Monthly Archives: May 2016

Finding Fido – the Savvy way to Search

the sound, healthy way to find  the right puppy for you

 

You’ve finally taken the leap and decided to get a puppy. Knowing what kind of dog you want is the first step, but there are still many things to discover. All too often, the important question of how to determine the best place to get your puppy is ignored.

Red flag: Anyone about to get a puppy is susceptible to a naturally occurring, common affliction. We call it “puppy-love-haze.” Symptoms include a heightened emotional state; a tendency towards small, furry cuteness; and impulse buying.

Puppy-love-haze skews our better judgment; leaves us wide open for making poor decisions and could have serious side effects. There will be plenty of time for the puppy love-fest, but when making your decision about where to get a pup, a dispassionate approach is critical to the future success of your relationship with your dog.

 

puppy_love_hazeWP

 

Why is this important?
Birth to 16 weeks is considered the “golden learning window” during which you have an opportunity to positively affect the future behavior of your dog. Certain things must take place during this critical period in order for your puppy to grow into a well-adjusted dog. Socialization, preventative exercises and house-training are all important.

Most puppies go to their new homes at about eight weeks of age. So half of this “golden learning window” is spent in the care of a breeder or animal shelter. How do you know that the person raising your puppy has been committed to the puppy’s healthy development from day one?

Asking some questions will help you determine the right source. By “right,” we mean the place where those responsible for your pup’s first couple of months are proactive and concerned about canine socialization and an enriched development program.

Interactive Interviewing
A reputable puppy seller or shelter is going to ask you questions. With approximately 40 percent of all dogs being surrendered during their first year in a new home, they want to be sure you are a suitable match. It is not uncommon to be asked about your lifestyle and about the time you are willing to devote to caring for the dog; you may even be asked to sign an agreement to enroll in classes…and show proof of completion! And the list goes on.

It is important that you have a list of your own questions. Regardless of where you get your pup, you are searching for the best-case scenario. Is the source making your job easier or more difficult? Taking the time to find out is well worth the effort.

The Savvy Search Checklist
• Can you meet the parents and see the facilities where the pup is being raised? It is always nice to meet both parents of the pup if you can, though often, the mother is the only one available. It’s also a good idea to meet these dogs before the puppies are born, so that your observations are not swayed by the cuteness factor. Take the time to observe what their personalities are like. Specifically are they well socialized and friendly around you. If the mom shows signs of being unfriendly towards strangers, there is a chance that her pups will too.

In a situation where you have decided to rescue a puppy from a shelter you may not have the opportunity to do this background check. You should still gather as much information on the puppy as you can. Some shelters make use of “foster homes” so the puppies won’t have to be brought up in a shelter environment. Are you able to visit the foster home, see the facilities and meet the dogs?

•Is the area where the pup stays clean? Can s/he leave the sleeping and play area to eliminate? Are the puppies being raised in an area where there is plenty of activity, as opposed to being shut away?
Has a range of stimuli been provided for the pups? How complex (while safe) has their environment been? Have they encountered a variety of surfaces and objects to explore and play with? Have they been exposed to sounds that are out of the ordinary for the area in which they live? Have the sounds been increased in volume to “proof” them against noise sensitivity?

What type of early socialization have the pups had? What numbers and variety of people have they met? Have they had early exposure to children (of all ages)? Have they been exposed to gentle handling and received treats from the different folks they encountered? Have they been for car rides? Have they visited a vet clinic? Was the car ride and visit pleasant?

What type of preventative exercises have been started? Have the puppies been fed individually to help avoid food guarding. Have “trade-you” games been played in order to reduce the likelihood of food and toy-guarding? Have they had a positive introduction to gentle handling exercises? Have they had a positive introduction to grooming tools? Does the puppy-raiser keep notes on the individual pup’s development? If so, may you read the notes?

Have the puppies had a positive introduction to a crate? Have they been separated from their littermates for short periods of time? Or is the day you bring your puppy home going to be the first day s/he is separated from the litter and introduced to the crate?

The Happy Beginning
Once you’re armed with answers and know-how, life with your dog-to-be should exceed your puppy-love-haze expectations. What a great way to start your time together!

To discover more about the importance of early education, socialization and preventative exercises please visit ultimatepuppy.com

Just wait ’til I grow up

A thoughtful connection between you and your puppy will take time to cultivate and will require patience and consistency. Set an intention to create such a relationship, its worth should not be underestimated.

