Why Socialize Your Puppy? A Guide to Why and How

Why Socialize Your PuppyThe importance of socializing a puppy can never be over-emphasised, but what exactly does it mean? And how does one go about it? This article will explain to you what socialization is and how to put it into practice to ensure your dog has few, if any behavioural problems later in life and is able to interact well with dogs and other species.

Socialization is the process whereby a puppy learns to recognise and interact with other individuals of its own species, with people of different ages, races and genders, and with other animals that she is likely to come into contact with, such as cats and horses. The dog will learn the skills necessary to communicate with and interpret the other animals’ intentions, thus avoiding unnecessary hostilities. The dog will also learn to cope with stress and will suffer less as an adult in stressful situations. When talking of socialization, we often include habituation, that is, getting a puppy used to different places, sights and sounds so that she becomes confident in new situations and gets used to as many different stimuli as possible.

There are certain periods in a puppy’s development that are more important than others. The most sensitive socialization period begins at around 3 weeks of age and begins to reduce by 12 weeks. Peak sensitivity is between 6 and 8 weeks of age. It is important to remember that many young dogs need continual social interaction to maintain their socialization and failure to do so will mean that they regress or become fearful again. The 6-8 month period is another sensitive time for socialization and owners and trainers can use this window to further habituate and socialize their puppy to different surroundings, people and animals.

So, now we know why and when socialization should be carried out, we must look at how to undertake this. It is recommended that your puppy be introduced to new stimuli and other people and pets in a systematic and controlled way. Remember that these formative experiences will shape the behaviour of your pet for the rest of her life, so the idea is that they should be pleasurable and fun. They may well also be challenging, but if done in the right way, the puppy will learn that there is no threat and that she is safe to explore and meet new friends and situations without being fearful. This ensures the best chance of her developing a sound temperament and capacity to cope in all circumstances.

Early socialization is, of course, in the hands of the breeder and if they are conscientious and responsible they will ensure that the puppies are handled frequently, as well being exposed to normal household stimuli such as the television, vacuum cleaner, washing machine, doorbell etc. Puppies who are raised in a quiet kennel or room will have trouble adapting to a normal family environment.

So once the puppy is at home with you, it is your job to continue carefully introducing her to different people, animals and stimuli. It is however important to introduce the puppy to new people, places, objects and situations only when you can completely control the experience. A frightening experience will be detrimental – avoid unfriendly dogs and adults and children who do not understand how to be kind and gentle with animals. Invite friends to your house soon after you bring your puppy home to teach her that guests are friendly and welcome in her new home. Give your friends treats to give to the puppy so she is rewarded. Introduce her to one or two other friendly, healthy, fully-vaccinated dogs – she can join in with bigger groups once she has all her shots and has learned some dog social skills and has over-come any fear. Always be ready to intervene if your puppy is scared, threatened or being bullied by another dog.

When socializing your puppy, you must evaluate your lifestyle and environment and assess what situations are lacking. For instance, if you live in the country, take your puppy to town and gradually and carefully let her become accustomed to crowds of people, noise and traffic. If, however, you live in a town and these things are no problem, take your puppy to the countryside so she can see and smell farm animals and become accustomed to them too. Make sure your dog meets some cats who are dog-friendly. Don’t let her chase them as this will start a life-long habit that will be difficult to change. If your household has no children, introduce your puppy to some children who can regularly play gently with her. Always supervise them to ensure the children are gentle and that your dog is responding well and not becoming nervous or aggressive.

Remember always to protect your puppy’s health, before she is fully vaccinated. Don’t put her down on the ground where there may be dog urine or faeces, and don’t let her interact with other dogs that may carry disease. You can still socialize your puppy by carrying her into different situations and taking her in the car, allowing her to see many different things in a safe environment and she will get used to trips in the car at the same time. Use treats and praise to reinforce good behaviour. Do not comfort your puppy if she is fearful as this can be interpreted as praise for the wrong behaviour. Simply change the situation (i.e. ask an approaching person to step back or pick up your puppy to get her out of a difficult situation) until she feels safe and secure once more.

All interaction with your puppy at this age involves consistently rewarding desirable behaviour which will increase the likelihood the dog will repeat this behaviour. It will also help to prevent the development of undesirable behaviour.

