There has been a small dog food recall from Albright’s of Fort Wayne, IN, affecting only their raw chicken recipe.
Click here for more information from the Dog Food Advisor website. I’m not going into details here because it will not affect many people. If you buy from this company, though, please check it out immediately.
Understanding Puppies: Why a Little Knowledge Goes a Long Way
I live in an RV and we move around some. We came to a new park recently and our neighbors have a four-month-old German Shepherd puppy. Mom told me she didn’t want a puppy but that it was dad’s idea. Her arms are covered in bite marks and she looks tormented every time she walks it.
So, are puppies for everyone? Let’s take a look. Yes, they are so cute. Who can resist them? But if you bring one home you better be ready!
I taught many puppy classes when I was a dog trainer and they brought much joy. Although we had fun in the classes I saw my main job was to educate people on how to handle them, how to understand them, how to socialize them, how to teach bite inhibition, and how they should let their kids interact with them.
In one of my last posts, I mentioned Norwegian trainer Turid Rugaas. I learned so much from her and I’d like to share some of her insights here. She truly understands dogs.
Puppies and juvenile dogs can be very challenging, but understand where they’re coming from and you will have a much better relationship with them.
If you own a young dog, or are thinking of getting one, Turid’s wisdom will make your experience with them a thousand-fold better. I’m paraphrasing Turid’s own words here in bullet points as no one can say them better. The ideas are all hers. Words in italics are insights I have thrown in.
Turid believes that dogs need time to grow up…just like our human children do. Let’s see what she has to say…
The Puppy and the Young Dog – About Growing Up, by Turid Rugaas
- Dogs who raise puppies raise their offspring into perfect dogs. Humans who raise puppies run into trouble…why?
- First of all, we don’t allow puppies to get the natural upbringing that they would and ought to receive had they been brought up by other dogs.
- Secondly, we expect him to respect our human rules which are often meaningless to the dog.
- We also fail to take into consideration the dog’s age, developmental stages, and capacity to learn. The result is that the dog fails to meet our too-high demands.
- Puppies who grow up surrounded by their own kind gradually learn to obtain the self-control they will need as adults. In an ideal world, a puppy would stay with its family right through to adulthood.
- Good breeders should not let puppies leave their moms and siblings until they are at least eight weeks old. I think it was the amazing Dr. Ian Dunbar who said that responsible breeders should raise a “biddable puppy” before handing it over to a human family who should then continue their socialization and training. If you click on the link on his name it will take you to possibly one of the best sources of information on puppies you will ever find.
- He’s right when he says that if you get a puppy it is your responsibility to train it: “All aspects of puppy training get harder the older he gets, so it’s best to start straight away.” Click here to see a quick one-minute video of him talking about what you need to do with a puppy the minute you get him home.
Click here to download for free the two essential guides you’ll need if you venture into the wonderful world of puppies. I can’t recommend “Before You Get Your Puppy” and “After You Get Your Puppy” enough.
OK, back to Turid…
- Until they are 16-20 weeks old, dogs have a so-called “puppy license.” We often see how they take advantage of this! They bully adult dogs around, and we can almost see that mischievous sparkle in their eyes. The adult dogs let the puppies carry on with unbelievable patience during this time.
- By 16-20 weeks of age, the puppy license is about to expire. Now, the puppies gradually need to learn to control themselves better and behave more politely. They will still be forgiven for their many mistakes and errors – after all, they are not yet adults. Adulthood will come naturally with time and experience.
- It may seem confusing that a puppy moves from one developmental stage to another within only a few days, but we need to keep in mind that they go from puppyhood to adulthood in less than two years. In comparison, humans use 20 years before we can call ourselves adults – many need even more time than that.
The Young Dog
- Once the puppy period passes at around 4 to 4.5 months of age, adolescence begins. It consists of several stages and lasts up to around two years of age. Sometimes it takes more time, other times less. Young dogs are like young humans:
- They like action and speed.
