First off, congratulations on your new family addition! Believe it or not, behavior problems are the number one reason why animals are relinquished to a shelter. The good news is that behavior problems can be prevented through proper training and socialization as a puppy! The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that a puppy can be socialized as early as 7 to 8 weeks of age, as long as it is in a controlled, safe environment, and your puppy has received its first vaccines. Below you will find information on basic puppy behavior. For more information, we recommend the books found at the bottom of this page.
The critical socialization period in puppies begins at 3 weeks of age and continues through 12 weeks of age. Proper handling of puppies during this time is essential to preventing behavior problems. Socialization involves exposing your puppy to a variety of novel people, animals, places and situations. This will allow for healthy social behavior development and can help prevent acts of aggression based on fear of people, animals, or new environments. An easy way to socialize your new puppy is through puppy socialization class, such as through Pawsibilities training. A recent study shows that puppies that were enrolled in a socialization class were more likely to stay with his/her original family compared to dogs that do not go through classes. The effects of improper puppy socialization can be devastating and can lead to fear-based aggression towards people and/or other dogs, plus extreme shyness and anxiety.
Basic Potty Training
House soiling is one of the top complaints of pet owners. It is important to implement a potty training protocol as soon as your new puppy arrives. Typically, for puppies, they can “hold it” for no longer than one hour per each month of age, up to 10 hours maximum.
Below you will find three basic rules for potty training.
- When you are home: NEVER leave your puppy unsupervised during the training period. This means that when cooking dinner, using the restroom etc where you cannot give your full attention, place your puppy in a crate/confinement area with a delicious treat/bone OR take him/her with you where you can see him/her at all times. Should he/she attempt to eliminate inside the house, you can stop him/her before she gets a chance by immediately taking her outside. If you are not with him/her, then you will be unable to prevent an accident in the house. Every mistake is a step backwards- help your puppy by always keeping an eye on him/her.
- Once an hour: take your dog outside to the toilet area. Give a “potty” command (be consistent) and give him/her two to three minutes to eliminate. It is extremely important that during the training period you go outside with your puppy. When he/she eliminates outside, enthusiastically reward him/her by giving a yummy treat and verbal praise.
- When you are not at home: NEVER leave a non-potty trained dog loose in your house while away! You don’t want your puppy to ever eliminate in any place besides his/her designated toilet area while you are there so that you can give a reward. Thus, it is important that he/she be confined while you are away. When you put your puppy in a crate, it should only be large enough for him/her to sit, stand, and turn around. If he/she has too much space, he/she can learn to eliminate in one corner and sleep in another. You want your puppy to make the connection that it is not appropriate to eliminate in “living spaces”.
There may be times where you are away from home longer than your puppy is capable of preventing elimination. For these cases, it may be helpful to have a designated “toilet” mat such as absorbent pad or newspaper outside of the crate. The door can be left open and the area surrounding the crate must be enclosed within a small room or pen. If your puppy has learned to eliminate on a designed puppy pad, the pad can then be taken outside to the toilet area for hourly potty breaks. Once the puppy is eliminating on the pad outside, it can gradually be taken away by making it smaller and smaller. Eventually, your puppy will make the connection that the “toilet” is outside.
Remember, be CONSISTENT and never leave your puppy loose and unattended in the house during the training period. Mistakes can happen – minimizing their occurrence is the key. Should your puppy make a mistake, DO NOT punish. In some cases when dogs are punished for eliminating in the house in front of the owner, they will learn to eliminate in areas that are out of the owner’s view. If you catch your puppy eliminating inside the house, immediately take him/her outside. If he/she then finishes outside, praise and reward him/her. Strive for “pee outside = good things happen!”
Crate training is very beneficial to a puppy’s life because it can provide a safe means to prevent inappropriate elimination in the house, a place where he/she can go to escape excessive handling by small children, and a way to prevent destructive and potentially dangerous behaviors in the house when you are away. Additionally, the crate can be used to teach independence by preparing the puppy to be calm when left alone. This independence is essential in the prevention of separation anxiety.
Crate Tips Include:
- Pick a crate: select one that has dimensions large enough in which your puppy can sit, stand, turn around, and lay comfortably. He/She should not have enough room to eliminate in one corner and rest in another. If you have a small puppy that one day will be a large puppy, you can still have a large crate, just block off most of it so that he/she does not have the entire space.
- Make the crate a happy place: put the crate in an area of the house where your family spends a lot of time. Allow the puppy to go into the crate on their own. Leave treats and toys inside. Let him/her walk in and out with the door open several times with treats, before you leave him/her inside with the door closed. You can then start feeding him/her inside the crate and eventually close the door when he/she is eating comfortably.
- Gradually increase the time periods. Have your puppy spend more time in the crate with food or a chew toy that takes longer to eat, such a kong with frozen peanut butter (check to make sure the peanut butter does not contain xylitol!). Once he/she appears relaxed and calm in the crate, begin to leave the room for short periods of time while eating in the crate. As long as your puppy remains calm, you can slowly increase the time spent in the crate, until he/she is able to remain comfortable in the crate while you leave for longer periods of time.
