Puppies: critical information

Keep puppies up-to-date with their puppy vaccinations. Ask your Veterinarian if your puppy is healthy enough to mingle with other dogs. Read more about puppy vaccinations.

Don't force or prolong uncomfortable encounters with dogs, people, places or noises.

Puppies between 4 and 14 weeks old may demonstrate startle reactions, or fearful body postures, to unexpected sounds, sudden movements, and uncomfortable encounters. A intense or bad experience, especially for a puppy, can have lifelong implications. Even older dogs may acquire negative reactions or behaviors from forced encounters.

On the other hand, don't let your puppy jump on people and unfamiliar pets. These unwanted encounters might cause all sorts of problems for the pup; such as frightenting or hurting a small child or person who isn't comfortable with dogs. Or an older dog might try to correct the pup by snapping at it or worse, nipping or biting the pup.

A significiant puppy socialization time is the first three months of life.

Puppies should gently be exposed to as many new people, animals, sounds, textures and environments (stimuli) as can be achieved SAFELY. Avoid over stimulation (excited, wound-up), because it can manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior. Owners should take advantage of every safe opportunity to expose young puppies to the great variety of stimuli they will experience in their lives. Read the entire AVSAB puppy article or visit their website.

--Additional puppy reading:
Veterinarians discuss early puppy socialization in a round table format.
Free PDF downloads, Before and After you get a puppy.

Enrolling in a good puppy class is an excellent means of strengthening the human-animal bond. It's a great opportunity to socialize puppies in an environment where risk of illness or injury can be minimized. Check the Directory for a list of trainers and training resources.

What is the best age to enroll my new puppy in a class?
The earlier the better! The socialization window begins to close at around 16 weeks of age. The absolute best time to get the pup into class is between 8-12 weeks of age but training is always a good idea no matter what the age.

Search for Puppy classes.

Search the Saint Louis All Dogs public Notices for upcoming classes or look at the Directory for trainers. Members can post a question in the clubhouse and asking other members for advice.

If you can't find a good puppy class at the very least, take your pup to small, low-key outdoor festivals. Or sit with them for 5-10 minutes every few days, outside pet friendly places. Fit your pup with a body harness clipped to a short lead (no more than two feet. Allow your pup to experience people socialization, (greeted, petted gently, given bits of food you provide). Proper socialization means positive interactions are created to help a dog grow, play and learn.

Puppy Socialization Myth
"Puppies should not go to puppy classes until they've had all their vaccinations, or they will get sick"

Response. Some veterinarians fail to educate themselves with the newest research and continue to be skeptical about the safety of puppy classes and the critical importance of these classes to their patients' long-term health; in spite of the growing body of data supporting the benefits of proper socialization. Puppy classes should be held in an indoor (and therefore easy to sanitize) area; that is restricted to puppies of similar age and vaccination status are unlikely to lead to disease outbreaks.

Dogs are best able to form new relationships with those of their own and other species and to adapt to stimuli in their environment (habituation) during their socialization period, commonly considered to be between 4 and 14 weeks of age. During this period, puppies may demonstrating startle reactions to sound and sudden movements as well as fearful body postures. Unsocialized puppies do not learn to discriminate between things that are truly dangerous and those that are not. Such puppies are likely to become increasingly fearful of novel object, people, and environments. Proper socialization during this period is critical if any owner desires a dog that is tolerant of other people and animals and is unafraid of new environments and situations.

Proper socialization means exposing the animal to novel stimulus in a way that does not cause fear and should be an enjoyable, positive experience. Many dog owners force their dogs into interactions, when their dog is showing signs of concern or fear. The forced interaction only serves to convince the dog that the particular situation or person is terrifying and to be avoided in the future.

NOTE: any location that gets frequent dog traffic (neighborhood streets, dog parks, play areas, places that allow dogs), may care a concentrations of virus's, bacteria and parasites that a young pup body may not be able to defend against.

Well run puppy classes are the easiest way to expose a dog to novel people, dogs and situations. In a GOOD puppy class, puppies are exposed to children, men in uniforms and hats, wheelchairs, umbrellas, and other stimuli that are likely to frighten older dogs that did not have those experiences. BE AWARE that some trainers label a class a puppy class when in fact it is primarily aimed at teaching basic obedience.

Numerous excellent resources provide instructions for giving puppy classes. Early Learning for Puppies 8-16 Weeks of Age to Promote Socialization and Good Behavior by Julie Jackson, is a particularly user-friendly guide. But most of the behavior textbooks also contain good chapters on teaching puppy classes. As long as a qualified person watches the classes and confirms that they are well-run, give correct advice, and cover the most appropriate subjects.

Finally, socialization biscuits are an important socialization tool. Carry special (puppy appropriate) treats everywhere and allow strangers to offer these treats to the puppy. The puppies will learn to expect good things will happen every time they meet a new person.

Puppy socialization information taken from an article by Dr. Valerie Tynes titled 10 Life-Threatening Behavior Myths

Choosing and Testing Puppies
Your Purebred Puppy, advice you can trust. - link

Don't let the puppy choose you
You may have been advised by well-meaning friends to let a puppy choose YOU, i.e. the one who comes to you first or seems to like you the most. This usually results in all the bold and pushy puppies (who are often difficult to raise) being taken first, while the gentle puppies (who usually make calmer pets) wait politely in the background.

Most families make a mistake by letting the most brash, forceful puppies choose them. Sure, these little dynamos are a blast to play with for an hour at the breeder's. But they can drive you crazy if you have to live with them 24 hours a day. A puppy can love you without being suited to you all -- and a puppy can be perfectly suited to you without launching himself immediately into your lap. Give each puppy a fair evaluation.

