Ten Week Old Puppy. Clever Puppy. Nipping Feet.

They have had ten week old puppy Cavapoochon, Isla, for less than two weeks.

Already she takes herself out to toilet. She sleeps through the night, no mess. A dream of a puppy.

A ten week old puppy and socialisation

Ten week old puppy‘Puppy Parenting’ isn’t only about changing things she’s doing now, it’s also about avoiding certain things happening in the future.

The main and most important thing that should start, ideally even before puppy leaves the breeder, is socialisation.

People can assume socialisation to mean meeting some other dogs but it’s a lot broader than that. It also involves meeting people of all different sizes and ages, traffic, noises and so on.

It’s important that these encounters don’t frighten a ten week old puppy. People she meets should be gentle and quiet with her. Over-boisterous dogs or bullying puppies avoided. They should pair anything slightly scary with food – at a comfortable distance – before attempting to get closer.

This leads me to something many people are resistant to.

Carrying food

Rewarding the puppy with food is proved to be the fastest way to motivate and teach her. Rewarding with food shows the puppy what you DO want rather than what you DON’T want.

The delivery has to be instant – no time to walk across the room and open a tub.

They can cut up tiny bits of something nourishing, soft and nutritious and wear a treat pouch or similar. I recently discovered Feelwells grain free treats. They can be broken up tiny and Isla loved them. 

Every time they ask Isla to do anything, they will reward her. Every time she happens to be doing something they like they reinforce it.

The power of food and motivation was demonstrated while I was there. Early on, the teenage daughter wanted Isla outside for a toilet break. She called her, but it was more fun indoors with us and Isla ignored her.

A little later, after we had been working with food on something else, the daughter called her outside. She went out with her immediately.

Nipping feet.

The only thing the ten week old puppy does that the family would like to change is nipping – particularly feet.

Isla only becomes nippy when people come home or when they have visitors. She then goes for feet. They are a household who take their shoes off indoors and Isla loves toes and socks!

They are already, a couple of days later, resolving this by dealing with the excitement that causes it. When anyone comes in they tone down their welcomes and avoid stirring her up. At the same time they have something ready that she can chew instead.

A puppy tornado!

A ten week old puppy may suddenly race around through the house and garden like a little tornado. For some reason this often happens in the evening.

When she’s all fired up with excitement, they will give her something she can attack or destroy! I suggest a ‘rummage box’ – a cardboard cartoon containing rubbish like water bottles, cardboard tubes and bits of food so that she can chew, rummage and wreck.

Clever puppy Isla caught on to clicker training straight away, like she was born with it! She was soon lying down and even learning ‘touch’, touching a hand for click and reward. Isla found this fun. There should be no pressure on a ten week old puppy to learn tricks. There is plenty of time later to teach ‘commands’ (which I prefer to call ‘cues’).

Being left alone

Preempting future separation problems is very important. She needs to get used to being happily left alone for short periods without pining. They are already achieving this, particularly at night.

Walking

Isla has finished her injections now and can walk outside.

Like many people, they started by attaching a lead. This will feel very odd to a ten week old puppy and Isla plays tuggy with it.

To my mind, putting the lead on first is the wrong way round to do things. First they should be walking around the house and garden with Isla beside them – off lead. This is achieved with kissy noises, calling her, patting legs and food.

Soon she will learn that walking near to somebody is fun. She won’t need coaxing unless she wanders off to do something else. Only now is the time to introduce the lead – carrying on exactly the same way as before.

I demonstrated and the daughter copied. Isla quickly caught on.

Heel work is pointless and unnecessary for a ten week old puppy. Walking happily near to someone on a longish lead will make walking a happy experience. Later on she can be taught to walk to heel for when it’s important, near traffic for example.

Twelve week old puppy

When I next visit the ten week old puppy she will be about twelve weeks old.

We will do more work on her lead walking, paying attention, coming when called – and clicker training.

What fun!

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. Click here for help.

Socialisation Early. Bloodhound Puppy.

Insufficient early socialisationI met Vera yesterday, a four-and-a half month old Bloodhound puppy. She is the size of an adult Beagle!

Vera is already scared and reactive to other dogs both passing the house and those she meets when out on walks.

She is frightened, too, of children.

Otherwise she is a confident dog, friendly with people. She is giving Jack Russell, 9, a run for her money – something we are all now working on.

Lack of socialisation.

Socialisation – what is it? Many people think it’s simply waiting for their puppy to finish his or her injections. Then they take him to a park, to training classes or to somewhere with lots of dogs.

