Archive for January, 2011

MERRICK PET CARE RECALLS JR TEXAS TAFFY PET TREAT

MERRICK PET CARE RECALLS JR TEXAS TAFFY PET TREAT (ITEM # 27077, ALL LOTS UP TO AND INCLUDING 10364) BECAUSE OF POSSIBLE SALMONELLA HEALTH RISK

01.30.2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 28, 2011 – Merrick Pet Care, Inc. of Amarillo, Texas is recalling the Jr. Texas Taffy pet treat (ITEM # 27077, UPC # 02280827077, All Lots up to and including 10364) because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Merrick Pet Care has made the decision to recall all Jr. Texas Taffy pet treats in the abundance of caution. Salmonella can affect animals and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products. People handling the treats can become infected with Salmonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the chews or any surfaces exposed to these products. Consumers should dispose of these products in a safe manner by securing them in a covered trash receptacle.

Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers immediately.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

The Jr. Texas Taffy was shipped to distributors and retailers throughout the US. These individuals have been notified and have activated their recall procedures.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

Consumers who have purchased the Jr. Texas Taffy are urged to return the unused portion to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-800-664-7387 M-F 8:00am – 5:00pm CST.

Leash Training Your Puppy

One of the first things you need to teach your young puppy is how to behave on a leash. It is a crucial skill to master for both you and your dog’s future. After training a puppy to walk on a leash they are much safer and more manageable, plus it means “walkies” is an experience you can both look forward to and enjoy.

The fact that you are reading this article probably means that you have a young puppy who needs to be leash trained. This is a great position to be in, as it is much easier to train a puppy the right way to walk on a leash, rather than trying to re-train an older dog.

If you follow the steps outlined below you should have your puppy leash trained within a couple of weeks. If it takes you and your dog a little longer, don’t panic, it will be worth it in the end.

Don’t just expect your puppy to know this stuff! Your goal is to clearly communicate to your dog, what is acceptable behavior on the leash, and what is not. Please be aware that everybody who takes your puppy for an on-leash walk must convey a consistent message or set of rules to your dog.
Step 1

This first step can begin as soon as your puppy arrives at his new home. All it involves is getting your young pup familiar with and comfortable wearing a collar. A simple light weight collar is ideal for this task.

Place it on your puppy when you feed him or as you are playing, this provides a bit of a distraction from the collar. He’ll probably roll around trying to dislodge it, or try his best to scratch it off. When he is doing this it is important that you don’t take it off him. Wait till he has settled down and forgotten about it before you take it off.

Step 2

Once your puppy is happy wearing his new collar, it is time to introduce the leash. Same thing again here, you just want to get him comfortable with the leash, and to show him the leash is not to be feared. Any light weight, thin leash is fine for this step. You can buy your puppy a fancy leather leash after he is properly leash trained if you choose. All you need to do is clip the leash onto his collar, let him check it out and drag it around the house (always under your supervision). He’ll forget about it after a while.

Step 3

Now that your puppy is comfortable in his collar and with the leash, it is time to pick up the other end of the leash. Make the first leash training sessions short, sharp and fun. At this early stage you will probably find that your puppy loves to follow you around everywhere – use this to your advantage.

To start, simply walk around the house with the leash in hand, and your puppy trotting alongside you. When he is walking along on a loose leash give him plenty of praise, petting and even some treats; if he strains on the leash, stop immediately. Don’t yank him back over to you with the leash, just call him back over to you and praise him when he comes. Never ever keep walking when your puppy is pulling on the leash, this only rewards his behavior and reinforces the habit.

Your puppy has to learn that when he pulls on the leash, he gets nowhere. If he wants to continue walking, it has to be by your side on a loose leash. The same rule applies if your puppy sits down when you are walking. Don’t yank him forward towards you, just call him over and reward him when he arrives. Then set off walking again with your puppy by your side.

This method of training a puppy to walk on a leash is suited to very young puppies as it requires no pulling from you or your dog. The result is a nice loose leash hanging down between you and your dog. All it takes to achieve this is to follow the above steps, then apply some patience and persistence.

