We spend a lot of time answering owner’s questions related to what they should do with their puppy from how to train them, how long to exercise them, etc. But is there anything you should not do when it comes to your puppy?
First, everyone knows that socializing a new puppy is important for their development. Exposing them to new sights, sounds, and people is crucial for them to be a confident, well-rounded dog in the future. However, there are some things to avoid when it comes to how, where, and when you socialize!
Do not frequent dog areas prior to final vaccinations
We recently wrote about breeders and vaccinations. First, it’s important to be selective on where you take your puppy prior to 16 weeks when they receive the last of their puppy immunizations. Prior to this, puppies are still considered vulnerable to some serious canine diseases.
For example, parvovirus is a particularly terrifying one for puppy breeders and owners as it is extremely contagious and very deadly for puppies under 4 months. This virus, which attacks the digestive and immune system and causes diarrhea and vomiting is highly contagious through direct contact and the feces of an infected dog.
So, while you want your new doodle to meet other dogs for his social development, it is important to avoid any place that is heavily trafficked by other dogs such as dog parks. In particular, any designated area where dogs relieve themselves should be especially avoided such as the pet area at a rest stop or potty area at an apartment complex.
We even take precautions at pet friendly stores such as Petco by keeping our puppies in the shopping cart rather than allowing them to run around on the ground. Once your puppy has received his final shots, then all of these places are a-okay, but until then, the safest way for him to interact with other dogs is with other dogs/dog owners that you know and can confirm their dog is up to date on all vaccinations.
What else should you not do with a puppy? Forcing your dog into new situations if (s)he is showing fear
Next, as much as we emphasize socialization with all kinds of different people, dogs, and situations, there are incorrect ways to do it. It is important to understand where your puppy is at developmentally and pay attention to his cues. It is normal for puppies to be a bit hesitant or fearful in new situations. In fact, starting at 8-10 weeks, your puppy will go through their initial “fear period.”
This is simply a phase where your pup is more sensitive to new experiences and may react to the world with more fear and cautiousness than he was previously. Puppies are so impressionable and in many ways are a blank slate when it comes to understanding the world around them.
This means there is never a better time for training and socialization, but also that if done incorrectly, negative social experiences can have long term damaging impacts on your pup’s social development.
We pay attention to our pup’s cues and never force an overwhelming social situation on them. Are they hesitant around stairs — jerking them down with the leash may imprint this in their young brains that stairs are scary. The same goes with all other novel situations. If your puppy backs away from a young child, do not force them to be handled. If your puppy reacts in terror to grooming, allow them to take a break.
Allowing your puppy to have an “exit strategy” when he is overwhelmed can prevent fear aggression in the future. If your dog reacts with fear in any of the above situations, it does not mean you just give up on socialization, but rather slow down and approach the new situation more gradually. Building positive associations through the use of gradual introduction and treats will help give your pup confidence in new situations.
Ignoring your pup’s cues and forcibly socializing him can result in his impressionable young brain retaining a negative association with this situation in the future.
Do not reward your puppy’s inappropriate behaviors no matter how subtle!
As mentioned previously, puppies are so impressionable! They are always watching and learning your cues, behaviors, and emotions. While your 8-pound doodle jumping on you out of excitement when you come home is admittedly pretty cute, it may be quite a different story when he is 80 lbs. Many owners do not understand why their puppies continue to repeat behaviors, but oftentimes the puppy is being inadvertently rewarded or at least responded to inconsistently. Anytime your puppy jumps on you, you must ignore the behavior and only pet and praise your pup when he/she is doing a behavior you approve of (sitting, calmly standing, etc.).
Oftentimes, one member of the family may be consistently ignoring unwanted behaviors, but a different family member may in fact be patting the dog’s head when he jumps up. Even one owner may be unintentionally rewarding jumping by turning his attention to the dog even is he is saying “no,” or “off,” the puppy is still getting the message of “I get my owner’s attention with this behavior!” The same goes for all other unwanted behaviors as well. For example, letting your pup out of his kennel because he is whining will only increase this behavior in the future.
Other stuff to avoid with your puppy - punishing your dog harshly or after the fact!
As mentioned previously, puppies are so sensitive and impressionable. Doodles in particular tend to be highly intuitive by nature (thanks to their Poodle heritage) so can easily be overwhelmed by harsh correction. Often, correction may not even be necessary. Simply ignoring unwanted behavior and rewarding positive behavior can create a well-mannered dog.
Other times a quick, sharp “No!” or other verbal correction is enough to get your point across. Yelling or physically punishing your puppy can work against his socialization as he may be learning that humans are unpredictable and at times scary.
Next, timing is everything when it comes to properly punishing a dog. Many popular, older methods of training a dog used harsh physical discipline and/or punishment after the fact (i.e., rubbing a dog’s nose in a potty accident). Recent research has shown dogs live in the present moment and as such a quick, gentle correction in the moment will be significantly more effective than a harsher punishment after the fact.
For example, when it comes to house training, it is very important that you catch your dog right as he or she begins to squat in the house. Finding the accident even a minute later is too late for your pup to make the clear connection to the unwanted behavior.
Learn more about fun stuff you can do all day with your puppy in this post. If any of the above seems stressful or difficult, consider getting a pre-trained puppy.
Jenna and the JLDD Team