Socialisation is about a lot more. It’s about early introduction to the outside world – people, dogs, vehicles, noises, wheelie bins…….

The couple didn’t pick Vera up from the breeder until she was about twelve weeks old. I would guess that, being so happy with people, she will have met plenty. It’s very unlikely though that she had encountered children – or many other dogs outside their own house.

All puppies are different of course, with different natures, and very possibly others in her litter are different towards other dogs and children.

It has been scientifically proven that the best time to introduce puppies to the world and particularly to people of all ages and a variety of other dogs is from a very early age. Some even say a few days old for being handled by people!

Read this by Linda Michaels, ‘Puppy Socialization and Vaccinations Belong Together’.

Puppy socialization check list. This may be a bit more than most people can manage and much of it is up to the breeder, but it shows the ideal situation.

By the time they fetched Vera at twelve weeks old, a big door of opportunity for socialisation was already closing.

They are now playing catch-up.

This doesn’t mean Vera can’t become very happy with other dogs and children as she grows up. It will simply need much more working on.

They will make use of people passing the garden with dogs and people stopping to chat over the garden gate to build up positive associations for Vera. She has her regular accompanied toilet visits, and they will take food out with them – something like grated cheese, chicken or tiny bits of Ziwipeak which is what I use.

Immediately Vera is aware of a dog, even if she has started to bark, good things must happen. Food can rain from the sky! Very food-driven, she will then have to turn attention away from the dog to hunt for the food with her Bloodhound nose.

(They need not worry that feeding is rewarding barking because they are dealing with the emotion of fear, not with the act of barking which is only happening as a result of the fear)..

One of the couple can be at the garden gate talking to a man who regularly passes with his dog and the other can work on finding the distance at which Vera is comfortable.

Fun and food!

Then they can make good things happen for her – fun and food. She loves a game of tug.

She may even get near enough for the man to throw over some food for her (not leaving out his own calm and elderly dog!).

They can go to the local primary school at playtime or a playground. They can use the same process as she watches the children running about – from a comfortable distance.

Currently when meeting a dog on a walk, she barks and pulls as they hold her tightly. Her deep Bloodhound bark can sound really fierce even though she is so young.

In order to socialise her properly now, they will do what seems to be the opposite of ‘socialising’. They will increase their distance.

Walks should be ‘wanders and sniffs’ for a puppy of this age. They will give her reassurance, positive reinforcement and distance when encountering dogs.

The walk is about information not about exercise for a puppy. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Vera and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear issues of any kind are concerned – particularly anything involving children. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Sweet Dog Undersocialised and Scared

Three of the last four dogs I have been to have been scared of me. Although they all barked at me I’m not taking it personally. Each one, almost certainly, has been inadequately socialised at a sufficiently young age.

Rescues are full of undersocialised dogs. Without sufficient happy encounters with lots of different people in the first weeks of the dog’s life, the puppy of about three months old will very likely begin to be fearful. The clock can’t be put back.

People often think someone may have been actively cruel to their adopted dog but usually that’s not the case. There has even been research to prove that the brain of a dog that has been undersocialised deUndersocialised Cocker Spaielvelops a bit differently. What’s more, fearful dogs may pass on these fear genes to their puppies. It really is a big problem.

A dog that has been with one person, loved but not exposed to people and real life from a very young age, is condemned to a challenging life. So many people I go to have re-homed a dog like this, like the family I went to today.

Cocker Spaniel Millie, 3, is very happy with her family. She is pretty good with other dogs too. However, she does not like other people.

When someone comes into her house she will bark at them in a fearful way. The people have a ritual that may keep her barking under control but it’s not actually changing how Millie feels about people. Today I asked them not to do what they usually did, which unsettled her, actually making her worse. This may happen to begin with.

What was apparent is that the fear element reduced with the help of food but she still barked at me on and off. I feel it’s become a habit that always brings the same predictable result that may be rewarding or reassuring – a certain reaction from the family. She may even be getting a little bit cross. So often it’s a mix of things.

We have a plan for working on this involving food which fortunately she loves and multiple short sessions. They will have the environment already laced with food before Millie joins the visitor who will be sitting still and not looking at her. They will take it from there, trying different things. Some things work better with some dogs than others.

Millie’s not keen of people she meets on walks either. It is tempting to get the dog to sit as a person passes, but I prefer to keep on the move, making a bit of an arc rather than approaching head-on, keeping the dog’s attention and feeding as the person goes by. This is great practice at a level she can cope with to make her feel a bit better about people.