Lost Dog – 1/24/11

Stop Puppy Biting Problems

Managing and controlling puppy biting problems can be a major challenge for us dog lovers. Puppy biting or nipping starts out as a bit of fun, but needs to be controlled quickly to avoid ongoing problems.

For most young puppies biting is a perfectly natural and essential phase to go through especially when they are teething.

Puppies love to sink their sharp little fangs into just about anything during this teething stage, including the hands and feet of their owners. In some cases it’s like you’ve brought a snappy alligator into your home, instead of the cuddly little puppy you had hoped for.

The good news is that most puppies can be trained to regulate and minimize the biting pretty easily. The sooner you start to educate your puppy in bite inhibition (having a soft mouth) the easier it will be – for all concerned.

How To Stop Puppy Biting Problems

There are many of proven training methods to help correct your puppy’s behavioral problems, but, always keep these general dog behavior training rules in mind:

  • Puppy socialization and bite inhibition training go hand in hand.
  • Never slap or hit your puppy in the face. This does not work! Your puppy will just think you are playing or could become afraid of you. This may even lead to some much bigger problems than simple puppy nipping.
  • The general rule to stop puppy biting problems is to always encourage acceptable behavior and always discourage unacceptable behavior.
  • While you are trying to stop your puppy from biting, never play tug of war, wrestling or chase type games with them. This only encourages the biting and nipping.
  • Whichever method you choose to train your puppy the golden rule is be consistent. This means that you and anyone else who comes into contact with your puppy must enforce your chosen strategy every time your pup takes a nip.
  • If you don’t clearly communicate to your dog that the biting is unacceptable, he will not know he is doing anything wrong. It’s up to you to show him what is acceptable behavior don’t just expect your puppy to know this! (You are really taking on the role of his littermates for this task).
  • Another (extreme) reason puppies can bite is if they are trying to assert their dominance over you. If this is the case with your puppy, it must be stopped immediately. When you have a dominant puppy his biting will only be the beginning of many behavioral problems.

Stop Your Puppy From Biting – Proven Techniques

Your goal to start with is to teach your puppy how to control the force of his/her biting. Your puppy’s littermates will initiate this process and then it is up to you to continue on with it when your new puppy arrives home. This will ensure (not guarantee) that if your dog does bite someone in the future the damage will be minimized. When you have given your puppy sufficient feedback regarding the strength of his bite only then can you begin to reduce the prevalence of the biting behavior.

  1. If you catch the biting problem early on it may be easy to rectify. Just try to redirect the biting from your flesh to a toy or chewy bone. For very young puppies this method is often all you should need do. As soon as your pup starts to bite your hands just let out a firm “No!” and replace your fingers with the chew toy (or ice cube if your puppy is teething).
  2. Make your puppy think he is hurting you each time he has a nip at you. This method replicates the way dogs sort out this biting amongst themselves. When puppies are biting and nipping each other it only stops when one puppy lets out a yelp. We can use this natural way dogs learn by letting out an “Ouch!” or an “Arrr!” every time one of our puppy’s bite. The trick is to startle your dog with your voice, and then pull away and stop playing with your puppy for a while. Your pup will soon learn that when he starts to bite, his playmate (you) goes away.
  3. Teach your puppy the obedience training command “Leave It!”. This method works great but is more suitable for older puppies.
  4. In bad biting cases, as soon as your puppy latches onto your hand say “No!” and quickly put your thumb inside his mouth under his tongue, and your other finger under his chin. Hold it there for about 10 seconds (not too tightly). This will feel uncomfortable to your puppy plus he won’t be able to bite you.
  5. Again if your puppy has a severe biting problem you can try this training technique. Put on a pair of gloves and apply a foul tasting substance to them (something your dog doesn’t like). Your dog will soon learn that if he bites you, it won’t be tasty! This method produces a strong negative association to your dog every time he decides to bite you. Beware, some dogs are smart enough to realize that when you take your foul tasting gloves off, it is fine to sink their fangs into you again!