- Do NOT respond to cries or whines in the crate. If you experience this problem, the training may have been too quick for your puppy. The most successful training is one that is stress free. Monitor for signs of yawning, panting, and salivation as these can be signs of anxiety. You may need to re-start from the beginning. If they cry or whine, do not let them out or punish them. If you let them out while crying, they will learn that crying gets what they want and will continue to display inappropriate behavior. This process may take a long time and the behavior may become worse before it gets better. Be consistent and make the crate a positive experience. NEVER use the crate as punishment!
The Mouthy Puppy
Mouthiness in puppies is a normal, natural behavior. Puppies use their mouths to gather information about the environment. It is your responsibility as owners to teach them this important lesson – bite inhibition. Some use of the mouth for exploration is acceptable in puppies less than four months of age. However, excessive biting should not be rewarded.
Below you will find some tips for discouraging inappropriate mouthiness.
- Avoid aggressive play – especially interactions which involve a puppy’s mouth and your hand.
- Provide appropriate chew toys, such as kongs, nyla-bones or durable stuffed toys. These toys can be used to redirect your puppy’s urge to chew on humans. You can even smear peanut butter on toys to make them more appealing.
- Practice a high pitched “ouch” – this will often startle your puppy and cause him/her to stop biting. At that point, you can redirect the pup to a more appropriate chew toy. Be aware, as some puppies grow, they may learn that biting gets them attention. If this “ouch” is interpreted as attention, stop doing so. In this case, when your puppy is biting you, immediately remove yourself from the situation. Be consistent.
- Stop giving attention to the puppy when he/she becomes mouthy. Attention can include petting, yelling, speaking, pushing, playing and even eye contact. Look away from your puppy, GET UP and walk away until the puppy has moved on to another activity. A puppy that is desperate for your attention will soon make the association that his/her biting leads to being ignored.
- Teach your puppy how to “sit” and reward with attention. Once he/she has learned that sitting, not mouthing, earns him/her praise, he/she will be sitting at your feet in no time!
Heartworms, intestinal parasites and flea/tick medication
It is not uncommon for young puppies to have intestinal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, giardia, coccidia. Until we are able to verify the absence of intestinal parasites with a fecal sample, if you have children, please do not let them run barefoot in areas that your dog defecates nor allow them to handle feces as certain intestinal parasites can be transmitted to humans. We recommend having a healthy adult pick up feces with a bag, dispose of it and wash hands well.
In the south, heartworm disease is very prevalent. It is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The parasite grows in the heart and lung vessels and can cause significant disease and/or even death. Heartworms are prevented by using a monthly medication called Heartgard. While your puppy is still growing, we will provide a sample at each visit for you to start giving every month. It is very important to prevent heartworm disease. The costs of prevention are less than treatment for heartworm disease. Heartgard also helps treat and prevent intestinal parasites such as hookworms and roundworms.
Fleas and ticks are also very prevalent in the south’s environment. Nexgard, which is a monthly chew used to prevent fleas and ticks. Both fleas and ticks can cause serious diseases so prevention is very important. We will provide samples of Nexgard at each visit until we can predict your dog’s adult weight.
Your new puppy should be on puppy food. Depending on weight, your veterinarian will advise you to feed two to three times per day. We recommend feeding a grain inclusive diet (not a grain free diet) as it has been shown that certain foods, such as grain free and boutique type food, have been correlated to a heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Grain is an important ingredient. Recommended food brands include Purina ProPlan, Science Diet, Royal Canin, Iams, and Purina One.
Puppy vaccines start at 6 to 8 weeks of age and are continued every 3 weeks until 18 to 19 weeks of age. Important core vaccines include DHPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza). These are viruses that young puppies are naive to and vaccinations help prevent serious illness and/or death. Vaccines are performed every 3 weeks until 18 weeks due to maternal antibodies (antibodies from the mother). Bordetella is another very important vaccine as this helps reduce the clinical signs associated with kennel cough. Kennel cough is very contagious. Even if your new puppy is not going to be boarded, it is important for a puppy to receive this vaccine. Rabies vaccination is given at the last puppy visit, 18-19 weeks of age and is required by law. Fulton county requires you to register your dog and it must include a rabies certificate. Another important vaccine is leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is transmitted through wildlife through contaminated urine or dead carcasses. The urine is commonly found in stagnant water such as ponds, creeks, lakes, rivers. This vaccine is recommended for puppies/dogs that plan on going on hikes, being around water, or if there is stagnant water in your backyard. Ask your veterinarian about the leptospirosis vaccine for more information.
Adolescence usually begins around six months of age and will continue until 18 months to 2.5 years of age, depending on the breed. This period is usually the most frustrating time for pet owners. It is pertinent that you continue the basic training that was done at a younger age along with socialization with other dogs and people. Positive reinforcement obedience classes should begin just after six months of age.
Call us at (770) 817-9565 to schedule an visit for your new puppy today.