Another helpful step would be to enroll in puppy socialization and training class. This provides a great opportunity for puppies to socialize with other dogs, for puppies to learn obedience training in a playful environment with plenty of distractions and also for owners to learn training and communication techniques.

Cat Care 101: Keeping Your Cat Healthy and Your Home Clean

Cat Care 101There’s no question that our cats are full-fledged family members. Their loyalty, their love, and their ability to comfort us are unparalleled. Sometimes, though, their hair or odors can leave an unwelcome footprint in our homes. Just as we clean up the spills made by our kids (or our spouses!), it’s up to us to clean up after our cats. Luckily, there are any number of products that make pet care a breeze.

Cat Litter Boxes

Cats are generally low maintenance pets, but their litter boxes often contribute little to you home decor, and can become a smelly nuisance. Today’s litter boxes, though, can bring a touch of whimsy to your interior design, while their functionality can put an end to messes and odors.

One line of litter boxes comes in an assortment of patterns and colors, from solid silver and solid black, to polka dot, leopard print and wood grain. The litter tray door pulls out, and a metal sifter rake pulls and lifts litter out of the tray for easy cleaning. Another ingenious design has a triangular shape so that you can easily place it otherwise used corner space.

If you want to make cat care even easier, self-cleaning litter boxes are the answer. One style has an internal grill that traps used litter. You simply roll the enclosed litter box on its side and remove the waste tray. Another type takes self-cleaning to the next level by having a slowly but rotating system that quietly but continuously scoops used cat litter into a receptacle. The ultimate litter box is one that automatically flushes cat waste down your toilet. Instead of cat litter, this box uses permanent granules that are washable. After your cat uses the box, the granules are automatically washed, disinfected, and dried. Liquid and any solid waste are flushed down the toilet with fresh water.

Kitty Litter

When it comes to kitty litter, many cats have a preference for one brand over another. But if you start with the right litter or are persistent, you can find kitty litter that can help eliminate odors while keep your cat healthy. One brand of kitty litter on the market not only neutralizes litter box odors, but also changes color if your cat has a urinary tract infection. Given that urinary tract infections can quickly become life threatening, early detection is key. It’s also helpful to have information about a potential infection to give to your veterinarian.

Shedding Tools

Many people who love cats are troubled by allergies, or by the cat hair that clings to furniture and clothes. Products that help with shedding take one of two approaches: either they work at the source of the problem (your furry feline) or they make it a snap to clean up hair off of furniture.

Cats typically shed their undercoat (rather than the hair you see), so a product that helps you remove hair from your pet – a “furminator” of sorts – means you’ll never see it on your couch. These products brush out the dead hair from the undercoat (but don’t cut it), while bringing your cat’s natural oils to the surface. Because this type of product also helps stops over zealous self-cleaning, your cat may be less likely to be bothered by hairballs.

Cat care isn’t difficult, and the great litter boxes, kitty litter, and shedding tools make it even easier!

Can You Really Teach An Old Dog New Tricks… Also, Dog Owner Invents Training Techniques

Can You Really Teach An Old Dog New TricksAdam,

I received a surprise Christmas present last year in the form of a 4 year old female shepherd mix that my wife and daughter decided I needed to replace my long time pet who had to be put down last summer. She really is a beautiful dog, but the shelter fibbed to us when they said she was good with other dogs and cats. She has been rather aggressive with them. We are 6 months into this relationship now and she is much better. I guess she is more secure now.

The one problem I have not solved is her desire to run out the door and ignore our “come” commands. All this is to ask you: Will the techniques in your book and video series work on an older dog? I’d rather not invest the money in a lost cause. We live in the Arizona desert and she won’t last long this summer if she gets out and runs off again. I’ve looked through many of your newsletters, but didn’t find any mention of age.

Thanks for your help.
Larry

Dear Larry:

Thank you for the e-mail.

Yes, the dog training techniques work on all dogs, as long as they are healthy and do not have any mobility problems.

In many cases, training an older dog is easier than training a younger dog, despite the saying that “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” there is definitely something to be said about maturity.

Dear Adam:

Please help! I am ready to give away my 6mo. old Maltese. I grew up with one of these dogs- the most gentle and affectionate dog I’d ever met so I bought one for my family at great expense. I tried to find a good breeder and had the dog shipped.