Evaluate the litter as a whole
Your first look should be at the litter as a group. If there are four puppies and three of them are running away or staying at arm's length or woofing suspiciously at you, I'm sorry to say your visit is over. No, you shouldn't buy the fourth puppy. The chances are too great that shyness or distrustfulness is in his genes, too, and simply hasn't caught up to him yet.

And don't let a breeder laugh off his puppies' timidity with assurances of, "Oh, they just haven't been handled much." Lack of socialization means laziness or ignorance on the part of the breeder. You do not want a puppy from a lazy or ignorant breeder. If he can't even socialize properly, who knows what else he screwed up?

Puppy Evaluation
Choosing a puppy the right way. Use this nine step evaluation. - link

Shy puppies can become shy dogs
Puppies who hide or tuck their tails or shrink away from you are not safe choices as pets. Don't try to convince yourself that you can "bring them out of their shell." You don't know what's going on in these puppies' genes. Shy puppies can become shy dogs who may snap defensively at anything that startles them.

Normal puppies will be...
They will be friendly, curious, trusting. They mill around your feet, tug at your shoelaces, crawl into your lap, nibble on your fingers. After a while, they may stop playing with you and begin wrestling with one another. You can tell a lot about the individual puppies by the way they interact with their littermates.
1. Which ones are strong, outgoing, bossy, noisy?
2. Which ones are quiet, submissive, gentle?
3. Which ones grab all the toys and win the tugs-of-war?
4. Which ones seem delicate or picked on?
5. Most families do best with a pup who is neither boss of the litter nor lowest on the totem pole.
Look for good-natured, middle of the road pups who don't growl or grab or bite, but who DO Join In and hold their own.

Clap your hands gently, snap your fingers, jingle car keys, shuffle your feet, whistle softly, cluck your tongue.
1. Which pups are interested?
2. Which ones come over to investigate?
3. Which ones are apprehensive?
You want an alert and confident puppy. A nervous puppy who is afraid of sudden sounds or quick movements will not do well in a busy household. A puppy who is completely oblivious may be too dull, too independent, or unhealthy.

Evaluate individual puppies
Next, ask the breeder if you can see each puppy who is available for sale, individually. Ask him to remove the other pups. You want to see how each puppy reacts[/color] when he is away from his littermates. Sometimes a puppy who seems bold when "his friends are backing him up" will become uncertain or anxious on his own. Or sometimes an energetic puppy will calm down when not being egged on by the others; given your undivided attention, he may become quite the lap-sitter.

1. What is his general expression and body language?
2. Does he keep his tail up or mostly down?
3. Is his tail wagging, even hesitantly?
4. When you talk to him, does he look at your face?
5. Does he cock his head and listen to you?

3. Stages of puppy behavior
Developmental Stages Of Puppy Behavior. Touch, taste, hearing, smell, people, noises, bite, play, explore, house training, fear, experiences, curiosity, social skills, training, ranking, pack member.

Although feeding time is important to your pup, it’s also vital to include petting, talking, playing and gentle training in order to help your puppy build good "people-skills." Well-socialized doggie mothers are more likely to have well-socialized puppies. Puppies "feed" off of their mothers’ calm or fearful attitude toward people.

Puppies are usually weaned at six or seven weeks, but are still learning important skills as their mother gradually leaves them more and more. Ideally, puppies should stay with their littermates (or other role-model dogs) for at least 12 weeks.

Puppies separated from their littermates too early often don’t develop appropriate "social skills," such as learning how to send and receive signals, what an "inhibited bite" means, how far to go in play wrestling and so forth. Play is important to help puppies increase their physical coordination, social skills and learning limits. Interacting with their mother and littermates helps them learn "how to be a dog" and is also a way to explore ranking ("who’s in charge").

Skills not acquired during the first eight weeks may be lost forever. While these stages are important and fairly consistent, a dog’s mind remains receptive to new experiences and lessons well beyond puppy-hood. Most dogs are still puppies, in mind and body, through the first two years.

GENERAL guidelines for the stages of puppy development.
0 - 2 weeks = Neonatal
Most influenced by their mother.
Touch and taste are present at birth.

2 - 4 weeks = Transitional
Most influenced by their mother and littermates.
Eyes open, teeth erupt, hearing and smell begin to develop.
Beginning to stand, walk a little, wag, bark.
By four or five weeks, sight is well-developed.

3 - 12 weeks = Socialization
Puppies need opportunities to meet other people.
Four to six weeks most influenced by their littermates and are learning about being a dog.
Four to 12 weeks influenced by their littermates and also people. They’re learning to play, including social skills, inhibited bite, social structure/ranking and physical coordination.
Three to five weeks becoming aware of their surroundings, companions (dogs and people) and relationships, including play.
Five to seven weeks developing curiosity and exploring new experiences. They need positive "people" experiences during this time.
Seven to nine weeks refining physical skills/coordination (including housetraining) and full use of senses.
Eight to ten weeks they experience real fear -- when puppies can be alarmed by normal objects and experiences and need positive training.
Nine to 12 weeks refining reactions, social skills (appropriate interactions) with littermates and are exploring the environment, spaces and objects. Beginning to focus on people. This is a good time to begin serious training.

3 - 6 months = Ranking
Puppies need opportunities to meet lots of other people. Hundreds of people.
Influenced by "littermates" (playmates now include those of other species).
Beginning to see and use ranking within their pack, including humans.
Teething (and associated chewing).
At four months they may experience another fear stage.
A prime time to expose the pup to all sorts of sounds, objects, people, places, things, etc. Caution! Do so gently!

6 - 18 months = Adolescence
Most influenced by human and dog "pack" members.
At seven to nine months they go through a second chewing phase -- part of exploring territory.
Heightened exploration of dominance, including challenging humans.
If not spayed or neutered, beginnings of sexual behavior.