Other ways to stop a puppy from biting:

  • Use a spray bottle filled with water and spray your puppy every time he starts nipping.
  • Fill up an empty can with rocks or coins. Each time your puppy starts biting say “No!” and give the can a shake.

If you’re worried that you may have an overly aggressive puppy on your hands, please seek the advice of an experienced animal behaviorist or dog trainer, your veterinarian can refer you to one in your area.

The most important piece of advice regardless of which training method you choose, is be consistent and provide the clear feedback your puppy needs to learn.

Separation Anxiety In Dogs

Dogs Separation Anxiety – Common Symptoms and Treatment

One of the greatest joys of dog ownership is the tight bond we experience and encourage with our dogs. However, if your dog becomes too reliant or dependent on you, dog separation anxiety can occur when you and your dog are apart.

Separation anxiety in dogs is an enormous problem for around 10% of all puppies and older dogs. Somewhat ironically, problems related to separation anxiety are the major cause for dogs ending up in animal shelters.

Look At It From Your Dog’s Perspective

To your dog you are the most important thing in his/her world. Dogs are pack animals that are very sociable creatures and thrive on company for many reasons. Your dog would spend every bit of his life with you if he could. So it’s only natural that when you go out, your dog experiences varying degrees of distress or anxiety. He becomes confused, doesn’t know where you are going, why he can’t be with you and if you will be coming back to him. When the two of you are separated all he wants is to be reunited with his pack – which is you.

Punishment is NEVER the answer to solving Separation Anxiety in dogs!

Does Your Dog Suffer From Separation Anxiety?

There’s every chance your dog is suffering from a separation anxiety disorder rather than another dog behavior problem if:

  1. Your dog gets really worked up and anxious when you are preparing to leave the house. Actions such as picking up your car keys or putting on your coat can be enough to trigger the behavior.
  2. Your dog engages in inappropriate behavior only when you are separated. I expand on this topic further down the page, but behavior such as urinating inside, excessive barking, and destructive behavior are common symptoms of canine separation anxiety.
  3. Your dog follows you everywhere you go and immediately becomes distressed if he can’t be near you.
  4. When you arrive home your dog is over the top with his greeting and takes a while to calm down.

Why Do Dogs Experience Separation Anxiety?

There are many theories on this one. In some cases the cause or trigger can be pinpointed to a particular event, but often there appears to be no explanation for the dog separation anxiety to commence. What I can say is that separation anxiety in dogs regularly occurs:

  1. Straight after a change in routine. Such as your work hours changing or a family member leaving home. Remember dogs are creatures of habit and any changes can be very unsettling and confusing to them.
  2. If you have been on vacation or unemployed for some time and have been spending heaps of time with your dog. As a result of this when you go back to work your dog becomes anxious and distressed.
  3. Unfortunately dogs rescued from animal shelters contribute a highly disproportionate number of dog separation anxiety cases.
  4. After your dog experiences a traumatic event while on his own. If a thunderstorm lashes your home while your dog is alone, this can trigger separation anxiety in the future – your dog will associate your absence with the traumatic event.
  5. If your dog is rarely left alone and becomes overly reliant on his human family – Golden Retrievers are very susceptible to this type of separation anxiety in dogs.
  6. When you move to a new neighborhood.

How Does Separation Anxiety In Dogs Manifest?

Barking

Whining

Licking

Destructive Behavior

Chewing

Howling

Panic Attacks

Digging

Inappropriate Urination

House Soiling

Self Mutilation

Escaping

Diarrhea

Loss of Appetite

Excessive Salivation

Vomiting

Jumping through windows

Crying

Separation Anxiety Treatment

The treatment administered to your dog’s separation anxiety problem depends on its cause and severity. A mild case of separation anxiety in dogs will be easily fixed by applying some of the proven methods listed below. More severe cases will take lots of time, commitment and possibly a visit to your Vet for some medication. Commence these techniques as soon as you identify separation anxiety to be the problem.

The golden rule is that you must educate your dog to accept the fact that sometimes you will need to be apart from each other. The earlier you start getting your dog used to this fact, the easier it will be, for both of you.

