Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘socialization’

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

Read Full Post »

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.


//

Read Full Post »

 

 

 

EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL, AND MENTAL DEVELOPMENT OF PUPPIES

Puppies–who doesn’t love the sweet breath and attitude of a wiggly, adorable pup? But, puppies grow up

quick. And to keep them sweet and willing, owners must understand a little bit about the growth and development of

their charges.

The following is a general discussion of critical periods in a dog’s emotional, mental, and physical

development. If a critical learning period is missed, although a dog may be trained, its basic and natural reactions are

permanently affected and its full potential will never be reached. Missing one or all of these periods may cause a

puppy to become emotionally and mentally handicapped in its social interactions with other animals and humans–for

life.

Puppies cannot be taught anything prior to 21 days. They need only to be kept clean, warm, dry, (between 80

and 90 degrees) and allowed to nurse and sleep. These needs are usually met by the dam (mother dog.)

On average, puppies open their eyes somewhere between 11 to 19 days, with 13 days being average.

Puppies cannot hear anything before three weeks of age. Puppies begin to walk unsteadily on the 18

 

 

th

day; some as

early as 12 days. From 21 to 49 days, playing and play fighting begins.

At approximately three weeks of age, puppies begin to go toward sights, sounds, or smells, and their

tendency to “whine” decreases. All their sense organs are now functional. The puppy is no longer dependent on reflex

responses to hunger, cold, and touch. It can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. They can eliminate independently and

will normally leave their nesting and play area to eliminate. Their memory develops. By three weeks of age, their

brains start to take on adult characteristics. By seven weeks, they have “adult” brains and “mature” brain waves are

first recorded.

At this three week stage, great changes take place mentally and physically to puppies. They find sudden and

unexpected stimulation emotionally startling. Any additional noise, confusion, or rough handling can cause puppies to

become “fear imprinted.” Puppies should not be subjected to excessive stimulation during this period, as they are

having to cope with several newly developed senses at once. What a puppy learns during its third week becomes

fixed and will influence its attitudes toward man, other animals, and its environment, throughout its life.

 

A critical socialization period begins at three weeks, and lasts to four months of age. A puppy’s basic

character is set during this time. Puppies need to interact with humans and other animals in a variety of places

and situations and need individual attention during this period.

Puppies should not be weaned or adopted before seven weeks of age. Weaning before the seventh week

may cause noisy or nervous behavior for life. Puppies need their litter mates until seven weeks to learn to interact well

with other dogs. Taken before seven weeks, puppies miss critical socialization periods, and may show less interest in

normal dog activities for life.

Puppies adopted after seven weeks may pick fights with other dogs as adults. However, neither adopting a

puppy before seven weeks or after eight weeks will have such a drastic or negative effect that you should never

consider adopting a puppy outside of seven weeks. There are simply too many other factors to be considered when

choosing a puppy for this to be the deciding factor.

At seven weeks, puppies’ brains are fully developed. This is the best time to adopt a puppy. It has had an

opportunity to interact adequately with both its mother and litter mates and time to learn the socialization skills critical

to its future interaction with humans and other animals. If weaning and transfer occur simultaneously, the best time to

adopt is at eight weeks.

Research shows aggression develops in puppies that do not stay with their mother long enough and also in

puppies that remain too long. Puppies taken at the end of the fourth week and given a lot of human attention may

become so socialized to humans they do not care for other dogs. Some identify with humans so strongly that they

express sexual desires toward humans rather than dogs, such dogs can be difficult or impossible to breed.

Positive training and gentle discipline can start at eight weeks. With proper training, puppies can be expected

to obey every command they have been taught. While housebreaking can begin at 8 weeks, do not expect immediate

success. Generally speaking, up to 8 months, a puppy can be expected to “hold” eliminations for one hour per month

of age. In other words, a three month old puppy should only be expected to wait three hours MAXIMUM time between

eliminations.

From 8 to 12 weeks also marks the beginning of another fear imprinting period.

From 12 to 16 weeks, puppies cut teeth and declare their independence. The puppies decide who the “pack

leader” is going to be. It is critical to establish yourself as leader during this period. Nothing helps a puppy learn

appropriate dog behavior towards humans more than simply taking it away from its litter mates and having a pleasant

session of one on one play, training, or work daily.

Although these important critical learning periods occur, one should never interpret this to mean that a dog

cannot be trained after these periods. Dogs can be trained throughout their lives and, if the training is done properly,

dogs enjoy the process. Dogs that have no defined purpose are often bored and boredom can lead to behavior

problems. Training is an important way for your dog to express its energy, intelligence, and instincts.

© Copyright 2001 Responsible Animal Owners of Tennessee, Inc. – Permission granted to copy and distribute in its entirety as is.

 

Read Full Post »