The problem is this – He growls and snaps at my 4 year old whenever he tries to pet him or pick him up, or if I’m watching saying, “Good dog, no growl, it’s OK.. ” he will not growl but struggle to get away and growl as soon as he’s down. He has bitten when I was not watching.

I tried the advice in your book and that given by others on the discussion group. For a long while my son was the only one to feed the dog, I kept him off the furniture and the kids owned the toys. Nothing seemed to help, so recently I’ve been grabbing him firmly by the scruff and growling “No” at him, then putting him in a small room by himself for several minutes. Today when I went to correct him he snapped and growled at me! He is now frightened of me and I am angry at him.

The most upsetting thing for me is that I wanted this dog to be a friend for my son like mine was for me when I was young. My son is a gentle, quiet boy who loves animals and is saddened my this. Is there any hope?

Signed,
Stewart

Dear Stewart:

I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a complete jerk, but… PAY ATTENTION AND FOLLOW DIRECTIONS!

The one thing you apparently HAVEN’T DONE is to CORRECT THE DOG’S UNWANTED BEHAVIOR!!! The ‘pulling on the scruff of the neck’ is only for young puppies, 8 to 10 weeks old. It’s ineffective for older dogs.

For correcting older dogs, I spend much of the book explaining the benefits of the pinch collar. Remember the concept of motivation? Remember the notion of associating a negative/correction with the dogs unwanted behavior? Remember how I teach you to look at the corrections you’re giving and decide if they’re motivational or not? Remember page 23, page 38, page 59, page 62, page 155, page 173, page 174, page 181, page 226, page 241, and page 260 ?

I’ll quote from the book, “After you correct the dog, immediately tempt him to do the behavior again. Offer him the choice: If he does the behavior again then most likely your first correction wasn’t motivational… If he refuses to do the behavior, then praise him – as he’s just made the RIGHT DECISION.” [Page 156.]

Now, if you have a specific question about how to implement any of these techniques… then that’s another issue. But telling me that you’re confining the dog in a bedroom as some sort of “Time Out” technique is NOT something you’ve found in my book. And neither is, “”Good dog, NO growl, it’s OK…”

Again, I’ll repeat: Praise the dog only when he makes the right decision (staying calm). Do not tell him, “No growl,” if he’s already being quiet. This is SOOOO CONFUSING TO THE DOG.

It’s very simple:

The dog does something good = You say, “Good dog,” and praise. The dog does something bad = You say, “No!” and administer a correction with the leash and collar.

I can only speculate why your question is not more along the lines of, “This is what happened when I corrected my dog using the pinch collar and tab for this obnoxious behavior.”

The only reason I’m being so blunt about this issue is that it’s a central theme throughout the book. I stress over and over again the elements of timing, consistency and motivation. In fact, many readers have commented that my repetition of this concept is sometimes tedious.

Once you can explain to me how specifically you’ve used timing, consistency and motivation and applied these elements to your dilemma, you will (perhaps surprisingly) find yourself in the position of explaining to ME how you will have fixed your dog’s obnoxious behavior.

That’s all for now, folks!
Adam
Dogproblems.com

Can I Give My Dog The Flu?

Can I Give My Dog The FluAvian Flu and Other Zoonotic Diseases

Everyone seems on edge about the latest outbreak of avian flu. People in China are told to kill their poultry in order to keep the virus from spreading. Meanwhile people in the United States watch on in fear that the avian flu will come to their shores. So what exactly is all the hubbub about? After all, every winter millions of people come down with bird flu.

Origin of Influenza

Influenza, the term, came into use around 1504, though it had little to do with the virus. It came from the word: influence. At the time, influence meant: “the ethereal power of the stars acting on men.” It was basically a supernatural way of explaining the effects of disease on people at the time. During a particularly nasty outbreak of the flu in Europe during 1743, the term was officially attached to the name of the disease. 96 years later, the term was shortened to just: flu.

The flu, itself, is a whole family of viruses called Orthomyxovirids. They are a diverse family that are commonly found in the guts of birds. The specific type of viruses that infect birds, are called type A flu. It was one of these type A’s that was believed to have infected people a long time ago. Thus giving us, the flu for the first time. Though the virus that initially infected man, has long since evolved into a variety of human specific strains, the initially origin appears to lay squarely among birds. As such, all human flu bugs could, technically, be called: avian flu.

