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Adventures in Puppyland

Meet the newest addition to our household! Phoebe is a ten week old lab/hound mix. She's got a lot of confidence, and LOVES to play. Regis has taken to her very well. The cat, not so much, but we'll get there.

The last few weeks have been very humbling. As a dog trainer, I'm always giving out advice and best practices for puppy raising, but usually at the end of the day I go home and don't have to deal with the typical puppy issues. Well, now that's changed and what a challenge it's been! Over the past several weeks I've been working with Phoebe on learning some manners, getting used to a routine, appropriate play with her brother (someone's been in a few time outs this morning!), and potty training. Additionally, we've been working extensively on socializing to a variety of environments, people, dogs, and handing procedures.

Since I brought Phoebe home at 8 weeks old I have been especially focused on socialization. Remember, socialization is a puppy having positive experiences with many new things, teaching the puppy that novelty is actually a great thing, rather than something to be worried about. This socialization should happen during the "critical period of socialization", which is the time in a puppy's life that they're most open to new experiences; for most puppies that period lasts from age 4 weeks to about 12-16 weeks. After that, puppies begin to be less open to novelty and it is harder to make positive first impressions. Many fear-based behaviors (including but not limited to aggression) are due to a lack of socialization. Since obedience is something that a dog can work on their entire lives, I am for the most part holding off on those exercises. She's learning sit, down, and touch, but I won't even worry about the other behaviors until after I'm sure we've made good progress on her socialization.

So what kind of things have I been working with her on? We've experienced or met: other dogs, cats, unfamiliar men, unfamiliar women, several children, many different surfaces, landscapers, traffic, car rides, crate time, several new houses, a lake, a pontoon boat, and handling procedures such as nail trims and ear cleaning.

She struggled the most with heavy traffic, so I've been working a lot on proper exposure to traffic at a distance, working with Phoebe at a distance where she wasn't worried for her safety, and as she shows me she's un-concerned (an upright tail, loose body, moving toward the traffic rather than hiding behind me or pulling away) moving gradually closer and working at her own pace. Over the last two weeks she's shown marked improvement to the presence of trucks and cars, and she no longer pulls away to hide.

I cannot stress this enough: puppies will always be able to learn the basics. Dogs are never too old to learn. When you have a young puppy you must prioritize socialization to set your dog up for the rest of their lives. A well socialized puppy has a much easier life than a dog who rarely experienced novelty as a puppy.

For more information on proper socialization, check out:

If you have a new puppy and would like some help on how to socialize safely, or you're noticing fear responses in your puppy that seem disproportionate to what is going on in the environment, contact me today to set you and your puppy up to succeed!


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