  • Ensure that your dog feels safe and comfortable when you are away from him. Provide plenty of fresh water and clean, warm bedding for your dog.
  • Be sure to give your dog plenty of exercise when you are around. On-leash walks, a run at the park with other dogs and some obedience training will all ensure your dog is happy and stimulated. Importantly, it can also mean your dog will rest while you are out, instead of tearing up the garden.
  • Provide some appealing dog toys to help occupy his time. Kongs stuffed with frozen treats are a favorite with many dogs.
  • Leave your dog a blanket or piece of clothing that has your scent on it. This may comfort a distressed dog – make sure it is something you don’t mind being torn up though.
  • Try feeding your dog his main meal just as you are leaving the house. You can also hide part of his meal around the yard, which will give him/her something to do while you are away.
  • If you often have the radio on when at home, leave it on while you are away. This can be soothing and comforting in mild cases of separation anxiety in dogs.
  • Some dog owners report that buying another puppy or cat can help reduce separation anxiety. I believe that this action may reduce boredom, but won’t stop your dog from missing you when you are apart.
  • Leave your dog in a safe and secure crate or kennel run. This has a twofold effect, it provides a comfortable “den like” area where your dog will feel comfortable, and it means your dog won’t be able to act out many of the problem behaviors listed above. Be sure that your dog is completely happy in this area before you go and leave him for any length of time. I’ve never crated my dogs for separation anxiety treatment purposes, but many dog trainers and owners recommend this training technique.
  • Give your dog some obedience training. Teach and practice some basic obedience training commands like sit, down and stay. Be a strong leader or the “Alpha Dog” in your owner-dog relationship, your dog will respect and trust you for it. When you establish yourself as the trusted leader, your dog will respect your right to come and go as you please.
  • Drop your puppy or dog off at a doggy day care center, to friends, neighbors or a family member’s home
  • Don’t let your dog become too “clingy” and dependent on you every second you are together. Little by little teach your dog to be on his own when you are home. Put him in a crate, outside or just in the next room. Prove to him that it’s not a bad thing to be separated from you, give him his favorite treat in another room and leave him there for a while. When he is quiet and calm go and give him some praise, make it clear you are happy with him. You can also practice your down stay obedience training command for this purpose.
  • Pay little or no attention to your dog when preparing to leave the house. Ignore him for 10 minutes and then slip out the door with no fuss. Same thing when you arrive home, just go about your business for about 10 minutes, ignore your dog. When he is calm, you can initiate some contact with him. You don’t want him to believe that his behavior (barking, whining etc.) has contributed to bringing you back home. Don’t inadvertently reward his behavior by giving a big over the top greeting every time you arrive home.

The 4 Step Program

Step 1

  • Slowly teach your dog that he doesn’t always need to be close to you. Start out by ignoring his attention seeking behavior (jumping up, barking etc.) and then add some solid practice of his down and stay command. Little by little extend the time and distance you spent apart, until he is happy to be alone for up to 30 minutes. Of course, you will still spent lots of fun time together.

Step 2

  • The next step is to get him used to being outside while you are inside. Again start off with very small periods apart and gradually lengthen the time over a couple of weeks.
  • If you try this Separation Anxiety in dog’s treatment, make sure that you don’t just leave your dog outside to get all worked up and stressed. The trick is to start out leaving your dog out for a few seconds, then going out and reuniting before he shows any signs of separation anxiety. Give your dog a treat or dog toy to keep his mind off missing you. Only initiate contact with your dog when he is calm and quiet.

Step 3

  • The next step in fixing your dog’s separation anxiety problem is to eliminate the distress caused by you getting ready to leave the house. What you can do is write a list of all the triggers that start your dog’s anxiety. Then set about desensitizing him to these triggers. For example:  put your shoes on, and not go anywhere. Put your coat on and sit down to read the paper. Pick up your car keys and just carry them around with you, jangling along as you go about your business.