- They get easily bored when nothing is happening.
- They have no self-control at all when something exciting happens. Like kids who see a firetruck or dogs who smell a rabbit.
- Their ability to concentrate over a long period of time is poor. The dog forgets what you asked him to do 10 seconds earlier.
- They prefer to be with others the same age or with similar interests.
- They would rather play than do other things.
- They find cramming boring and it takes the fun out of learning. Young dogs need training, but in short and fun sessions so that they can stay focused.
- Their activity needs can be met with short and easy training sessions, fun on a simple agility course, recall training, walks in the woods, being with other dogs, and playing off-leash.
- They gradually need to learn self-control, but only a little at a time. That’s why we do things in steps. For instance, expecting the dog to remain longer in exercises like sit-stay gradually – going from 2 seconds, 5 seconds, 10 seconds, etc.
- Be considerate when the dog is losing his concentration – allow him to get a break in order to get his focus back and help him to continue the training.
- Let the adolescent dog meet with other dogs – important!
- Socialization – social training with people and animals is important. Teach the dog to deal with all kinds of situations in all kinds of environments. The more you socialize them, the more balanced and rounded they will become.
- Practice fun activities like tricks, retrieving, searching, tracking, etc.
- We must keep in mind that dogs are social beings who need to learn about communication, polite behavior, and self-control. Otherwise, life as a member of a pack will become completely unbearable.
- They learn, little by little, just like human beings during childhood and adolescence. Have you ever seen a four or six-year-old child with self-control? When they get hysterical, there’s no point in even trying to reason with them. To try and teach them something during a hysterical fit is hopeless. We need to let them calm down first, before trying to teach them something.
Why Do So Many Training Classes Fail?
- When dog parents come to class with a young dog, the equivalent of a six-year-old human, their dog will easily become too excited – new dogs, a new place, a new situation, and so on.
- At the same time, the class requires that the dog and owner follow a strict program of exercises. The program also lasts way too long for a young dog – no wonder that the “six-year-old” becomes agitated and even hysterical.
- Many, many dog owners drop out of these classes and courses because their dogs are impulsive, excited. and almost hysterical. They are not “crazy” as the owners may be told, but their stress level is at a maximum and their self-control level is at a minimum. Naturally! Because they haven’t learned how to deal with these types of situations before. It’s doomed to fail. Oh if only all dog trainers understood this.
- Use of violence or force to get the dog to pay attention in such a situation is unlikely to make the dog any better. On the contrary, if the dog wasn’t already in a state of hysteria, he would be made to be worse if we use force and unpleasantness.
- It’s not our place to make demands on the young dog that are too difficult. If he can’t cope with a situation, then he simply can’t.
- We can prevent the dog from becoming hysterical by learning to observe him and his emotional state. If his temperature is rising we should stop what we are doing before the dog reaches a level of stress and excitement where he is unable to communicate and learn.
- If you are training your young dog, please take note of this as it’s very important. Early interference is the keyword. The interference may be to:
- Stop the training.
- Act less threatening ourselves.
- Let the dog change his position from, for instance, lying down or standing to the non-active position of sitting.
- Keep the leash loose, so it’s hanging, otherwise the dog will feel the pressure. A tight leash is the quickest way to raise the level of aggression.
- Don’t fight the dog. Remain calm and under self-control – how will he learn self-control if you don’t set a good example?
When the Dog Is “Slamming the Doors”
- The young dog is in a phase of transition, and there’s a lot that needs to be explored and tested. Allow the dog to explore. Allow him to get a taste of life, and allow him to check things out. It’s completely harmless.
- We need to have boundaries, but make sure that they are set in such a way that the dog isn’t a prisoner. He needs the freedom to be active and figure things out on his own.
- Should he become difficult, so-called stubborn or testy, it’s not because he wants to take over the leadership or become top-dog, it’s rather that he wants to explore and find out how things work.
