Tips to educate your dog
Once the puppy is adapted to its new family and environment, there will still be a long way to go for it to become the balanced, sociable and quiet adult dog that we all desire.
From birth our puppy is constantly subjected to new experiences that help him mature. First with its mother and litter mates and then as part of our family. Every specialist speaks of a super-important period in the pup’s education: the famous socialization period.
Is socialization essential when educating my puppy?
Absolutely yes. It is one of the most important stages our dog’s life. It is a crucial time when our dog is more open to accept and assimilate new stimuli and experiences. The way it faces these stimuli and experiences will determine how our dog will face new experiences for the rest of his life.
Socialization goes from birth to maturity but the most critical stage is between 45 days (month and a half) and 3-4 months old. During the socialization period, the puppy should learn to interact with other dogs: first its mother, then its siblings and then other unknown dogs. We have to teach it how to interact with humans: women, men, children, elderly, and so on. The dog should get accustomed to noises, cars, bikes, appliances, new places and so-far-unknown situations.
Most of dog owners understand the concept of subjecting the puppy to many new things and they do it thoroughly. However, many dog owners fail to understand that these experiences need to be positive.
Educate your puppy with positive experiences
For example, no matter how much in contact a dog has been with cars since puppyhood, if their first experience was negative and the pup couldn’t overcome it immediately, as an adult it will still be afraid of cars. It will also be very difficult to correct this impression that was rooted in childhood as, at that point, it will have become phobia.
Phobias can turn the life of both the owner and the dog into a nightmare, as scared dogs may react in different ways: it may get a terrified attitude (floppy ears, tails between their legs, hunched back, moaning, whining, and so on), clearly expressing “please, please, don’t do this to me”. Just imagine going through this situation every time you try to put your dog in the car, or when it sees another dog!
On the contrary, the dog may take the opposite attitude: get into a rage and attack the reason of its fear in an attempt to keep this thing away and as distant as possible. Imagine what might happen if the reason of your dog’s fear are kids or people who go biking!
So the smartest thing you can do is making sure that the first contact of our puppy with all these new elements is as positive and enjoyable as possible for him. However, this is sometimes more difficult to do than it seems, as there are a multitude of new things that our puppy has to discover and get accustomed to. What usually happens, if there are too many things going on at the same time, is that the puppy gets stressed out and something might go wrong.
What can you do to make this socialization period run smoothly?
Provide the puppy with a shelter where they can retreat when they need to be calm. A dog carrier with the door open is an excellent shelter. When the puppy has sheltered in their place, do not let him get bothered as it has to be a sanctuary for it. This won’t be possible if every time they are in their shelter someone grabs them by the collar and dragged them out. Especial care should be taken when dealing with children, who very likely would want to “play with the puppy” without realizing that that also need to rest.
Your attitude is very important since the puppy will notice you when they do not know how to react or when anything surprises or scares them. If they see that you are calm and relaxed, they will calm down sooner. Do not project your fears onto the animal. If your attitude shows you’re thinking “Oh man, I hope everything goes well and they won’t be hurt or scared”, you’re already conditioning the animal: they will notice your anxiety and will draw the conclusion that there is something to be feared.
Do not let them be exposed to too many impressions at the same time for too long. Beware of parties and large groups in general, where the puppy goes from one hand to another and it ends up nervous and stressed. It should be get used to being surrounded by crowds but without getting too stressful because of them. You may let the puppy circulate for a while but then let him rest in his shelter so the experience would have been positive for it. We may gradually increase the time the dog is exposed to crowded situations.
If your puppy reacts badly to a situation, do not demoralize it and try to expose it back to that experience in the following days but try to weaken the impact of the experience and gradually increase its intensity on the subsequent days. For example, if your puppy gets scared of a motorcycle riding fast, in the following days, you may show your puppy a motorcycle that is parked, let it get close to it and smell it, and, when the animal is relaxed, you may leave. The following day, you may show it the motorcycle parked with someone sit on it. Then the next day you may show it the bike parked but with the engine running, and so on. The idea is for the puppy to get used the motorcycle and understand that nothing will happen to it when it sees a one of these vehicles on the street.
If you prefer to play safe and make sure everything will be fine during the socialization period of your puppy, the CEVA lab has created necklaces and diffusers impregnated with reassuring dog pheromone, called DAP, which may help your dog cope with this stressful period of its life in the best possible way.
What is D.A.P. (Dog Appeasing Pheromone)?
This pheromone is emitted by the female dogs when they have puppies so as to ease them. However, dogs of all ages respond to this. As it’s a pheromone, it can’t be considered a medicine and it can’t trigger any kind of addiction. All it does is calming the dog, making them feel comfortable and relaxed. Somehow it may be compared to that moment when we perceive a smell that reminds us of a pleasant experience, such as the soap our mother used to wash our clothes when we were kids. In the case of dogs, that feeling is multiplied by 10.
Several independent studies have shown that puppies wearing a DAP collar are more relaxed and calm, face experiences and impressions in a more positive way and that the possibility of developing any trauma decreases dramatically. If you want to know more about the D.A.P. ask your vet as this product is sold in the Veterinary Clinic.