulthood.

The goal of any breeder or pet owner should be to take maximum advantage of each sensitive stage by providing the puppy with age-appropriate social and learning opportunities.

  • Between 4 and 8+ weeks, puppies learn best how to interact with other dogs.
  • Between 5 and 10+ weeks, they grow adept at interacting with humans.
  • Between 5 and 16 weeks, they are most able to investigate new environments and stimuli. And in fact, a puppy not given a full range of socialization opportunities by about 10 weeks can develop fear of the unfamiliar.
Wendt Worth Corgis Litter

Wendt Worth Corgis Litter

How a Puppy Learns Dog-to-Dog Skills

Prior to about 8½ weeks of age, puppies are primarily working on their dog-to-dog skills. It’s beneficial and therefore preferable during this period for a puppy to remain with his parents and littermates. The better your puppy’s social foundation with other dogs, the more equipped he’ll be to manage a brand new world – your world.

Responsible breeders keep new litters for at least 8½ weeks and sometimes longer if they plan to begin housetraining and socialization before sending the pups to their new homes.

The biggest advantage to leaving your puppy with the breeder until she’s at least 8½ weeks is to allow her to develop socially with other dogs.

Other ways to socialize young puppies (those receiving timely core vaccines and other preventive healthcare) include play dates with other puppies and puppy day care or kindergarten.

An older dog in the family can also be a great teacher for a new pup. Just make sure the current dog is well-behaved, or puppy will learn the older pet’s bad habits!

It’s not a foregone conclusion a puppy who doesn’t receive the right experiences at the right stages of development will grow into a dog with behavior problems. But why take the risk? Why not try to do everything right, right off the bat, with your new furry bundle?

I can’t guarantee you’ll wind up with a perfect pet. But I can promise your efforts will accomplish two things:

  • You’ll reduce your dog’s risk of developing behavioral problems.
  • You’ll dramatically increase your chances of sharing your life with a balanced, confident canine companion.

Your Job Once Puppy Comes Home: Socialization and More Socialization

In his first two months with you, your puppy should:

  • Learn to accept being handled and having all his body parts touched.
  • Be introduced to as many healthy and safe people, animals, places, situations, sights and sounds as possible.
  • Be encouraged to explore and investigate his environment, with supervision.
  • Be exposed to lots of toys, games, surfaces and other stimuli.
  • Take car rides with you to new, unfamiliar environments.

One of the most important challenges in socializing your puppy is to minimize the fear he feels while you expose him to a wide range of unfamiliar stimuli he will encounter in his new life with you. This means you need to recognize and understand puppy fear.

 

Graduation Day

Graduation Day

How to Recognize Puppy Fears and What to Do About Them

Your pup may act a bit startled when she encounters someone or something new or unfamiliar. This is fine as long as she recovers quickly, remains curious, and is willing to continue on with the adventure. This indicates she’s adapting normally to strange stimuli.

If, however, she doesn’t recover within a few minutes, it’s not okay.

And certainly if your puppy is so upset she starts crying, pees or poops out of fear, or tries to find a place to hide, it’s not okay. It’s also never okay to ‘toughen up’ a puppy by deliberately scaring her. This will only intensify the problem.

Other signs of fear in your dog can include:

  • Whining
  • Avoidance
  • Salivating
  • Withdrawal
  • Excessive panting
  • Refusal to eat
  • Trembling
  • Vomiting; diarrhea
  • Scanning
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Vigilance

Research shows puppies can inherit fearful tendencies which can be spotted as early as 5 weeks of age.

And pups who are anxious worriers at 3 months will grow into worried, anxious adults without proper intervention.

The earlier you recognize and seek help for fear-related behaviors in your puppy, the better the outcome. I recommend you talk with your holistic vet, a responsible breeder, and/or an animal behavior specialist about how to help an abnormally fearful or anxious puppy.

Please don’t make the mistake of assuming if you continue to expose your dog to a fearful situation she’ll overcome her fear. In fact, the opposite will happen and you and your furry companion will end up dealing with a long-term, intractable problem.

When Your Puppy is Ready for Housetraining

Among the many things your puppy needs to learn in his first months of life is that his bathroom is outdoors.

The age to begin house training your puppy is around 8½ weeks. Before 8 weeks of age, most puppies haven’t yet developed the neurological control to hold back eliminating –they have no choice but to go when nature calls, wherever they happen to be at the moment.

At 8½ weeks, your pup will be at the right age to select his preferred surface (for example, grass or cement or another outdoor substrate) and take action.

A dog at 8½ weeks is able to make a mental connection between the scent and surface of his potty spot and the act of going potty. And nature has arranged it that this is also the age at which your puppy becomes aware he can control when and where he piddles and poops. It’s fine to begin the process of housebreaking a puppy the minute you bring him home, but he may not begin to fully understand the process until 8½ weeks of age.

The goal of house training is actually two goals:

  1. Teaching puppy to go in his potty spot
  2. Teaching him to wait to go until he reaches that potty spot

Not every 8.5-week-old puppy is the same. Some puppies will pick up the whole outside potty thing quickly. Others will take more time, effort and patience.

You should anticipate and prepare for the occasional accident as your canine youngster learns this crucial but complex skill.

Remember — your new puppy is much more than an adorable ball of energy. He’s also a furry little sponge, ready to soak up everything you can show him about how to get along in his new life with you.

Make those precious first six months of your puppy’s life really count. You’ll be so glad you did!

Dr. Becker is the resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian of HealthyPets.Mercola.com. You can learn holistic ways of preventing illness in your pets by subscribing to MercolaHealthyPets.com, an online resource for animal lovers. For more pet care tips, subscribe for FREE to Mercola Healthy Pet Newsletter.

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By Dr. Becker

Here’s more proof puppies need to stay with their families of origin (their litters and the mother dog) for at least the first two months of life …

A study done in Italy and just reported in Veterinary Record, the official journal of the British Veterinary Association provides yet more evidence puppies should not be separated from their mother and littermates too early.

The study, titled Prevalence of owner-reported behaviours in dogs separated from the litter at two different ages, involved 140 adult dogs. Half were taken from their litters at 30 to 40 days of age and half were removed at 60 days.

Half the dogs were purchased at pet shops, a third came from a friend or relative, and the rest came from breeders.

The study results indicate the puppies separated early from their litters were significantly more likely to develop behavior problems as adults than puppies who stayed with their littermates for at least two months.

The ‘Sensitive Period’ in a Puppy’s Development

There is evidence certain behavior tendencies in dogs — anxiety, fearfulness, noise phobia, aggression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, for example – have a genetic component.

However, researchers and experts in the field of canine behavior believe it is a combination of genetics, environment and experience (nature and nurture) that contributes most significantly to behavioral development.

Wendt Worth Corgis Litter

Wendt Worth Corgis Litter

We know for a fact puppies pass through a sensitive stage during which it is critically important they be well socialized to other dogs, humans, and a wide variety of stimuli in their environment.

During this important period, generally agreed to be from around 2½ to 3 weeks through 12 to 14 weeks, a puppy’s brain is primed to accept new experiences with minimal fear. The experiences the pup has during this sensitive time actually have the capacity to modify the brain. What your puppy experiences (or doesn’t experience) during this stage of development has a profound impact on his adult character, temperament and behavior.

Since part of a pup’s socialization is learning appropriate dog-to-dog interaction, it is in the best interests of puppies to remain with the mother and littermates until they are at least 8 to 8½ weeks old.

Research suggests many of the social and behavioral problems seen in adult dogs have their roots in too-early separation from the litter.

Purpose of the Italian Study

The intent of the study was to determine if and how early separation from the litter plays a role in undesirable behavior in adult dogs.

The measured behaviors:

Aversion to strangers Toy possessiveness Stranger aggression Paw licking
Excessive barking Food possessiveness Owner aggression Shadow staring
Fear during walks Attention-seeking Play biting Pica
Reactivity to noises Destructiveness Tail chasing House soiling

The dogs in the study ranged in age from 18 months to 7 years, and the information about their behavior came from a questionnaire their owners completed.