Step 4

  • When your dog is completely calm in situations that would have unsettled him in the past, go ahead and leave the house. At first, just step outside, shut the door and come back inside within 20 seconds – before he makes a sound. Again this is a slow process, similar to Step 2.  Then, extend the time outside the front door and then graduated to starting the car, then driving around the block before coming back inside.
  • You can provide a tasty treat to your dog on your way out the door, something that he can work on for a while. A great recommendation is a frozen Kong stuffed full of peanut butter and a few liver treats.  This will eventually keep him occupied for hours.
  • Remember that when you return home, don’t make a huge fuss. Come inside, get changed, pour yourself a nice hot coffee, and only then greet your calm dog.

Stopping Excessive Barking

Working out how to stop your dog from barking can be a difficult and time consuming task.

Dogs love to bark. It’s a perfectly natural thing for your dog to do, just as it’s normal for us to speak.

It’s when our dogs bark excessively that it becomes a problem for all concerned – including our neighbors.

Considering this, our goal really isn’t to stop dog barking altogether, but rather to control the excessive barking.

Keep in mind that there are situations when we want our dogs to bark (just like there are also times when we like our chatty Aunt to speak!)

The first step in modifying the behavior of an excessive barker is to determine the reason why the dog is barking in the first place. Once you’ve identified this cause or trigger, you can then plan the correct training solution.

Why Do Dogs Bark?
Stop Your Dog From Barking Now!

  • To express their needs (being bossy).
  • Some dogs are bred to bark (some terriers and hounds).
  • They are staking out their territory.
  • To alert other members of their pack (that’s you and your family) of impending danger.
  • When playing, just through sheer excitement – this is a very common type of puppy barking.
  • Barking at other animals. Depending on where you are in the world, it could be squirrels birds, other dogs that are out on a walk, stray/outdoor cats, or possums.
  • If they are isolated.
  • Some dogs bark excessively when separated from their pack (you and your family).
  • If they are trapped behind some type of barrier like a fence or window.
  • Just for fun!
  • To express dominance (puppies normally test you out at some stage with a display of dominance barking).
  • They bark because their owners have inadvertently rewarded excessive barking in the past (this is crucial to understand)
  • Through boredom or a lack of physical and mental stimulation.
  • May feel stressed or uncomfortable for some reason. Things like feeling threatened or if they don’t have an appropriate place to sleep can cause excessive barking problems.
  • Dogs that haven’t been properly socialized often become nuisance barkers.
  • May be looking for a response or some attention from their pack.

Another thing to keep in mind is that even though it may appear to you that your dog is barking at nothing, this is not necessarily the case. This is due to the fact that your dog has a much more acute sense of hearing, smell and sight than humans. Your dog’s excessive barking is most probably being triggered by something.

Stop Dog Barking!
But How?

Ok, now we’ve sorted out the reason for your dog’s excessive barking, we just need to work out how to control the problem.

The most important piece of advice to remember when trying to modify any dog behavior problem, is that you must clearly communicate to your dog what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

One of the biggest mistakes us dog owners make is to inadvertently reward our dogs excessive barking. We actually encourage and reinforce the barking problem when we commit these three dog training sins:

“Never Reward Your Dog’s Barking!”

  1. Yell and scream at the dog – this just gives them the attention they were crying out for. Plus your dog will most probably just think you are joining in with them, adding to the excitement.
  2. Let them inside. If your dog is barking his head off outside, then you let him in, this just rewards and therefore reinforces the barking. This also applies to dogs who bark to be released from a crate or bark to make you get up and prepare their dinner!
  3. If your dog is barking and you react by giving him a comforting cuddle or a treat of some sort, you are definitely encouraging your dog to bark again. By doing this you are communicating to your dog that you are happy with him. You should be making it clear that his excessive barking is inappropriate and won’t be tolerated.

Right, let’s get stuck into some proven dog training techniques to help stop your dog from barking. This is a list of the most common reasons why your dog may be barking and some proven solutions you can try to alleviate the problem.

