PUPPIES AND FEAR STAGES
If you’ve ever welcomed a puppy into your family (even if it’s just the two of you) you’ve experienced the pure joy of puppyhood – the curiosity, playfulness and unbounded affection plus the intoxicating smell of puppy breath. Puppyhood can last too long for some rowdy puppies and seems all too short to others when we miss that sweet innocence they bring into our lives.
If you had the blessing of bringing a puppy into your life you may have noticed that seemingly out of nowhere your outgoing sociable puppy suddenly becomes fearful of new people coming in to the house; or perhaps common household noises send your puppy running for shelter. This is a very common but misunderstood issue.
WHAT FEAR STAGES ARE AND WHAT TO WATCH FOR
I’M AFRAID OF WATER! AND MUD! EEEW!
These episodes are called “fear stages in puppies”. Typically there are four fear stages that puppies may go through. The age of the puppies can vary but a general guideline is: around five weeks of age (prior to your having acquired the puppy), around six months, around one year of age and around one and a half years of age. These are average ages and will vary from pup to pup. Some puppies have very mild or even no signs of fear stages; other puppies may show severe signs of fear. Here is a short list of symptoms to watch for:
- Abnormal reactions to noises
- Nervousness around things to which they have never reacted before
- Aggression towards other dogs or people when being walked
- Reacting towards people they know as if they were strangers
- Isolating him/herself and/or hiding under beds or furniture
An average fear stage can last two to four weeks although I have known a fear stage to last eight weeks. This is the ONLY time during their puppyhood that I recommend you “bubble” your dog, meaning don’t take them out on walks or introduce them to new experiences, dogs or people.
FORGET ABOUT CORRECTIONS, LET’S TEACH OUR DOGS MANNERS
If a dog is properly taught from the beginning corrections will seldom be necessary.
TEACH YOUR DOG MANNERS THE RIGHT WAY
We bring our dogs into our lives for many reasons; for companionship, for protection, for a specific job like herding, protecting live stock, for competition in agility, fly ball, etc., for medical assistance, therapy dog work – the list could go on and on. Whatever their purpose is, it’s our job to help them adjust to our world, our home and what’s expected of them. They don’t know our rules or what we want from them. They are like a baby or small child that needs to be taught what’s okay and what’s not. For some odd reason we think they should come into our homes knowing what’s expected of them and what they can and can’t do. There are many approaches to training and lots of varied opinions about the right way of doing things. We need to TEACH our dogs the proper manners we expect in our homes. Most dogs are getting corrected either verbally or physically in many different forms. They’re getting corrected for things they were never TAUGHT were off limits. So forget about corrections, let’s teach our dogs manners. In my opinion the best way to train your dog not to do certain things is to teach them a word that means “stop whatever it is that you’re doing”. It’s a simple process to teach a dog basic obedience..
If your puppy or young dog is chewing things up, is digging holes in your yard, pooping or peeing in the house etc., YOUR DOG HAS TOO MUCH FREEDOM! Would you leave a crawling baby or a toddler to wander around without supervision? Of course not. Your puppy or new dog needs to be treated the same way. You want to choose a word or a phrase that will ALWAYS mean “stop what you’re doing”. Some suggestions: leave it, enough, uh uh, let it be; I caution you against using No, most dogs have heard it so many times they tune it right out. Once you’ve chosen your word remember that your dog doesn’t know what that means yet. You need to be with your pup at all times so when you see her doing something you don’t approve of don’t yell “ENOUGH”. Go over to her and as you gently, pull her away from what she was doing you CALMLY, say “enough” redirect her to something else and praise her. Yes, you heard me, praise her. You label the action of stopping with “enough” then you praise her for stopping. You’ll need to this many times before she gets it but remember it’s a learning process…BE PATIENT!
HOLIDAYS CAN BE FUN – BUT HAZARDOUS FOR OUR PETS
Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with family and to be appreciative for all that we have in our lives. Sometimes we forget all of the blessings we have and enjoy on a daily basis. Things like family, friends, a home, fresh air, nature, the fact that the sun comes up every day and of course our unconditionally loving four legged best friends. Thanksgiving can also be a potentially dangerous or fatal day for your dog. With a few preventative measures you can keep your pup safe.
