Sunday, August 3, 2014


A dog is ten times more sensitive to peripheral movement than we are. He picks up movement on either side of him better than we ever could, in part because most dogs’ eyes are closer to the sides of their heads than ours are. A dog’s vision is poor up close, but he can see quite well at a distance.
  Anatomy of the Eye
The dog’s eye is different from ours. Our eyes are better at defining detail in bright light. The dog’s eye has a reflective layer that intensifies light and helps the dog (as it did his predecessor, the wolf) to see more when he needs it most: for hunting at dawn and dusk. At night, when you see a car’s headlights reflect brightly off a dog’s eyes, what you are seeing is that reflective layer. Dogs can see in low light but they cannot see in the dark—they do not have the mechanisms that a cat does to allow that.
Dogs see in black and white when there is low light, but when it is brighter they do see some color.
  Sight Hounds
Some dogs have very good eyesight because the work for which they were originally intended required great vision. Many retrievers and the so-called sight hounds—for example Salukis and their descendants like Afghan Hounds, Borzois and Greyhounds—have amazing vision. These dogs have frontally placed eyes, as people do.
Many terriers have slanted eyes—they’re physically frontal, but the slant allows them to see around corners.
Guardian dogs like German Shepherds and Akitas have more laterally placed eyes.
There are also many breeds that depend much more on their sense of smell and even on their hearing, so their vision is unremarkable.

“Progressive retinal atrophy” is an inherited blindness that can strike dogs in breeds that are at risk for it. There are times when people think an otherwise healthy dog is going blind because they notice that she cannot see a toy “right in front of her.” However, the inability to see something “right in front of her nose” is not a cause for concern, because due to where a dog’s eye is placed on her head, the toughest place to see anything is directly in front.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Preventing Puppy Aggressiveness
(Note: the following comments refer to puppies only. Aggression issues with grown dogs are best handled by an experienced trainer.)
Neuter your puppy. The most frequent dogfights happen to young, intact (which means not neutered) males. Simple solution: neuter your dog at six months of age. If he is exhibiting numerous incidents of aggressive or dominant behavior, talk to your vet about neutering the puppy even earlier.
All humans are above the puppy. Explain to everyone in your family (or anyone who spends a lot of time in your house) that they have to take a superior position to the dog—something as simple as all people in the household asking the dog to sit before any treat or meal, or even just requesting a sit and then giving the dog generous praise as a reward.
Humans control all the food. Your puppy has to learn this. Get the puppy used to activity near his food dish by having the adults add a handful of dry food to the puppy’s bowl as he is eating. Move slowly, and make sure he sees you coming. The idea isn’t to startle him, it’s for the puppy to learn  to tolerate activity near his bowl. Once the adults have done this without incident and the puppy is clearly unthreatened, allow the child(ren) in the family to add a handful of kibble to the pup’s bowl.
Give a toy to the dog, then take it away, then give it back. The point of this is to create another area in the dog’s head in which humans rule. You can go a step further and teach the dog to give the toy to you, rather than you taking it back. Put your open palm under his mouth and say “Out” or “Let go” or “Give.” As soon as he starts to relax his hold on the toy, encourage him verbally (“Good boy” or “That’s it”) and give him lots of praise.
Do not play rough with the puppy. Avoid all games that get a puppy roughed up or riled up—no tug-of-war, keep-away or monkey-in-the-middle. Also avoid any version of those games that could encourage an aggressive reaction from the puppy. Don’t let children wrestle or tumble around with him on the ground. Instead, choose games like hide-and-seek or find-and-fetch.
Do not let the pup play rough with you. No biting—not ever, not at all. Be consistent. Don’t let the puppy chew on your fingers or anywhere else on you. Correct the chewing with a deep, growly “Nooo,” and then immediately give the puppy a toy that he is allowed to chew on.
Growling is never acceptable. It has to be stopped from the first noise in a puppy’s throat. You need to cut that right off by using a deep, stern voice to react to any deep-throated protest or commentary by the dog.
The basic idea is that people create begging dogs, and if you start it when she is a puppy, you’ll have set her on the wrong course yourself and encouraged a dog to stare at you—hovering and panting at your feet while you eat. As with everything concerning a puppy, habits learned early will make both of your lives easy for a lifetime.
Do not feed tidbits from your hand at the table. Dropping bits of food on the floor is the exact same thing, so don’t kid yourself.
You can put the puppy in her crate or tether her to a bed near the table and give her a nice chew toy. As soon as the meal is finished, you can release her and put a small bite of something down on the floor in the kitchen as a reward for being quiet and patient during your meal. This was a plan I stumbled on thanks to my habit of letting my dogs lick the dinner plates before putting them (the plates, that is) in the dishwasher. I discovered that the dogs went right to their beds or chewed a toy during our meal, in part because they knew that there was something in it for them at the end.
  Chewing Shoes, Furniture, etc.
Give the puppy something to put in his mouth to replace whatever item you find yourself rescuing. Think of it as a barter system—you relinquish my shoe and I replace it with a plastic squeaky-toy lamb chop. It is crucial that when the puppy releases your property and takes the bartered item in its place, you praise the dickens out of him for doing so.
Start Gently with Corrections.
Use a lower-impact correction first, give it a chance to sink in and then move to a stronger correction. A simple verbal “no” may interrupt the puppy enough that you can steer him away from the unwanted behavior. You don’t want to raise your voice or clap your hands or whatever you might do to loudly get his attention if softly calling his name is effective.
If the puppy begins to go for the undesirable action again, keep your voice low (reminiscent of his mother’s growl) and make a short, sharp “Anh!” sound (like the first half of “uh-uh”—as if to say, “Oh, no you don’t.”). It’s amazing how effective this sound can be: all you have to do is make the sound and he will look up at you. By doing so, he has stopped doing or trying to do the forbidden act, and now you can praise him up and down, or perhaps give him something else to chew or chase instead.
The secret squirt Fill a squirt gun or squirt bottle with water and a splash of something unpleasant like lemon juice or vinegar, and keep it handy. Try just plain water if you want first, which works fine without “additives” for most dogs.
When the dog is doing something you don’t want, say “No” firmly but unemotionally and give him a good squirt in the face. Hold the bottle next to your side so the puppy will not see where the stinging water is coming from. Let the squirt do the work. Just go on about your business as if you know nothing about it.
Time-Out Just as with children who misbehave, it is acceptable to try a “time-out” to reinforce the point you are teaching. However, there are three caveats here:
1. You cannot reinforce a rule that the puppy does not yet understand or remember.
2. You should not shut a puppy into a space behind a closed door. Being shut out of sight causes many puppies to panic. It can be frightening and confusing, and is equivalent to locking a child in a closet to reprimand him. A puppy needs to be confined behind a safety gate or in a crate where he can see where you are, or else, in the throes of a panic attack, he may hurt himself or scratch and bite at the door or other objects, etc.