Dog Goes Crazy Every Time The Phone/Doorbell Rings

This is a very common and annoying time for dogs to bark excessively. Try these training techniques:

  • Never yell at your dog.
  • Get your dog conditioned (desensitized) to the sound of the phone/doorbell ringing, don’t make it such a big deal. Call your home number from your cell phone or get a friend to keep calling you. If the doorbell is your problem, go outside and ring it or have a friend/partner do it.  When the phone/doorbell rings just sit there, don’t say or do a thing. Repeat this process over a few days, your dog will probably continue to bark for a while but will give up before long.
  • If you give your dog basic obedience training, behavioral problems such as excessive barking are easily controlled. Your dog will look up to you as their firm but fair leader and will be eager to please you in any situation. Teaching the “Quiet!” or “Stop!” obedience training command will soon correct this problem.
  • Another method which is related to the point above is to request an alternate behavior each time the phone rings. So instead of your dog barking and being a pest every time you are on the phone you could have him/her “go to your spot” in the corner.
  • You may have some success by changing the style and volume of your ring tone.

Dog Barks When You Are Not Home

I’m not going to pretend this type of barking will be easy for you to control, because in reality it is often a difficult and lengthy process.

Always remember that dogs are social creatures, when they are separated from their pack (you) they can become stressed, vulnerable and frustrated. This type of excessive barking is often caused by separation anxiety.

  • First, use your common sense and get these dog ownership basics right. Keep your dog well exercised (physical and mental) and provide fresh water, chewing toys and a nice comfortable place to sleep. You can also try to block your dog’s view of the street and other distractions/triggers. Basically, make sure your dog is happy.
  • If you know your dog has been barking while you have been away, you must ignore him for a while when you return home. This is difficult for lots of owners, but otherwise your dog believes that his barking is the reason you came back home to him. Just go about your business for a little while when you arrive home, ignoring your dog. When your dog has settled down, you then initiate contact with him. Please note this method applies only to dogs who were barking at the moment you arrived home.

You Must Convey A Clear & Consistent Message To Your Dog At All Times

  • This next technique takes time and patience, but can be a very effective way to stop your dog from barking. It’s based on that important rule applicable to all dog training situations. Praise or reward when your dog does something you want to encourage and create a negative association when he does something you don’t like.

Leave the house as you normally would, but just hide somewhere nearby. When your dog starts to bark, spray him with water or throw a tin can full of coins or rocks in his direction (this is the negative association). Try to keep out of your dog’s sight while doing this if possible. Go and hide again, if he is quiet for a while, go in and reward his good behavior with some praise and maybe a treat. This process may need to be repeated over and over until you have broken the excessive barking habit.

  • The above techniques have proven to be successful with my own dogs, but if they don’t work for you, maybe you could try a Citronella no bark collar. Again this method uses the power of negative association. Every time your dog barks, a fine mist of citronella is sprayed into the air. Most dogs hate the smell, and soon realize if they don’t bark, the smell isn’t there to bother them. *If you have more than one dog this method is not really a suitable solution.

Dog Barks for Attention or to Demand Something

This is one excessive barking problem that can be corrected very quickly.

  • If you establish yourself as your dog’s leader in the owner-dog relationship you share, this type of barking problem won’t occur. In the process of training you’ll also form a strong bond together based on trust and mutual respect.
  • You can also teach your dog the “Stop” or “Quiet” command to help prevent this annoying type of problem barking. When your dog is barking simply say “QUIET!” at the same time as you wave a tasty treat in front of your dog’s nose. After you dog is quiet for a few seconds you can then give him/her the treat. Eventually you will only need to say “QUIET!” without the need for a treat.
  • Another proven method to help stop your dog from barking for attention is to simply ignore your dog. Your dog will no doubt become frustrated and bark a whole lot initially, but once he realizes that it is not getting him anywhere, he will stop. Warning – this training method can be hard on the ears for a while! Remember that a dog’s behavior that is not rewarded and reinforced will become less prevalent.

Dog Barks at Passers By

Workers such as the Postman or a delivery driver are constantly being barked at and harassed throughout their day.

Your dog perceives these types of people as intruders or a threat to their territory. When your dog barks in this situation he is rewarded every time, as the intruder goes away. Your dog is then very pleased that he has averted this “threat”, which leads him to do it again and again. His behavior is reinforced and therefore can be a very difficult problem to extinguish.

  • If possible, you could try to block your dog’s vision or access to the area where these people pass by.
  • Dog obedience training is the best solution to this type of excessive barking. Once you have your dog properly obedience trained, you will be able to communicate to him that this is unacceptable behavior.
  • If your dog consistently barks at a particular person, you may need to use this person to help modify your dog’s behavior. Just say your dog gets really agitated each time the postman arrives. Have a chat to your postman and give him some of your dog’s very favorite treats. Each time he delivers mail to your house, he can also deliver a tasty treat to your dog. In your dogs mind the postman goes from being a threat, to a welcome guest.

Puppy Socialization – What and Why!

When people talk about puppy socialization they are generally referring to the first 16 weeks of a dog’s life. This is the window of time in our puppy’s lives that determines who they will become as adult dogs.

The temperament, character and behavior habits of your puppy are developed during this socialization period – and will last a lifetime. It affects how your puppy will relate to his family, strangers, animals and the environment in which he lives.

Puppy socialization stimulates the five senses of your young dog. It is the introduction, exposure and desensitization to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch of everyday life. The socialization period conditions your puppy to the many different situations he needs to be familiar with and comfortable around. It also prepares him to deal with the new experiences and challenges which inevitably arise throughout life in an appropriate manner.

Puppy socialization is the crucial stage where you begin to build the close bond you share with your dog, one that will last forever. It’s up to you – any puppy can become a well adjusted and trusted member of society through proper socialization.

We owe it to our puppies to provide them with thorough socialization and training – all dogs need to be socialized regardless of breed type, where you bought the puppy from or anything else you may think of.

There are two main types of puppy socialization:

Active – Things we purposely introduce to our dogs like obedience training, visiting new people and rides in the car.

Passive – What your puppy comes across in her own time like exploring the plants in the back yard.

Note: Always check with your Veterinarian prior to starting your puppy socialization. Socializing your puppy is a balancing act between the need for your puppy’s education and experience against the necessity of safeguarding him from disease.

Why Is It So Important To Socialize Our Puppies?

  • The puppy socialization period (especially the first 16 weeks) is the most critical time for shaping your dog’s future temperament, character and behavior habits. If you miss out on socializing your puppy during this period you cannot simply go back and fix the problems later.
  • Preventing problem behaviors through proper socialization is a much more attractive alternative than trying to correct the undesirable behavior (barking, object guarding, chewing, separation anxiety, dog to dog aggression etc.) that arises from a lack of socialization.
  • Puppy socialization is an essential ingredient in building and strengthening the bond you will share with your dog throughout his life. The time you put in now will be well rewarded.

Unsocialized Puppies Take A Very Different Path In Life Than A Dog Who Is Properly Socialized

  • Socializing your puppy has an even bigger influence over her behavior than the breed of dog (boxer, beagle etc.) she is – it’s that important.
  • A socialized puppy is well placed to think, learn and problem solve (including obedience training), where’s a fearful stressed dog (unsocialized) is severely restricted in this area.
  • A well socialized dog will happily accept change, new people, challenges and will interact appropriately with other animals.
  • Puppy socialization prepares your puppy for the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Things like the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, lawn mower, cats, TV and whatever else life throws at him.
  • Puppy socialization educates your dog about appropriate social interaction and how to inhibit aggression towards people and other animals.
  • Socialization feeds all of the senses and safely, positively promotes emotional and mental stimulation.

What Happens If You Don’t Properly Socialize Your Puppy?

  • An unfortunate but undeniable fact is that the number one reason why dogs end up being euthanized is through a lack of socialization (from the associated problems that arise). The sad part is that socializing your puppy isn’t really that difficult.
  • If you miss the crucial puppy socialization period it’s not something you can catch up on later – you have deadlines you must meet!
  • You end up with a dog that is an outcast to society, one that doesn’t fit in and can’t be trusted. Sadly there are many dogs in this very situation living out their days permanently confined to the back yard.
  • Dogs who miss the critical socialization period often exhibit shyness, aggression, timidity, fear towards people, dogs and other animals. They are also often inept at relating with other dogs.
  • If your puppy is deprived of early social stimulation the result is her physical and emotional health can be irreversibly compromised.
  • Unexpected events and new experiences are not well received by unsocialized dogs. What we strive for in our dogs is a happy balance between them being cautious and having the confidence to accept and explore new things.

