By: Marty Greer, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
Proper puppy socialization is important in preventing the most common dog behavior issues that lead to relinquishment. You want to start socializing puppies as early as possible. I recommend starting when the puppies are seven weeks of age, or younger. Another thing to keep in mind, mom’s temperament, health and maternal experiences are often a reflection of what her pups health and personality will be like.
So, what can you do to minimize behavior problems in puppies and enhance the bond the puppy and the new owner? Here are some tips:
AGGRESSION AND FEAR Aggression and fear may have a genetic, as well as, a socialization component. Carefully select the genetics of your breeding males and females. Start your puppies right, with Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS). ENS has been used for decades to benefit puppy development. Encourage the new owners to continue socialization after the puppy enters their new home to help lessen the number of behavioral problems.
OBEDIENCE AND COMMUNICATION Obedience and Communication of the puppy also has a genetic and environmental component. Choose male and female dogs that are sweet-natured, ready to follow directions, and easily trained. Encourage the owners to enroll their dog in a family pet obedience program, involve their children and other family members and continue the basic obedience commands in the home. This includes sit, down with a stay, a recall, as well as, having the dog walk nice on the leash without pulling and to be social and behave in public.
SEPARATION ANXIETY Separation anxiety in puppies can be both genetic and environmental. Teach the puppies and the new owners how to leave the home and return home without drama. This includes teaching them how to entertain themselves when home alone. Include stuffed toys and other dog “puzzles” . . . so the dog has to work to get a treat, such as, peanut butter out of a dog toy.
DESTRUCTIVENESS Before the puppies leave for their new homes, start them off sleeping in individual plastic dog crates at night. It only takes a few short nights alone for them to adjust. When the puppies are accustomed to crates, the new owner are more willing to use a crate during times they cannot supervise the puppy. When puppies are happy in their crates, and have something to entertain themselves with, they are more likely to sleep quietly in crates at night, and when home alone. This reduces the likelihood they will chew up the kitchen cabinets, woodwork or furniture, urinate and defecate inappropriately, and try to escape from the home, or kennel.
MATCH THE BREED TO THE NEW FAMILY
Make sure the new family knows what to expect for the breed. Let the families know about indoor and outdoor activities, shedding, grooming, protectiveness, size, coat type, social skills and health issues. Remember, not everyone is cut out for a puppy of every breed.
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