Pathogens and specificity

Pathogens are viewed as being any living organism that is capable of causing a disease. It is a term that is generally reserved for bacteria, fungi and viruses. Pathogens are usually very specific in who, or what, they infect. This has a lot to do with the way in which they are constructed.

Both bacterial and viral outer structure, consist of a receptor binding proteins. These proteins give the pathogen a certain geometry. This geometry allows the pathogen to attach to complementary receptor sites on the cells of the critter that they are trying to infect. Because of the wide variety of life forms on the planet, each cell type has a different arrangement of receptors. Most of the time, the pathogen’s geometry will not fit these receptors, and the critter remains immune. Only those unlucky few species, whose cell receptors do fit, are the ones that have to suffer the infection.

Occasionally, though, a new pathogen comes along that has a geometry that is general enough to allow it to latch onto many different species. These are the pathogens that are often the more deadly.

Influenza is one of these general viruses. It is capable of infecting most bird species. It’s also very good at doing what all life forms do. It evolves. This has allowed it to cross multiple species barriers, and jump from birds, to people, to pigs, cows, and horses. Thus making influenza a very cosmopolitan virus family. This still doesn’t explain all the worry about this recent outbreak of avian flu though. For that, one must go back in time to 1918, and the Spanish flu.

It was the close of World War I, and the world appeared to be returning back to a more peaceful state. Then, in various parts of the globe, people started coming down with a particularly virulent form of the flu. This was a unique case though. Instead of the very young, and elderly dying, it was affecting young men and women instead. Usually these are the most immune to the effects of the flu. By the end of 1918, this form of the flu had killed ~50 million people. It was the largest pandemic (worldwide epidemic) in recorded history. So what happened?

Normally when one gets the flu, it is more of a hassle than anything else. This has a lot to do with the fact that the flu types we normally catch, are viruses that have infected us before. They have changed just enough so that they can infect us again, but they still remain recognizable to our immune system. As such, our bodies can keep the virus in check, and then eventually eliminate it. The 1918 flu, though, was different. It is now largely believed to have been a case where a new flu virus had hopped species. It went from birds to humans, possibly after circulating and hybridizing inside pigs (which can catch both bird and human versions of the flu). This new bug was completely alien to our immune systems and thus, took many completely by surprise.

This is what has many scared about this newest avian flu virus (dubbed: H5N1, for the specific proteins found on it). It has proven to be particularly virulent among birds, and the few cases of it infecting people have many worried that another pandemic is on the rise.

Zoonoses.

Influenza is a type of disease referred to a zoonosis. It means that it can be transmitted from one animal group, to another. Zoonotic diseases used to be further broken up into those that humans catch from other animals (anthropozoonoses) and ones that other animals catch from humans (zooanthroponoses). Unfortunately, both terms have been misused and confused so much, that neither is particularly favored anymore. Now they are all viewed as zoonotic diseases. In the end this makes the most sense, as human beings are animals anyway. To break things up any further, just seems excessive.

The flu is not the only zoonotic disease that humans get from other animals. Our primate cousins have given us quite a few different diseases including: malaria, hepatitis B, Dengue fever and lymphoma. Of course the most infamous of these zoonotic diseases would probably be HIV.

Though there are those that would like to believe that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus was a genetically engineered weapon that was released among the African populace (they give far too much credit to genetic engineers, who are proud enough to make yeast that can fluoresce), the simian origin of HIV is pretty well established. HIV has close ties to the simian version: SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus). The big difference between the two, besides their first letters, is that SIV rarely kills the apes it infects. In fact, many apes are capable of carrying viral loads equivalent to those seen in humans with advanced AIDS, yet rarely show any signs of trouble. This suggests that the host and the pathogen have been doing this for a very long time, and the host’s body has found a way to handle the virus. Humans only recently acquired HIV. As such, our bodies have yet to “learn” how to deal with the threat that this virus poses. Which is one reason why HIV is so very virulent at the moment.

These are just some of the diseases that other animals have given to humans. But what of the reverse? What have we given our animal brethren?

Many of the “classic” diseases that most humans catch, are ones that we are capable of giving to our primate cousins. This includes the flu, measles, chicken pox and tuberculosis.

