It is vitally important that you begin socializing your puppies NOW! The window for socialization closes at 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, you will be doing remedial work and your dog may never reach his/her full potential for being a normal, friendly dog! Gradually introduce your puppy to all sorts of people: tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people, men, women, children, men with beards and who wear hats, girls and boys who wear baseball caps, black people, white people, and DOGS. When you’re socializing your dog with children, watch your dog carefully to see if he’s getting tired. If he is, remove him from the children and let him rest somewhere, like his crate. Put him in there with a chewy or a favorite toy so he doesn’t see this as a punishment.
Begin this week by taking your dog to 5 new places. Put your puppy in the car and take him/her for rides in traffic. Speak to your dog along the way in a happy voice. Go and get gas at the gas station so your puppy gets used to someone reaching into the car to give you change. Ask the attendant if he’d mind offering your dog a treat through the window. Introduce your puppy to the mailman, to policemen, and anyone you see wearing a uniform. Have these people give your puppy treats. Each week increase the amount of people you introduce your puppy to.
Expose your puppy to many different novel stimuli. Let him see the hose outside, or the rake, or your feather duster and vacuum cleaner. Familiarize him with all different sights and sounds. Let him walk on all sorts of surfaces, like concrete, grass, sand, tile, and asphalt, etc. Purchase a CD that has the sound of thunder on it, and gradually let him hear this recording at louder and louder volumes. Have some toys and treats, and play with him while he’s listening to your thunder CD. If there is a real thunderstorm, play with your puppy and feed him delicious treats during the storm. Even if there is a loud, scary clap of thunder, clap your hands and laugh about it. Expose him to other sounds, like the vacuum cleaner, the dishwasher and clothes washer and dryer. Turn on the food processor and let him get used to that. If your dog shows any fear or discomfort from hearing those sounds, don’t console him because he’ll think you’re rewarding his behavior. Just speak to him in a happy tone of voice, as he will be very affected by your own emotions. This is important to know, folks — your dogs will be very affected by your feelings about all things in general. If your puppy suspects that you’re nervous or upset about something, he will respond in kind. Remember that for the future.
Once your dog has had its first set of shots, try to arrange play-dates with other vaccinated puppies of similar age and size. Make sure you know and trust the owners of these dogs when they tell you their dogs are healthy and friendly! Be careful not to overwhelm your dog at first. Do this very gradually. Most vets recommend that you keep your puppy off of any surface that might have been soiled by unknown dogs.
If, at anytime, you see your puppy begin to look stressed or anxious, please give him a break. Puppies can become ill if they are feeling overwhelmed.
If you notice that your puppy seems afraid of anything, DO NOT CONSOLE HIM by picking him up, petting him and cooing to him. This will only reinforce the behavior, making your puppy think you LIKE his behavior! Speak confidently and offer him treats as you desensitize him to the things he’s afraid of. Help him learn that SCARY THING = GOOD THINGS HAPPEN by pairing up a negative with a positive (treats or toys/games).
This is the time you should begin handling your puppy all over his/her body. Message your puppy’s feet and give him treats while you do this. This will get him ready for grooming and nail clipping. Bring out the nail clipper and put treats around it. Make his association with this instrument a positive one. Pretend to clip his nails with the clipper, but don’t actually cut them yet. You might want to take your puppy to a professional groomer the first time to make sure his first nail cuts are done without incident. Let the groomer show you the right way to trim nails to avoid accidentally cutting too close to the quick.
LEARNING RESTRAINT & ACCEPTING HANDLING
Some of you may have puppies who don’t like being restrained, handled or being picked up. Do NOT become alarmed. Work on these problems by using food rewards to encourage him to like these things. Pair up being handled or restrained with being given very tasty morsels of food so that the dog will learn to associate being handled as a good thing! If you pick your puppy up and he squirms, DON’T put him right down! Hold on to him GENTLY, but firmly until he settles down and stops fussing. THEN put him down. Here are some handling exercises you should begin doing with your puppy to accustom him to being restrained and touched all over his body.
Bring your left arm around the front of your puppy’s chest while your right hand and arm supports him under his chest and belly. Gently restrain him with just a tad of pressure and then release him. Praise and reward him with a nice treat if he remains unaffected. Reward him each time he accepts what you’re doing. Little by little begin to lift him up while you support him against your body. For each step you take, praise and reward your dog. You will be shaping behavior that you may need in the future for veterinary exams, lifting him onto a vet or groomer’s table, and in general, getting him used to being held, picked up and moved around. Touch your puppy all over his body, including his ears, paws, belly and genitals. Get him used to your putting your finger in his mouth to brush his teeth and stroke his gums. Touch him around his collar and do gentle collar-tugs. The more handling you do now, the more he’ll accept being handled by the vet or by other people.
A word of caution here: Please do not take anyone’s advice when they tell you to flip your puppy on its back and restrain him to settle him down if he becomes overly excited. This will scare your puppy, and he will learn that you can’t be trusted. A puppy will feel very vulnerable to being attacked while he’s got his belly exposed. This is instinct here. If you try to flip an adult dog on its back, be prepared to get bitten!
Many people like to pet puppies and dogs by reaching over their heads. Desensitize your pup to this now so he won’t feel afraid when a stranger decides to extend a hand and place it over his head. So, pet your puppy by placing your hand over his head and patting him, and then give him a tasty tid-bit for a reward.
Always praise and reward with treats when your puppy doesn’t show fear or alarm at being handled anywhere on his body. If you notice that he’s sensitive in certain areas, begin to SLOWLY desensitize him to touch by touching him gently and then offering some treats. The more you handle your puppy, the better he’ll like it.
Believe it or not, many puppies and dogs don’t like being hugged or kissed. If it’s going to be important that your puppy accept our human affectionate behavior, teach him to like it by giving quick gentle hugs and then offer a treat reward each time you do this. If you have children that love to hug your puppy, make sure you desensitize the pup well to avoid nips on childrens’ faces.
Practice putting your puppy on a high surface, like on top of your washer. This will help him get used to being on a vet’s table. While he’s up there, do a physical examination of him, much like the vet would, checking his ears and feet and his teeth. Begin cleaning your puppies teeth using special doggy toothpaste – not human toothpaste! Good dental care is important, especially for the small breeds of dogs that are prone to dental disease. Dental problems can lead to other physical problems.
If your puppy becomes over-active and obnoxious — AND HE WILL…– Here’s an exercise that will teach him to settle down:
Put your dog onleash and a flat buckle collar or harness. Sit in a chair in a quiet room with your dog. Watch what your dog is doing, and anytime he behaves calmly, say “Good Boy/Girl!” and toss him a treat. If he gets all excited again, and starts jumping on you or pawing at your clothing, IGNORE HIM or get up and walk out of the room leaving him alone! The instant he stops this behavior, say “good boy/girl” and give him some very tasty tid-bits of food. He will learn that a good default behavior is being calm and quiet. Set these training sessions up a couple times each day. Just sit there and wait for behaviors to reward him for. Remember to ALWAYS ignore your dog when he’s demanding your attention. If you put your puppy in his crate, and he immediately starts to whine or bark, put cotton in your ears and don’t run back to him. Otherwise, you’ll have a dog that knows he can get out of his crate by barking and whining. If, however, you’ve put your pup in his crate for the night, and later you hear him whining or barking, you’d better check to see if he needs to go out and potty.
One more important suggestion is to get your puppy accustomed to being left alone. Even if you are home everyday, all day, do not neglect to teach puppy that it’s okay for him to be in his crate by himself for short periods of time. Leave him with a nice chew toy (e.g., filled, frozen Kong). Make sure you do this everyday while you extend his alone-time little by little. When you do put him in his crate, pretend to go out by opening the front door where he cannot see you, and then close it. Quietly go to some other area of the house for about 20 minutes at first. Return to your puppy WITHOUT FANFARE and release him. Do not make the mistake of getting all excited when you come back to greet him. This actually is one thing that can create separation anxiety in dogs. When you leave him, make it a non-event, and when you return to him, that also should be a non-exciting ritual. If others live with this dog, please have them get involved in his alone-training. Separation anxiety is not something you want to reinforce in your puppy or any dog! It can be very complicated and involved to modify a dog’s behavior once he is displaying symptoms of this disorder, and it can be very expensive in terms of dealing with possible destructive behavior. Let’s prevent the behavior from happening NOW.
DOGS & KIDS
If you have young children in the family, please teach your children safe and proper handling of your puppy. Do not allow very young children to pick your puppy up while they’re standing. Chances of dropping the puppy can cause his death or serious injury. Many puppies do not like being picked up because they feel vulnerable to being dropped. Have your child sit on a chair and then place puppy in the child’s lap to pet gently. Do not allow children to pull your dog’s ears or tails. Do not allow children to lay all over your dog and jump on him. Some dogs will NOT tolerate this childish behavior and will snap or bite children for doing this. An excellent website to visit to learn about how to avoid dog bites with children is: www.doggonesafe.com Be sure to click on all the links as this site is packed full of very important information.
