This post is from the Tucson Dog Magazine July-August 2017 issue.
Adding a new puppy to your family is exciting yet stressful. An 8-week-old puppy in your home is like having a toddler to feed, potty train and monitor 24/7. Planning and prevention improves your puppy’s likelihood of a healthy and happy life with you and decreases the probability you will relinquish your puppy due to behavior problems.
When To Bring Your Puppy Home
Staying with the litter through eight weeks of age is important so that your puppy learns appropriate mouth pressure, social and play skills. Some social disorders associated with leaving the litter too early are separation anxiety, compulsive disorders, hyperactivity, fear and dog-dog aggression. When the mother begins to resist nursing and puppies are eating on his or her own is often an indicator that the puppies are ready to move on to their new families.
Socialization & Fear Periods
Puppies have a finite period between three and twelve weeks of age for socialization. During this time puppies identify with other dogs as being like them and accept other species such as humans and cats if raised with them. Most importantly, puppies are learning the social cues necessary to communicate with dogs and other species. At 7 weeks of age puppies begin to curiously explore their environment. Puppies undergo a primary fear period between eight to ten weeks of age. Consequently, puppies may be frightened of people, objects, sounds, and other species or breeds of dogs which they have not encountered. It is important that puppies have proactive and positive exposures to many of the things they may encounter in the world. An exposure that is frightening or negative can leave a lasting impression on your puppy. This critical socialization period is the best time to start socializing and training your puppy. Learning how to read your puppy’s body language for signs of fear and having a plan in place to address fear can be learned in a well-designed puppy class. Your puppy will undergo a secondary fear period between four and twelve months of age lasting approximately 3 weeks. Early training and socialization with your puppy will prepare you for this as well as how to problem-solve other potential behavior issues.
Puppy Preschool Classes
Puppy Preschool classes are designed for puppies between the ages of eight and fourteen weeks of age. These classes educate pet parents about normal puppy behavior and provide positive methods for addressing these behaviors. Puppy Preschool classes also provide the opportunity for puppies to play and socialize with other puppies of different breeds, meet humans, and explore various objects in a safe, controlled environment. Sadly still, pet parents are often instructed by veterinarians to wait until their puppies receive their final vaccination before attending a class with their puppy, or to wait until their puppy reaches six months of age. Yet the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior says, “it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive socialization before they are fully vaccinated”. AVSAB also says, “While puppies’ immune systems are still developing during these early months, the combination of maternal immunity, primary vaccination, and appropriate care makes the risk of infection relatively small compared to the chance of death from a behavior problem”. Since the number one reason for dog deaths in the U.S. is relinquishment and euthanasia for behavior problems, pet parents should take AVSAB’s findings to heart. Puppy Preschool is vaccinating for behavior issues and may save your dog’s life.
The Most Common Puppy Complaint
“My puppy won’t stop biting me!” Hands down, this is the most common complaint from puppy pet parents. Here are some tips to help your puppy through the nipping and biting phase.
- Be patient. This is behavior that may last through the first year of your puppy’s life.
- Provide your puppy with a variety of appropriate things for him or her to chew on such as KONGS or bully sticks. Make sure to monitor your puppy while they enjoy their item.
- Whenever your puppy nips or bites, redirect your puppy to use his or her mouth on a more appropriate item. Toys, ropes, KONGS, bully sticks and other items are good choices.
- Use crates, baby gates and/or exercise pens to create spaces for your puppy to enjoy an alternative activity to nipping and biting you such as the items mentioned above. Be sure to create a positive experience and association with the space so that your puppy does not view it as punishing to be there.
- Training provides mental stimulation and serves as an outlet for your puppy’s energy. Teaching your puppy some basic skills such as hand targeting, sit, or down will help to redirect your puppy to a more productive activity.
- Teach your children how to interact with your puppy appropriately. Great resources for families are doggonesafe.com and stopthe77.com
Kim Silver CPDT-KA, KPACTP is owner of Building Bonds: a positive, reward based training and behavior consulting business in Tucson, AZ. Kim offers private training and group classes for puppies and adults. Kim has a passion for helping pet parents with reactivity issues and preventing the surrendering of dogs due to behavior issues.