Raising A Great Puppy
(Editor’s Note: The first part of this blog post was previewed in the final installment of Picking a Puppy. New material begins at BONDING TO PEOPLE…)
This chapter is an essential tool for anyone getting a puppy of any age — there is so much to plan for and deal with that it can seem overwhelming at times. Puppy-rearing can be fun, but it is also hard, frustrating work. This chapter should help you over the rough spots and clarify the confusing ones.
So many dogs abandoned at shelters are purebred puppies who were once the apple of someone’s eye — until one day those people just couldn’t imagine dealing with the “puppy stuff” for a year or more in order to one day wake up to the dog of their dreams. If there’s an overall wish for this book, it’s to help people really understand everything that goes into sharing our lives with dogs, so that we can all feel part of an amazing interspecies adventure and not just the unwitting recipients of puppy chaos. This chapter is dedicated to explaining what is happening with a young dog every step of the way, and breaking down the huge experience of bringing a puppy into your home into manageable bits.
Even if you already have a dog, or are bringing a mature dog into your life, it can still be pretty interesting to find out what goes into a puppy’s development and how it affects the dog that youngster becomes. In this chapter you will find:
- The Developmental Stages — a detailed description of what is happening in various stages of a puppy’s physical and emotional growth that will enable you to understand and effectively work with your little pooch.
- Puppy Peculiarities — some of the odd little things puppies can do that might alarm or confuse you if you didn’t know about them.
- The Puppy and the Vet — What to expect on the first vet visit, with suggestions about ways to make going to the vet a pleasant experience for all of you. Includes the customary inoculation schedule and the facts you need to know to decide whether you should follow it.
- Puppy Training — Some basics to get you started on the right foot with the pup; common puppy misbehavior and how to deal with it.
Puppy Developmental Stages from Eight Weeks
THE FIRST VET VISIT
The first vet visit should fall within the formative weeks during the fear-imprint period (eight to twelve weeks), which will give you a good chance to let the puppy have a positive experience with the vet, who you hope will be especially warm and gentle with a little pup. If you aren’t happy with how the doctor treats you or the puppy, then this is a good time to find another health provider, before there is a medical emergency.
BONDING TO PEOPLE: THREE TO FIVE MONTHS (TWELVE TO TWENTY WEEKS)
This is the precise period when the closest bond is formed between dogs and their people. If your behavior with the youngster is that of a loving, sensitive and reasonable leader, it will have a positive influence on how he turns out. Your effect on your pup is enormous: you are your puppy’s world. Puppies are fascinated by their human family and everything in their new home; they also have a strong desire to play.
Kids Compared to Dogs
People often compare children to puppies, which is a mistake in my view, because few of the similarities are actually relevant and the dissimilarities are numerous. But if making a comparison is appealing, you can get a rough idea of the equivalent maturity between puppies and children by translating “weeks” into “years.” That would mean that this puppy developmental age of twelve to twenty weeks is like human adolescence — a time in human development when kids act out, test boundaries and do all the things that require adults to set limits and enforce them.
TWELVE TO SIXTEEN WEEKS: BECOMING A YOUNG ADULT
We tend to view dogs in this age group as still being puppies — which can be a big mistake. If you demand too little, that’s what you can expect from your dog. We continue to cut a lot of slack to a dog in this age group, permitting her liberties that her own mother and siblings never would if she was still living with her “original pack.” Even though your dog is still puppy-cute, don’t smile on misbehavior and let it slide. You can’t laugh off poor behavior in your puppy any more than a responsible parent would tolerate a prepubescent child “copping an attitude” and thinking they can get away with it. Anything you wouldn’t want a full-grown dog to do, don’t allow your puppy to do — or you will live to regret it or work yourself ragged trying to undo it.
The pup’s personality can go through big (although usually temporary) changes during this period. For a week or two at a time he’ll suddenly seem shy or unsure. You need to be the rock: stay predictable, be consistent in what you expect of him and how you expect him to behave. Just as your parents survived your teenage years and all that they entailed, so you will live through your puppy’s adolescence.
Obedience Training Now! Puppy Classes from Twelve Weeks
As the puppy enters the “juvenile period” by end of the twelfth week, he is ready for obedience training. Dogs mature at a much faster rate than humans: if you view this age-group as representing the early teen years, you’ll know by comparison how firm and clear you need to be with a puppy at this age. Some people believe that the twelve-to-eighteen-week age is an optimum learning time for a puppy, who will develop into a better dog by participating in puppy classes. If such classes are offered in your area, it may be a good investment in your dog’s future and in your relationship with him.
Most puppy classes encourage the whole family to attend so that everyone can be aware of basic health-care issues and simple training. Children can be guided in how to handle themselves and their puppy, getting that relationship off to a good start.
The classes should be aimed at having fun and meeting other puppies and their owners — a training system based on positive praise and rewards will make the class enjoyable for both of you. Getting used to other dogs is an important part of the puppy’s socialization, and doing so in a group under a watchful eye is a good place to start. This is the age when most puppies should have gotten all of their vaccinations, which makes it safe to mingle with other dogs.
Next Installment: Raising a Great Puppy: Six To Fourteen Months: Puberty And Adolescence
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Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner
Photo credit: yasmapaz & ace_heart via photopin cc