Do not allow your young children to lie on the floor with your dog! Make sure you supervise both kids and dogs whenever they’re together. All too often, kids and dogs get into trouble with each other because the dog gets overly excited around the child, or he misinterprets the child’s behavior, and then bites the child on the face. When children play with puppies or dogs, the children should be standing up or sitting on a chair or sofa and the dog should be on the floor. This eliminates all possibilities of child and dog being at face level. If you cannot be there to supervise, then your dog should be in another room behind a baby gate with a toy or chewy to occupy him. When kids and dogs are together, the keyword is SUPERVISE, SUPERVISE AND SUPERVISE! If your child is mature enough, allow that child to begin issuing sit commands to your puppy. Place a treat in your young child’s hand to offer puppy while your own hand holds onto your child’s. Many children inadvertently tease dogs by offering a treat and then pulling their hand away before puppy gets the food. Puppy then grabs at the child’s hand and might nip. Again, SUPERVISION WITH YOUNG KIDS AND PUPPIES/DOGS IS CRUCIAL.
Attached is a section on teaching bite inhibition. Please begin this training NOW. All puppies bite, because they’re teething, and because that’s how they’ve played with their littermates. It’s important to teach your dog to have a soft mouth. All dogs are capable of biting! If your dog has been taught good bite inhibition, if he’s ever provoked to bite during his lifetime, he will not do any damage because you will have taught him to bite without pressure!
Do NOT wrestle and roughhouse with your puppy. You will be teaching him that physical aggression is a fun thing to do when he reaches maturity. I watched a situation where the owner of 3 Pomeranians enjoyed teasing his dogs and he thought it was funny when they’d come back and try to bite him. Two of the 3 poms in this household have both shown serious aggression toward the owners and toward each other. Always think about what behaviors you are reinforcing! Again, use good common sense when you’re raising a puppy. Whatever behaviors you reinforce now will follow through into his adult life. Reward appropriate behaviors and he will behave appropriately!
When the mailman comes or the UPS driver pulls up to your house, give him a treat to give to your puppy everyday! By doing this NOW, you will avoid having a dog who wants to kill the mailman or someone else wearing a uniform or hat. Let your puppy know right from the get-go that the mailman is a good thing because he represents treats. Take puppy for a walk around the neighborhood and let him meet and greet anyone who is willing to politely greet your pup. Have treats on you so you can give your neighbors and/or their children treats to offer the puppy. If you see a patrol car or fire truck anywhere, seize the opportunity to introduce your puppy to a police officer or fireman.
If you don’t want your puppy to learn to chew on or steal socks or other laundry items, do not make them available! Keep laundry items in a closed hamper. Keep all food items off the kitchen countertops from the very beginning, so your puppy won’t want to “counter surf.” If you start out doing the right things, you won’t have to “fix” these training problems later on. Use good common sense when training and interacting with your puppies. Keep tight lids on all trash containers. Puppies LOVE toilet paper, paper towel and used tissues.
I know that many of you have had to get things out of your dog’s mouth – maybe your dog has stolen your children’s toys, or the dog has tried to eat something he found in the trash. Many of you have been told that it’s important to pick up your dog’s food dish so that he knows you’re “the boss.” I want to caution you about forcefully taking things away from a dog. Now…I fully understand that when there are small kids in the house, you need to teach your dog to relinquish items just in case the child tries to take something from the dog. But there’s a better way to teach a dog to relinquish something rather than grabbing it from him. If you work on training your dog to obey a DROP IT cue, he’ll relinquish anything you ask him to. If you continue forcefully taking things away from him, you might create a dog that becomes a resource guarder. Dogs who guard their food bowls, bones, or certain locations, or people, or their toys are resource guarding. Sometimes this behavior is instinctual, but sometimes the dog learns to do this because he feels he has to protect his stuff from everyone who keeps taking things away from him. I usually see this type of behavior develop in puppies at around 6 months of age, which is the very beginning of adolescence. Learn to make food exchanges with your dog. If you need to take something away from him, put a treat right on his nose; when he opens his mouth to take the treat, tell him, “drop it” and then reward him with that treat. You might want to do this a lot with his toys so he’ll learn a drop it command very quickly. You can reward him with that treat, but also give him his toy right back! You’re working on developing a good trusting relationship.
When your puppy is young, get him accustomed to being lightly stroked as you approach him and his food bowl while he’s eating. Toss something really delicious into his bowl when you do this so he looks forward to people being around him when he’s eating. Include your children of all ages when doing this work, but make sure to closely supervise them during this training. Watch your puppy’s body language to see if puppy seems stressed when approached around his food, bones or special resources