Millie barking at me

Millie barking at me

Millie’s general stress levels are permanently being topped up during the day by various things – she’s very alert to noises or anything sudden. There are many small things that can be done that could contribute to reducing stress from diet to preventing post being pushed through the door.

There are also things dogs can do for themselves to help them to self-calm.

Millie has had over three years in fear of people, so it will be a slow process. Every small step will be an achievement. The gentleman said that a trainer had told him that teaching Millie something new was not possible as it would be like trying to teach a 35-year-old human something new. That’s ridiculous. I am learning all the time.

Anyway, this isn’t about ‘learning’ as about ‘feeling’. There is no age limit to changing emotions.

The physical effect on Millie’s brain isn’t about ‘learning’ either. It is hard-wired and will always be there and even, once ‘cured’, she could revert if faced with a situation she can’t cope with. With continuing help she will bounce back.

When they first had Millie it looked like she had no tail. For days it was clamped between her legs and under her body. Even despite her unease with me, that didn’t happen. Later in my presence she was positively enjoying the clicker work the young lady was doing with her.

With kindness and patience they have come a long way in the eighteen months that they have had her. Now it’s time to push a bit further forward.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Millie. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly which it’s hard for someone to do with insufficient experience and living too closely to their own situation. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page)

 

Early Socialisation Colours Dog’s Life

CockerMollyA couple of weeks ago I went to Nico, another Cocker Spaniel with fairly similar fear issues towards people, lack of early socialisation in the early weeks certainly being a large part of the cause of his wariness of all sorts of things. Nico’s problem was far greater because he had little interaction with the outside world until my clients took him on at the age of two years old.

Sixteen-month-old Molly who I went to yesterday is a lot more fortunate however. They picked her up from the breeder at nine weeks old and with hard work have brought her round from being a scared puppy that growled even when family approached her to a great family dog, fine with nearly everything now apart from close contact with people she doesn’t know. Even then she doesn’t bark or growl. She hangs back and is very tentative, but I got the feeling she was really wanting to make friends – if she dared.

Molly actually came from a very well-regarded breeder of many years experience but who probably hasn’t kept up-to-date with modern behavioural science. Today it is acknowledged that early socialisation with puppies must begin way before they leave the breeder and their litter-mates. Being kept in kennels outside, however luxurious and warm, isn’t the same as being part of a family with lots of comings and goings and real-life experiences and doesn’t make them fit for modern living. I would recommend anyone buying a puppy takes a look at the Puppy Plan website and then check the breeder.

Molly is wonderful with the two young boys and they are great with her; she treats the six-year-old like another puppy. Interestingly, I found that when the children were in the room Molly’s confidence towards myself greatly increased.

Like most Cockers, Molly can become very excited. There have been a couple of incidents with very young children when backs have been turned which have resulted in cuts. No one can be sure whether they were accidental. On one occasion the child was hugging or squeezing her and on the other occasion a toy was involved. It’s easy to be over-confident because of how wonderful she is with her own family’s kids.  All dogs need ‘protecting’ from inappropriate approaches by little children especially, and particularly dogs that are already nervous or over-excited. Backs should never be turned when young children and dogs are together, however confident we are in our dog. It only takes one moment after a build up of other things for the most tolerant of dogs to have had enough. The child will ignore the warning signs and the dog will get the blame.

I suggested a gate in the kitchen doorway so she had a safe haven and a place she can be put when things get a bit too noisy and exciting – as they are bound to with young children about. Molly will be happy with this I’m sure. She is a self-contained dog who likes her own company and will usually take herself off when the boys have gone to bed.

As is the case with many insecure dogs Molly is also quite protective, both at home and protective of the lady when they are out (not the man though). Because she is so different with the various people in her life, it demonstrates so well how a dog reflects her humans’ behaviour and state of mind. The man doesn’t anticipate trouble so when out Molly is carefree with him. The lady is a bit more tense and anxious, so Molly will doubtless sense this. She loves most other dogs, but if one runs over to the lady she will do her best to keep it away, zigzagging in front of her and circling.

The frantic barking and running from the front of the house to the back when she hears anything outside needs to be dealt with in such a way that she has confidence in her humans to take care of the situation and to look after her – the lady in particular. What happens at home spills out onto walks.

Starting with how she deals with ‘protection duty’ at home, the lady in particular can show Molly that she doesn’t need protecting and it’s the other way around – that she is there to protect Molly.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Molly, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).