The Vet’s Office: Socializing and training your young dog
By Dr. Beth Engelbert, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Behavior problems are one of the leading causes of relinquishment of pets to humane societies. Early and positive socialization and training are important to having a well adjusted pet.
Many factors influence how your puppy will behave as an adult. The factors include breed, temperament of the parents, your puppy’s experiences, both good and bad, and the age of exposure to those experiences.
Puppies are born deaf and blind. However, they still feel and smell, so gentle handling by a variety of people should start just after birth. Different sights and sounds should be introduced as the eyes and ears open at about 10-14 days of age.
If puppies learn right away the world is a noisy, busy place, they can cope better as adults. As soon as they are walking, exploring begins. Though, the exploring should be controlled as scary experiences at this age are usually learned for life.
Puppies become less receptive to new things around 12 weeks of age. Around 10 months of age, dogs may become afraid of things that never bothered them before. Patience and training can help them through this time. Working with a trainer may be needed as many owners inadvertently encourage fearful behavior.
After the puppy comes to live with you, training classes are very important. Classes for puppies are geared toward socialization, learning manners, and building confidence.
Many people can train basic commands to their dogs but cannot set up the social situations that classes provide. At classes dogs learn how to behave around other people and dogs. Most instructors can help spot and manage problems early.
Dogs need training and guidance until they are adults. Many puppies hit a stage in development around 6 months of age where they seem to test their owners. They may ignore you and be more independent.
Patience, continued training, and perhaps another class will be critical at this stage to prevent permanent problems. Dogs may go through a similar stage where they test leadership when they become mentally mature at about 2-3 years old. Training during this time is helpful to clarify who is the leader of the pack.
Prevention is always the best, but behavior problems can be addressed and managed, particularly if you adopt a dog at an older age. Contact your veterinarian or local training facilities if you need help or advice.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net. It was honored as the 2015 Small Business of the Year by the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry.