Four years ago in November, I was sitting with a huge phone book size catalog on my lap in a folding chair. It was a hot, dusty day at the large State Fair arena in Tennessee watching the Australian Shepherd National Specialty Show.
With dirt on the pages, my pencil scratched as I took notes on breed lines, breeders and rescues, carefully watching the dogs in the ring. In between, I talked to owners.
I knew I wanted a puppy that minute and couldn’t wait to hold one in my arms, snuggle and begin our life together, but I also knew I needed to do my homework… especially since I wanted another Aussie. Loving this breed is my “poison”… haha! I used to say to myself, “WHY!? WHY do you have to love this difficult breed!?”
Still… it was SO hard to wait! Can you relate?
But it is so important that you get the right dog for you and that you are the right person for the dog. You’ll hopefully have many years together so get started out right.
Look on youtube and you’ll find tons of videos showing children and adults opening the huge box with the puppy inside! There are screams and laughter and tears all around and it’s SO EXCITING!!!
…BUT they don’t show you what happens later that day or the next day or the next when the puppy is peeing on things, biting or even growling because it’s become terrified.
Now that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t give a puppy as a big gift. You can.
Just do it right so your child, parent or significant other AND the puppy get off to the best start possible and avoid causing any trauma.
First, make sure a dog is really going to be welcome and planned for in your home. Do you know what characteristics are important to you when choosing a dog? Do you have the time and energy that a puppy needs? Do you have experience raising or owning a dog?
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that a puppy can make a good idea for a gift…
…IF your loved one would have gotten the puppy anyway…
…AND if you give the puppy in the right way.
So if you think you might go for a puppy as a gift, watch the video below and watch for more videos coming up to help you choose that puppy or dog and for more specifics on what you need to have ready.
When puppies bite, it hurts! Those teeth are sharp and with some puppies, they are relentless. They just won’t give up. As soon as you give them a toy to distract them, their teeth are right back on YOU or your pants or your hair…
Your kids might be so fed up that they say, “Mommy, I hate that puppy! He’s mean!”
Sigh… this just starts a spiral downward and yet…
…it can be so easy to fix.
Most of the time, your puppy is biting for one of two reasons (and you may find this hard to believe!):
Puppies need to be exposed to a variety of things early to avoid a fear response later in life. That fear can be immobilizing and/or cause aggression.
But mistakes can be made and then instead of helping, you can make life worse for your puppy and you!
So what is the right way to expose and socialize your puppy? HOW you do it is KEY.
Do as much as you can during:
the first 8-12 weeks of age.
Second best time is 12-16 weeks old
Third best time is before 3 years old
Your dog’s lifetime
Go at your puppy’s pace. It’s important to avoid any trauma so if your puppy is showing concern, then that’s enough! Pay attention to your puppy’s body language and also check your own mood because it affects how your puppy responds. Don’t worry about how someone else’s puppy responds – all that matters is how YOUR puppy responds.
CRITICAL: Know that dogs do NOT know that babies are going to grow up and be human like you! Babies smell, sound, move and look different than an adult human. They may as well be a cat! Likewise with toddlers and young children. These are all “separate animals” as far as your dog is concerned so all should be exposed. You may be young but may have children someday. You may be older but may have grandchildren so be prepared. Expose your puppy.
Socialize To Generalize! I coined this phrase to help you remember that when you expose your puppy to, for example, a loud noise, that can generalize to other loud noises. If you can expose your puppy to 100 noises then great BUT it is not necessary. Again, as in #2, go at your puppy’s pace. Puppies need lots of rest so dont’t over do it. The number of things you expose your puppy too is not that important. It’s how that exposure goes.
All 5 senses: Try to socialize for all 5 senses which are touch, sight, sound, taste and smell. Smell? For example to alcohol which is used at the veterinary hospital.
Puppies can develop a preference for substrates or surfaces – places and types of materials where they eliminate (potty or poop).
My corgi, Tobias, would only go in a “private” area. He wanted to be hidden in bushes, ground cover or at least off the trail.
When your puppy is young, it’s a great idea to expose them to new types of substrates so they don’t completely develop a preference. That way if they are boarding, traveling with you, going to a dog show, etc., you’ll avoid a problem where you dog will try to “hold it” for days!
At the same time, you don’t want your puppy to think they can go anywhere! So how do you teach your puppy where to go?
Make sure you don’t encourage your puppy to go on any surface that resembles the inside of your house.
For example, if you have wood floors, I’d be pretty cautious about allowing my puppy to go on a wood deck! I’d also avoid any outdoor mats because they are too much like rugs and carpets.
Where they go should be nothing like any surface in your house or you risk confusion.
I have practiced veterinary medicine in the Cleveland area since 1990, with behavior medicine as my primary interest. I help improve the behavior of dogs and cats through a variety of online courses. I also offer one-on-one and group behavior training sessions in the Northeastern Ohio area.