You want to create a connection so that your dog is interested in you! As with anything worthwhile, when you put in the time and energy necessary you will reap the rewards. You must be steadfast and true in your efforts to teach your puppy you are someone he can trust and count on and that you are someone worth paying attention to.

I have high hopes for you and your puppy as you go hippity hopping through life, as you walk down the sidewalk, wind through the woods, meander along a path or over a hill and onto the banks of a babbling brook. I want you to experience a reliable behavior from your dog, one that you will come to count on. A quick glance in your direction might seem insignificant to the untrained eye, this is not so. This behavior is far-reaching and valuable in so many ways.

Let’s talk about three simple moves you can work on with your puppy to start to cultivate this bond. They are fun, and you can practice anytime, anywhere. As with everything you teach your new puppy, start in quiet areas with less distractions and work towards busier environments. Introducing, Pause, Yoo-hoo and Play just remember, P.Y.P. or plucky young puppy!

Pause

One component of a healthy mindfulness practice for us humans is to stop and pause throughout our day. Before we go into a meeting, after a workout or before or after a commute from one place to the next. Simply pause and pay attention to our breath and how we are feeling. This same pause may be useful while playing and training with our pups.

In her book On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas talks about different subtle behaviors dogs use to defuse stressful situations. Some of these behaviors are slight pauses. We may or may not be aware of all these subtle moves our dogs are showing us but it sure is worth learning more about and watching for.

We can add our own version of Pause as we play and work with our pups. When we move from one environment to another, as we leave the house and head out to the yard or the street or when we switch from one exercise to the next. Pause, let your puppy acclimate to his new surroundings, let him have a look around, maybe a little sniff. Wait for him to check in with you and reinforce amply for that. Once he has had a moment, a chance to get his bearings, start whatever it is you are going to do together. You can make pause part of your training strategy wherever you go and whatever you are working on.

 

This is what taking a Pause looks like when you are training a puppy

Pause, a break and time to get a look around

 

Yoo-hoo

We have all seen the dogs that have no idea who is on the other end of their leash. Dogs with their nose to the ground sniffing furiously, dogs leaning hard into their collar or harness, dodging this way and that, sometimes to the point where the person hanging onto the leash might be in danger of falling. It is up to you to teach your puppy that you are someone worth checking in with, paying attention to and taking their cues from and that it is beneficial for them to do this. Translation, good things happen when he tunes into you. Try giving your pup 5 to 10 tiny pieces of high value food for him looking at you. Tiny-tiny but tasty-tasty! Cheese, chicken or hotdog are nice tasty choices of high-value food you might work with. Remember not just one treat here, but 5 to 10 tiny pieces in rapid succession!  The name of the game is to teach your pup to check in with you. Making it worthwhile to your dog when he looks at you is going to increase your chances of staying connected.

 

The puppy is looking up at the young woman, this is what checking in look like

Yoo-hoo, Shelby checking in

 

Woman gives puppy treats for check in with her

Yoo-hoo, Shelby getting rewarded for checking in

 

Play

You will see the benefits of adding Play to your training strategy. Play adds a level of sophistication to your game! Always keep a toy on you. A long soft tug-type toy with a squeaky works great. A puppy can chase this, or play Tug with it, or you can use the squeak to get his attention.

Practice breaking up your sessions with a quick game of Chase and catch up, at which point the puppy can play a game of Tug. Be silly and enticing, experiment with toys and games and learn which ones your puppy loves best. Use these super-hero moves to keep that puppy having fun, and on his toes and engaged.  Be unpredictable. Maybe you are relaxing on the floor together when all of a sudden you are magically producing a new toy and a great game of chase. Super-hero!

 

Woman calls Yoo-Hoo puppy, come over here!

Syd and Shelby play a quick game of Chase!

 

What kind of dog will you raise?

A confident, curious puppy who is interested in the world around him but who is also interested in checking in with you and paying attention to what you are doing is a beautiful thing. Aim for this connection. Incorporate these moves into your everyday routine with your puppy. Try and look at your day-to-day life with your new puppy like every moment is an opportunity to teach and educate him. This might seem like a tall order but with a good training strategy, some understanding of how dogs learn and what makes them tick you are off to a good start. Remember your Plucky Young Puppy won’t be young forever, just wait ’til they grow up!