Getting a new puppy is a fun and exciting time. up until 16 weeks of age puppies retain the most information within their learning process.
The majority of puppies will have no fear at this stage of their life, so introducing them to as many new scenarios as possible is the best way to get them used to things that they may encounter in the outside world.
We advise that puppies are taken out to see and hear the different sounds of the world and to encounter different types of weather. If they are not old enough to walk because they have not completed their immunisations they can be carried through a town or to the local shops.
Down loading ‘Sounds Scary’ from the Dogs Trust website is a brilliant way to introduce sounds which we may not hear on a daily basis. Baby’s crying/screaming, trucks reversing are just a few examples. Playing firework sounds before November can really help. Playing them at a low level and increasing the volume is a great way of introducing them to a puppy in a controlled way. Playing these sounds now and again throughout the year during adulthood is also recommended so they do not forget that they exist.
If you have friends with a variety of animals, arrange a meeting with them so your puppy can meet other species in a controlled environment, ensuring that everyone’s safety is maintained (ie keep your puppy on a lead if meeting a cat). Please make sure that if your puppy is not fully vaccinated any other dogs they meet are up to date with their vaccines.
Meeting children is also important too so they can get used to the way a child would behave compared to an adult. Walking beside a friend who has a pushchair is also a positive introduction to equipment that has wheels and moves.
Ensuring that the whole family ‘sing from the same hymn sheet’ is really important to reduce the risk of miscommunication. Often we hear that a puppy/dog will listen to a command from only one member of the family. This maybe due to the tone of voice being different but at times different words are being used for the same command. One example is saying the word ‘off’ to a dog when wanting them to stop jumping up, when someone else is saying ‘down’ This is obviously very confusing for the dog which could lead to frustration from both the owner’s and the dog’s perspective.
Remember a puppy grows bigger (especially if you have a large breed dog). If there are going to be rules when they are an adult then those rules need to be implemented as a puppy. It is unfair for a dog to be allowed to jump on your lap when small and then to be told that they are unable too because we then can not cope when they have grown bigger.
It is important that puppy’s attend socialisation/ puppy classes as soon as they have had their vaccinations. It is an opportunity for you as owners to meet other people with puppies the same age and to ensure that you are teaching your puppy in the correct way. Giving a treat at the incorrect time when teaching a new command can actually slow the learning process down as it creates miscommunication with the puppy.
The dogs trust run classes as well as a website for information https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/dog-school/
Ensuring that our dogs understand what we are asking of them is just as important as us understanding our dogs. Historically people have been hurt because they have not understood their dogs body language. ‘The ladder to aggression’ is a description of what dogs are saying to us through their body language and it is important that we respect what they are asking of us. Everyone that has a dog should be aware of these messages. http://www.thebluedog.org/en/dog-behaviour/behaviour-problems/why-does-my-dog/ladder-of-aggression
The Veterinary profession as a whole now understands the mental well-being of animals more today than we ever have done before. Research within this area will no doubt be a continual learning for such professionals as our knowledge grows.
Here at Emscote Vets our nurses take a real interest in the mental welfare of our patients and as a practice we are more pro active in taking such things into consideration to ease the animals anxiety levels, whether that be within the practice itself or just with the every day struggles that life throws at them.