THANKSGIVING SAFETY TIPS FOR YOUR PUPS
If you are having company be sure to keep your pup from having unrestricted access to the front door. With people coming and going, and trying to entertain, cook, serve, etc., it’s easy to lose track of your dog and easy for them to slip out unnoticed. Either have your dog in a bedroom, laundry room or on leash. You can also set up a barrier like a gate or a pen that restricts direct access to the front door. The biggest threat to your dog is the turkey bones. Ingesting cooked (therefore brittle) bones can splinter if chewed and can be fatal. Remind guests not to give any leftovers to your dog and place remaining bones in an enclosed garbage can preferably behind a closed door. Be careful putting them in an enclosed garbage can anywhere where your dog can have access to it. Dogs smell millions of times better than we can so they can smell those leftovers through the can. Many of us like to share some of our Thanksgiving dinner with our pups ( I prepare a plate for my babies). If you do want to share and if your dog is not used to eating human food, be sure to keep their portions very small (unless you enjoy cleaning up vomit or diarrhea) and be sure there are no bones.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and know that we are very thankful and appreciative for all of you! Brad & the Dogological Team
Photo credit: MSVG / Foter / CC BY
HALLOWEEN SAFETY TIPS FOR YOUR PETS
We all love Halloween, the scary and funny costumes, the meeting with neighbors and of course the candy! That’s not always the case with our dogs. The continual ringing of the doorbell can put your dog in an overly aroused state and can trigger a territorial response to the innocent trick or treaters. The costumes are entertaining for us but your dog can become very frightened at the site of painted faces, masks, ghosts and even princesses. The costumes can be very frightening to unsuspecting doggies so unless your dog is desensitized to Halloween it’s a good thing to give them the night off and keep them inside, safe and sound.
The constant opening of the door can be an opportunity for Fido to bolt out and with all of the scary costumes and the cars following their kids around, Fido can panic and run, run, run, and get lost or worse risk getting by getting hit by a car.
If you have an outdoor cat please bring the cat inside as people do strange things to cats they find on Halloween, especially black cats.
And if you want to enjoy every morsel of chocolate that you’ve gathered or are handing out, avoid an emergency trip to the veterinarian; keep your bag of goodies well out of reach of prying paws and jaws. If you suspect that your pup has partaken of your chocolate call your veterinarian. Have a nice and safe Halloween!
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If you want to properly introduce two dogs, whether you’re bringing a new dog into your home or wanting to introduce your dog to a neighbor dog, the initial interaction can make or break the chances of an amicable meeting. Here are some tips;
- First rule of thumb is to TAKE IT SLOW.
Bringing two unfamiliar dogs directly together can create, anxiety, defensiveness and possibly aggression. It’s like a first date; let’s get to know each other a little more before we hold hands (or sniff butts).
- Meet at a neutral location
Your dogs are territorial and meeting on one or the other’s “turf” before getting to know each other can cause problems. If a complete stranger just walked in your front door or backyard unannounced, your defense mechanisms (your gun, baseball bat, phone to call 911) work instinctively. Same things will happen with your dog.
A great way for two dogs to gradually become accustomed to each other is to go on a walk together. You may want to start off across the street from each other then based on body language, slowly come closer together. The distractions, the excitement of a walk and all the great smells will take some of their attention away from the other dog. It can also provide a positive, fun experience with the presence of the other dog.
If things are going well and the dogs are happy to be walking together and you feel it’s now okay to bring them into one or the other’s home, do a little preventative prep work first. Pick up any possible triggers that the resident dog might deem valuable. Toys, bones, food dishes, favorite dog bed, are all examples of potential triggers. Sometimes even your attention can cause some “my mommy” syndrome.
- Get professional assistance
If you’re unsure about your dog and/or the other dog as far as aggression, it’s always a good idea to have a professional assist you in the process. Through a lot of experience we can see things that may not be noticed or may not seem to mean anything that could be a potential problem.