When Does The Puppy Socialization Period Begin?

Pretty much the moment your puppy comes into this world the socialization and habituation window is open.

  1. The mother of your pup begins the socialization process through massaging your puppy with her tongue to control his elimination, also through sound, smell and body language. She is also responsible for giving your puppy his first lesson in discipline.
  2. Litter mates (siblings) learn from each other through play time and social interaction. They discover many aspects of being a dog including how to inhibit their bite and also the language of dominance and submission.
  3. The breeder plays a crucial role in the first 7-8 weeks of your puppy’s life. He/she should handle the puppies during this critical period, getting them used to human scent and touch. A good breeder will also begin to get your puppy accustomed to proper household etiquette, noises and basic training.

How Do I Socialize My Puppy?

Ideally at about the 8 week mark your puppy will arrive at your home, which will be his home for life. Your responsibility to provide him proper socialization starts immediately, you’re in control; it’s in your hands. This is the beginning of the primary socialization window – make the most of it!

Note: Avoid any situations during this first couple of weeks at home that will scare your puppy (often called the fear impact period). Any major scare (like an aggressive dog approaching) can emotionally damage your pup forever.

  • Puppy house training, crate training and chew toy training should commence as soon as your new housemate arrives. This is all part of the puppy socialization process, it establishes proper household etiquette, reinforces desirable behavior and prevents bad habits from forming.
  • Pick your puppy up, stroke her belly, touch her all over while gently talking to her. Also invite other people to do the same.
  • For your dog’s safety and to establish a close bond it’s important to begin some obedience training right away. Teach some basic commands such as sit, down, stay and the recall.
  • Involve your new puppy in everything you can (isn’t this why you got your puppy in the first place?), always under close supervision. Just get her familiar and comfortable with all of the daily routines and happenings of her new household. This is her environment now, we want her to be relaxed and comfortable around things like the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, TV and noisy children.
  • It’s essential that your puppy meets as many people as possible before he reaches 12 weeks of age. As his vaccinations won’t be completed by this stage, it’s best if the people come to him. Always make visits a fun, non-threatening experience for your little pup. Encourage play, treats and touch between your visitors and your puppy. If you’re game you can also visit some friends with immunized and trustworthy cats or dogs.
  • Groom your dog, bathe her and clip her nails.
  • Allow your puppy to explore your home, inside and out. Continue to supervise him but allow him to check things (pot plants, lawn mower, toys etc.) out for himself.
  • Take your puppy for a boat ride, in an elevator or to the Vet. Anywhere you expect he may need to go as an adult you should expose him to it now – in a safe, non threatening and controlled fashion.
  • Give your puppy some new toys and play some games with him. Anything that stimulates his mind and makes him problem solve is brilliant for his development. You can play games of hide and seek or build some obstacle courses for him to navigate his way through.
  • Take your puppy with you on short car trips. Visit some friends or sit at the train station and watch some trains roll by. I don’t recommend off leash dog parks as it’s hard to know which dogs are vaccinated and of sound temperament. As I mentioned earlier a bad experience during the socialization period can scar your puppy for life.
  • Once the final canine vaccination shots are done it is a great idea to get along to a good puppy kindergarten. Your puppy will continue to develop her social skills (bite inhibition) in a friendly and safe environment.
  • As soon as the final vaccinations are completed you can start to get out and about even more. Take your puppy on walks to meet with other dogs, cats and other animals. Also encourage people to come up and pet your puppy while on walks.

Apart from all of the puppy socialization tips listed above it’s important to remember to always have fun with it. Puppy socialization is a fun time, you’ll get great pleasure out of watching your pup experience new things for the first time. Enjoy it.