One particularly nasty disease that we are capable of transmitting is the infamous Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). FMD rarely affects humans, but it does use us as a carrier for it. The disease can hang out in our nasal passages, throat, and on our clothing. It usually infects various forms of livestock (cattle, pigs, sheep, goats). Symptoms usually include fever and prominent sores on the feet and mouth (hence the name). Most infected animals do survive. Only ~5% die from the disease.

The second disease is far more pernicious, and the victims have us to blame. It is the coral disease referred to as: white pox. This disease can kill up to 10 square centimeters of coral a day (~120ft a year). Over the past decade over 90% of Caribbean reef coral (Acropora palmata), have died. The culprit behind it is the little human gut bacterium: Serratia marcescens. While humans can occasionally fall victim to this bacterium, it usually doesn’t infect us. Instead it lives in our guts and gets expelled in our feces. Improper sewage treatment has resulted in human excrement flowing out into the Caribbean, where the newly released bacterium has infected the local coral.

So remember; the next time you start to feel under the weather, don’t worry about coughing on your dog. Chances are, your canine pal probably won’t get it. Unless, of course, it is the flu.

Annoying Habits Your Dog Does

Annoying Habits Your Dog DoesDear Adam:

My Springer Spaniel has gotten a little more resistant to the come command when she knows it means “Get in the kennel.”  At night, she goes in between nine and ten. And like clock work, she wakes me up at 2:00 am. I am sure I have started a bad habit, but I am afraid the neighbors are being disturbed. She still digs once or twice a week during the day. It’s like she goes into a panic after 4 to 5 hours in the kennel.

Thanks,
Dick

Dear Dick:

1. Go to her and make her come when you call her, if you do not see that she moves to respond within 1/2 a second of your command. But I personally like to use a specific command such as, “Get in the kennel.” If she doesn’t immediately move towards the kennel, I will go and get her and walk her in the kennel. If you wait to see if she’s going to respond, then she will wait to see if you’re going to make her. (That is, until the behavior has become a conditioned response.)

When you say kennel, you mean a crate– for at night, right? If not, then this is where she should be sleeping at night. Put her in the crate and then give her a cookie. This will reinforce that going into the crate is a positive thing.

2. For the outside kennel, buy some hardware mesh or chicken wire and put it under the entire kennel run and then put about an inch of dirt on top of that. Dogs don’t like digging and clawing against this type of material.

3. Increase her exercise regimen. Buy yourself a bike and take her for a 2 mile run each day. It’s good for you, too… and it will work wonders in reducing your dog’s boredom.

That’s all for now, folks!
Adam
Dogproblems.com

Allergic To Your Dog Or Cat?

Allergic To Your Dog Or Cat?Pets definitely help us live longer and healthier lives. This is especially true of the elderly and those of us who live alone. Pets make wonderful and faithful companions. They are always there for us. However, this relationship can become strained, and sometimes even be broken when someone in the household develops an allergy to a beloved pet.

Studies show that approximately 15% of the population suffers from an allergy to a dog or cat, and about one third of those with an allergy to cats choose to live in a household with a cat despite the allergy. Some allergy suffers live happily with a pet for a year or two before an allergy starts.

There are sometimes long term health ramifications of repeated allergy flair up’s, especially for children. Repeated flair-up’s can cause permanent lung damage in children. This should be carefully and thoroughly discussed with your physician. One of the ways to live happily with an animal you are allergic to is to decrease your exposure to the animal. Keep the animal outside if possible.

If the allergy sufferer only has a mild reaction to the animal there are ways for the two of them to live together in harmony, but it takes work. The animal should not be allowed in the allergy sufferers bedroom or on the bed. Keep the animal off of any upholstered furniture in the house as dander can be transferred to upholstered furniture. Use a room purifier to remove airborne animal dander. Remove carpets from the home if possible and replace with wood floors. Wash area rugs on a regular basis with warm water. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter in order to trap dander. The allergy sufferer should wash his or her face and hands after handling the animal. The animal can be bathed weekly in specially formulated shampoo that removes dander.

In some cases where the above methods and the use of over the counter antihistamines and decongestants do not help, the allergy sufferer may need to seek the help of an allergist. Immunotherapy can be thought of like a vaccination against your allergies. Given on a regular basis as shots, immunotherapy helps your body build up a natural tolerance to specific allergens.

With the use of the above methods you’ll be able to live a long and healthy life with your pet!