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DOG PARKS – BEWARE – DOG PARKS CAN BE DANGEROUS
The concept of a large fenced in space for dogs to be able to run freely, meet other dogs and play together; a place where dogs can exert all of that stored up energy and come home happy and tired sounds like heaven to many dog parents. It kind of reminds me of the TV show “Leave it to Beaver” with the Cleavers being the perfect middle class family, in a perfect little town with each episode always with a happy ending for all. Just like in our real lives, things can get messy sometimes and not turn out as we may have expected. Unfortunately that’s what happens in dog parks if you’re not careful – so think “dog parks – beware. The concept sounds great, but without the proper understanding of dog behavior and dog body language, tragedy is bound to happen. Bringing five, ten, fifteen or more dogs that don’t know each other into an enclosed area can and unfortunately does result in disaster. I’ve visited many dog parks and without exception I witnessed either an act of aggression, intimidation and on one occasion a Chihuahua that was swarmed at the entrance gate and had it’s back broken by a labrador retriever. The lab was not an aggressive dog, but pack mentality and primal instinct kicked in and in a frenzy all bets are off. This is not a rare thing at dog parks.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR DOG SAFE AT DOG PARKS
I do not recommend going to dog parks but if you do decide to bring your dog to a dog park here are some tips to help in keeping your dog safe.
How to utilize dog parks safely:
- Without your dog visit the dog park that you would like to bring your dog to. Observe the behavior of the dogs, the energy, see if the people are paying attention and managing their dogs behavior.
- How are the dogs acting, are they extremely aroused, are they out of control, are there any dogs bullying other dogs?
- Are there too many dogs to keep track of? Try to visit at the time of day that you would like to bring your dog.
- Talk to the other dog parents about their experiences. A closed in gated community dog park where everybody knows each other and are responsible and are paying attention to what’s going on as the dogs are playing is a good option. We’ll discuss alternatives to dog parks in upcoming blog posts.
Photo credit: tunaboat / Foter / CC BY-ND
INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR IN PUPPIES
Is your dog reactive to other dogs out on walks? Does your dog bark at people, bicycles, cars, fire hydrants? Is your dog afraid of any new thing he encounters? These are all signs of lack of early socialization. Believe it or not the primary socialization period for a dog is between the age of 7 weeks and 20 weeks. That’s the time when you want to get your puppy exposed to everything and anything that he might encounter at some time in his life.
EARLY PUPPY SOCIALIZATION
I know that the mainstream, well intentioned advice is to keep your puppy away from any other dog, don’t take them outside the house until they are fully vaccinated, basically quarantine them until they have all of their shots. While this is very well intentioned advice, the long term ramifications of this can be severely detrimental and can result in phobias that can effect your dog for life. Many of the behavior problems that I see are the result of this lack of exposure to the world. Now I’m not saying to take your puppy to dog parks (that will be addressed in an upcoming blog post) or get them around dogs that you don’t know, but finding and enrolling your dog in an early puppy socialization class that’s monitored where all puppies have at least two vaccinations can transform your dog’s life. Let your puppies see bicycles , kids on skateboards, mail trucks, fire hydrants, landscapers, etc. The more your puppy sees at a young age the more stable he will be in the long run. Over the past 15 years I have been running early puppy socialization sessions with no incidents of disease. In my opinion early socialization is the key to stable, confident dogs for life.
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WORKING DOGS AND BURN OUT
Do you have a working dog or a competition or show dog? Dogs perform such varied wonderful things to make our lives easier and in many cases more fun. Medical alert dogs save lives. Other service dogs make life easier for people with disabilities. Scent dogs can be trained to smell out cancer or other ailments in our bodies. Military or police dogs keep us safe. Personal protection dogs guard our families. Therapy dogs bring joy to people in nursing homes, hospitals, orphanages, etc. Competition dogs in agility, confirmation, fly ball, dock diving, etc. bring us fun ways to interact with our dogs. But dogs, just like people, can get burned out. Your dog can’t tell you he’s stressed or over-worked through words but he can tell you in may other ways. Just recently I have helped a handful of dogs and their people all in different situations identify the stress in their dogs and ways to alleviate that stress.
- One of the top dogs for Gabriels Angels. a wonderful therapy dog organization in Phoenix, Arizona, starting showing depression symptoms and lack of enthusiasm to go and visit the children that he works with. After discussing what was going on I recommended to give Micah some time off and his mom Mary concurred and gave Micah 2 months off. He came back refreshed.
- Another good client with a nine-year old Golden Retriever, “Harvard”, noticed that he wasn’t enjoying his work like he used to so he was thrown a big retirement party and retired from his job as well.
- Another client owns a successful water store and her yellow lab, Daisy, would joyfully go to work every day. Then she started to resist getting into the car when it was time to go to work. When mom would load her up in the car and take her to work she would sulk and not engage with people like she used to. Mom got the message and Daisy is happy staying at home while mom goes to work.
Pay attention to your working dog and be their advocate and recognize when they may need a break or need to retire.
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There are as many approaches and philosophies on how to teach dogs as there are trainers to teach them. We can usually learn something from almost all methods, even if it’s what we don’t want to do. I do not believe that forceful, intimidating, painful or humiliating techniques are necessary to teach a dog proper manners. Our dogs learn through a process of trial and error, otherwise known as “cause and effect”. Since our puppies come to us not understanding our verbal language and not having been given our “dog rules” they are in need of our guidance to help them learn. It’s our job to teach them what we would like them to know. They don’t know that they can’t pee or poop wherever and whenever, or that the furniture, the carpet, the walls, your clothing, your shoes, the electrical cords, or your flesh are not chew toys. We need patience with our puppies and need to learn to communicate to them in a way that they understand. You are raising a four legged child that needs your help; not your corrections for things that he doesn’t know are wrong. Whether you’re teaching a puppy or teaching an older dog basic manners like sit, down, etc, it’s still the same form of communication. How does your dog learn? Allow your dog the privilege of using his brain and his innate problem-solving ability and trust in his ability to figure it out.
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BRINGING A BABY INTO A HOME WITH A DOG
Bringing a baby into a home with a dog can be a concern. The best time to start preparing not only your home but especially your dog for an imminent new resident baby, is long before the baby arrives. We want to begin to desensitize your dog to not just the baby but all of the other changes that will come when the baby arrives.
START THE PROCESS EARLY
As you start setting your baby room up let your dog be a part of it and see what’s going on. Once the room is set up, it’s a good idea to get a baby doll; one that’s as realistic as possible and one that will make baby sounds if possible. You want to begin to act as if the baby is already here by starting to get your dog into the new routine before the baby actually arrives. We want to avoid the shock factor of one day everything is normal and the next day everything dramatically changes. Begin talking to the baby, putting the baby in the crib, even sitting in the rocking chair with the baby doll and a bottle. Sit in other ares of the house with the baby doll allowing your dog to look, maybe sniff a little while hearing soft praises from you. Get out the stroller and let your dog get used to the sight of it and then start moving it around slowly, always praising your dog if he’s acting appropriately. Put the baby doll in there and push it around. If your dog knows his basic manners start having him do down stays by your side in the baby room or next to the couch or chair you will be using. Set the high chair up and start teaching your dog that it’s not a buffet table. Basically act as if the baby is there a few months before she gets there.
ALLOW THE DOG TO BE PART OF BRINGING THE BABY HOME
When you bring the baby home allow your dog to be part of the experience. Your dog will be very curious of this new thing and will want to examine her. Let your dog get used to the scent and sound of your baby for a while and depending upon your dogs age, breed, and temperament you decide when to introduce them. If you have a very mild mannered older dog that has been around kids or babies you might make the introduction more quickly than if your dog is a 6 month old very excited retriever. Knowing your dog and how your dog reacts to new things, people, other animals, children etc. will help you know when to introduce the dog. I highly recommend hiring a professional to assess your dog if you have any question as to how your dog may react and respond. Try and spend some special time with your dog each day, as many dogs feel abandoned when a baby takes up all of everyone’s attention and can begin to start acting out.
Whether we’re talking about babies or small children; NEVER leave a dog and a baby or a child unattended. You will need to protect your dog’s space from a crawling baby or toddler which in essence will protect your child.