- A young dog will not become leader, he doesn’t even think about it. But he needs to check things out in order to see the types of reactions he will get if he ever thinks about it later.
- Don’t overreact! Turning your back to the dog and ignoring him is sufficient – and will say more than a thousand words. Turning your back and ignoring the adolescent is exactly what the adult dog would do.
Let’s Not Get Physical
- Under no circumstances should you get physical with the dog – avoid physical unpleasantness such as shaking him by the scruff of his neck, grabbing him by the cheeks while looking into his eyes, or any other cruel and frightening methods of punishment.
- Notice how confident adult dogs do it, and copy what they are doing. Adult dogs let the adolescent dog know it’s out of order without brutality – they turn their backs and walk away. They may “yell,” but no more than that.
- Is your dog growling? Wonderful! That means that he hasn’t been scared into passivity and has kept a natural part of his way of communication. Growling isn’t dangerous, it’s simply a way to let others know that he is uncomfortable.
When Dogs Growl, Snarl, or Snap
- Was it something you did that provoked the dog? If so, stop provoking him. Provocations can be, to mention a few:
- Jerking the leash
- Yelling and scolding
- Grabbing the dog by the scruff of his neck
- Shoving or pinching the dog
- Taking his food away
- Disturbing the dog in his sleep or when he’s resting
- Giving commands with an angry voice
- Demanding too much of the dog
- Holding him tightly
- Pulling on the leash
- Teasing the dog
- Bending over him
- Walking straight at a dog who’s on a leash
- Was the dog frightened by something? Then make sure that he doesn’t get frightened again. His defense reaction will only become stronger and stronger if you don’t.
- Is he only doing it to check out your reaction? Turn your back to him! He will give up immediately. In a situation like this, at least one of you needs to stay cool. Besides, it’s a given that most conflicts between dogs and owners are a result of trying to dominate the dog, not the other way around.
- Using “sit” is psychologically correct when conflict situations occur. It’s a neutral position – it’s asking for cooperation rather than submission. And to sit will come more naturally than anything else, even for an agitated dog.
How We Can Help?
- For a young dog to learn self-control, he needs to go through a learning process. We can help him by making a few demands on ourselves:
- Dogs don’t know what options they have. We need to teach him that he can choose to sit calmly instead of jumping, running around, and pulling on the leash. When his adrenaline is running high, remember he’s probably very uncomfortable. At the same time, he doesn’t know what to do about it. We can show the dog and help him learn to control the situation.
- Move slowly. Use calm and slow body motions. Speak calmly and quietly. Your body language and behavior will convince the dog.
- Don’t get self-control and physical force mixed up. Self-control is voluntary, while physical force isn’t. Avoid shoving, forcing, pulling, and pushing the dog.
- Keep the leash loose. The reaction to physical punishment will only be an increased stress level.
- Practice self-control in all situations. At first, practice in areas free of distractions, in short sessions, and with a loose leash. Don’t have the dog sit too long in the beginning – his muscles will get too tired and sore.
Turid ends her observations by saying that we have other means of helping our dogs, too. Specifically calming signals and rewarding the dog for the right behavior.
One of my next blog posts will be all about Turid’s calming signals because this insight into dog body language is second to none. I also want to write more about puppies and how to train them. So please subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss anything. I promise you’ll learn a lot.
Let’s finish with a quote from Turid: “One day, you will have an adult dog who knows how to behave, who has self-control, and who wishes to cooperate. That day will come if you raise your dog with the kind of gradually increased demands that he can deal with. Most of all be considerate – your dog needs time to grow up just as we do.”
So, what does everyone think? Anyone disagree with Turid? I would love to know your thoughts so please comment below. And don’t forget to share this so others can benefit. If you want to see how my blog started, click here. Thank you, until next time…
Really good article!! Should be required reading for new puppy parents!
Thank you Susan. It is just understanding that people miss. Once you understand how puppies operate, it gets so much easier. Lots more posts on puppies to come. Have a great day!