The optimum time to start a puppy’s education is as early as possible: about eight weeks of age. With food treats and clickers as the primary tools in our training arsenal, we can help owners start educating their youngsters at an optimum training age, before pups have had several months of reinforcement for unwelcome and inappropriate behaviors. Paradoxically, some veterinarians still counsel owners to wait until their new puppies are six months old and “fully vaccinated” to take them to training class. Unfortunately, this advice is just as outdated as the use of choke chains in puppy classes! It’s true that you shouldn’t wantonly expose your pup to high-risk dog populations; you should never take him to a dog park, or let him play with stray dogs on the street. But the risk of contracting an infectious disease in a controlled setting, with other healthy puppies, is quite low.
Responsible, holistic puppy care begins long before the puppy arrives at the homestead. In fact, the first step to creating a healthy puppy is the selection of the puppy’s parents! The best predictors of long-term health of puppies are the health history and personality of the parents. Breeding stock should be proven to be sound in body, mind, and socialization.
Teddy’s owners were distraught as they explained to me on the phone why they had called. Their veterinarian had told them that their nine-week-old Golden Retriever puppy was “dominant aggressive” because he was biting their hands. He had advised them to alpha-roll the pup every time he tried to bite or otherwise challenge their authority.
Most people spend months preparing for the arrival of a new baby. They're just as likely, however, to bring a baby dog home on a whim, without any preparation at all. Small wonder they find themselves playing catch-up for weeks, months, years, or even getting rid of" the dog as they struggle to recover from the mistakes made in the pup's formative months. "
When Hera was about 18 months, we went to an adult dog training class. This instructor told us to use a prong collar. We bought one but often we forgot" to bring it to class. We walked her with it a couple of times but just couldn't get ourselves comfortable with the tool even after we'd followed the instructor's directions to put it around our own thighs and jerk so we'd know it didn't hurt terribly much."
Dogs who are confident, comfortable, and safe in public are made, not born. Here’s how to socialize your new puppy – or provide remedial socialization for the dog who missed his best chance to learn these critical lessons. By the time a pup is weaned at 7-8 weeks, he should already have a positive worldview programmed into his little puppy brain.
A native of Britain, Dunbar earned his veterinary degree in that country, but came to the U.S. to conduct further research into canine behavior at the University of California, Berkeley. After earning his Ph.D. there, he founded Sirius Puppy Training, the first and best-known provider of puppy training classes. Dr. Dunbar is widely credited for popularizing dog-friendly training methods in recent decades, thanks to his appearance at hundreds of lectures (his best guess is that the number is over 850), and a number of books and videotapes he’s written, published, and produced.
There are lots of other wonderful applications for baby gates in addition to basic puppy management. We have long used one to bar the dogs from our cats’ room (the cats jump over the gate); this keeps the canines from dining on kitty kibble, and prevents them from devouring that grossly delectable dog treat, litter box “kitty rocca.” Gates can also be used to keep a dog out of a baby’s nursery, or out of the bedroom of any family member who is allergic to dog hair. And if your clever Collie has learned that the sofa is off limits when you are there but fair game when you’re away, you can use a gate to block her access to the room with the forbidden furniture.
Modern-day dog owners enjoy the comforting certainty that their puppies can and will be given a series of vaccinations, so-called “puppy shots,” to protect them from life-threatening canine diseases such as distemper, parvovirus, and rabies. Most of us were indoctrinated in early childhood to schlep Shep to the vet once a year for his annual booster shots in order to extend that vital protection year after year. We accepted without question that a failure to do so was the height of dog owner irresponsibility.
Read any good puppy contracts lately? Probably not. Health and placement guarantees, spay and neuter requirements, limited registration and other legal details are important, but they can (yawn) put you right to sleep. Well, that used to be true, but today some breeders are writing contracts that leave people rubbing their eyes in disbelief because they contradict everything mainstream veterinary medicine recommends. These contracts require puppy buyers to feed an all-raw diet, avoid routine vaccinations, and use holistic therapies instead of conventional veterinary care.
The first time I saw Buddy he was a tiny tan morsel nestled in his owner's arms, a perfect pudge of a yellow Labrador retriever puppy eight weeks old, fat, round and chunky with a shiny black button nose, warm brown eyes and milk-sweet puppy breath. His owner, Tena, had carried him into my training class to hand him over to me for three weeks of in-home boarding and training.
A primary concern of all responsible puppy owners is housetraining. Nothing gets old as quickly as cleaning up piles of puppy poop and puddles of puppy pee. An effective management and training program that prevents accidents is key to successful housetraining (see “Getting Off to the Best Start”), but even the most dedicated puppy owner is likely to slip up and allow at least one mistake. Of course, when that happens, we clean and scrub and remove all traces of urine and feces. We work on two levels: we want the carpet to look good again, and we want the smell of the dog’s mistake to disappear.