Intriguing Results

Two behaviors were the most frequently reported among all dogs (those removed early from litters and those removed at 60 days) according to their owners:

  • 68 percent of the dogs were attention seekers – they nuzzled, pawed or jumped up on family members looking for attention and physical contact
  • 60 percent showed signs of fear when exposed to loud noises

Also in terms of the entire group of dogs, age played a factor in two behaviors. Dogs under 3 years of age were significantly more prone to tail chasing and destructiveness than older dogs.

A much larger proportion of early separated dogs demonstrated all listed behaviors with the exception of pica (eating non-food material), owner directed aggression, shadow staring and paw licking.

Also, dogs separated early and purchased from a pet shop showed much greater tendency toward toy possessiveness, fearfulness on walks, attention-seeking, stranger aversion, excessive barking, destructiveness and play biting. Dogs from pet shops not separated early from their litters had fewer of the same behavior issues, which leads to one to conclude early separation combined with temporary housing at pet stores is particularly inhibiting to a puppy’s social development.

What It All Means

The conclusion we can draw from the Italian study is that early separation from the litter sets the stage for behavior problems in adult dogs. And if the early separated puppy is also moved directly to a pet store-type environment, the problem can be exacerbated.

To illustrate the significance in a puppy’s life of time-sensitive, appropriate socialization, the study authors offer the following:

Much of what is learned during the sensitive period results in stimulus-specific and long-lasting behavioural changes, potentially providing a foundation for many adult behaviour patterns and problems (Fox 1978, Godbout and others 2007), aversions, social responsiveness (Scott 1958), patterns of active and passive agonistic behaviour (Fox 1966), general activity levels (Wright 1983), reactions to separation (Pettijohn 1977), approach-avoidance patterns (Fox 1966), the development of social hierarchical relationships (Scott and Fuller 1965), anxiety (Ramos and Mills 2009) and functional fear responses (Melzack and Scott 1957).

As you can see, the ‘sensitive period’ is a powerful molding process for puppies.

There’s enormous benefit to be gained or potentially lost in how a very young puppy is handled – whether she’s old enough to leave the litter, her first environment away from her mother and littermates, and how and to what degree she’s socialized by her human family to a new life full of unfamiliar people, animals and other stimuli.

The Dam Provides a Secure Base from Which Her Puppies Can Explore the World

When a puppy remains with her mom and siblings during the earliest part of socialization (2½ – 4 weeks to 8 weeks), she is able to learn dog-to-dog social development from them.

Wendt Worth Corgis Litter

Wendt Worth Corgis Litter

According to study authors:

During the socialisation period, puppies are normally exposed to novel environmental stimuli within the context of the guidance and reassuring presence of their dam. From about three weeks of age, puppies become extremely distressed if they are placed in a strange situation without their dam, littermates and nest sites (Elliot and Scott 1961).

The authors go on to say that absent the security of their mother and siblings, the early separated dogs were much more likely than the other group to exhibit avoidant and fearful behaviors. Specifically they were:

  • 15 times more likely to be fearful on walks
  • 7 times more likely to have attention-seeking behaviors and noise reactivity
  • 6 times more likely to bark excessively

Study authors also found behavioral problems were more likely to develop in dogs obtained from shelters and pet shops, as well as in strays.

It can be reasonably assumed puppies in these groups aren’t adequately socialized. They are also often the result of poor breeding practices. In addition, the pet shop or shelter experience may have lasting effects, as would being homeless.

How We Can Use These Study Results

Some important potential benefits of this study:

  • It provides further evidence that early separation from the litter influences specific problem behavior patterns in adult dogs.
  • With this knowledge, we can continue to stress the importance of keeping litters together with the mother until the puppies are at least 8 weeks of age.
  • It may generate ‘early behavior intervention’ information and ideas for owners of early separated puppies.
  • It re-emphasizes 1) the potentially harmful effects of housing puppies in pet shop and shelter environments, 2) the critical importance of appropriate and time sensitive socialization of puppies, and 3) the need for behavioral intervention for early separated dogs and those who’ve spent time in pet shop and shelter environments.

Dr. Becker is the resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian of HealthyPets.Mercola.com. You can learn holistic ways of preventing illness in your pets by subscribing to MercolaHealthyPets.com, an online resource for animal lovers. For more pet care tips, subscribe for FREE to Mercola Healthy Pet Newsletter.


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