3. You should not shove your puppy into his crate as though it is jail—whenever he goes into his crate it has to be a neutral place. So if you place him there, make it a firm but gentle placement, because you don’t want a puppy to ever have a negative impression of the crate itself, which is his den and needs to always be a safe place for him regardless of why he’s in it.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Monday, July 21, 2014

Never Yell at a Puppy for Making a Mistake.
“Learning” means you are in the process of learning something. Being harshly and loudly reprimanded can drive it right out of your head.
  No Corporal Punishment
Never hit a puppy—with your hand, a rolled newspaper or anything else. This used to be the accepted way of training a dog, but it harks back to the not-so-distant past when the physical abuse of wives and children by their spouses and teachers was commonly accepted. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” was engraved on many a school paddle—and dogs were trained with similar harsh attitudes, with pronged choke collars and objects used to strike a dog. Physical punishment of wives and children is no longer tolerated in the modern world, and we’re finally catching up in the animal world, too. It would be hard to find an animal behaviorist today who would justify the old-fashioned barbaric custom of hitting a puppy to “teach it a lesson.”
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Don’t start off the relationship by being tough and critical. Harsh discipline has no place here; you’re a teacher, not a cop. The pup has to feel he is a member of the family.
Affection first, rules later. Establish a loving bond, and trust will come from the sense of security he gets.
  Sound Levels
Keep your tone of voice soft, soothing and calming. When the puppy first comes home keep the lights low; keep the noise level low, too—no high-pitched, screechy excitement about the dog from children or adults following the puppy’s arrival. A high-pitched tone of voice is arousing. Using a high, falsetto voice will get the puppy’s attention, but right now you don’t want to rev him up.
  Cuddle the Puppy.
All puppies like physical contact and stimulation, so hold, rub and scratch them. Physical contact is important to convey to the puppy how you feel about him.
Handling, Grooming
If you have a pup that loves to be stroked, brushed, etc, just keep it coming. If anything happens that makes her resist, give her lots of treats while slowly continuing the handling.
Common areas of sensitivity include the ears, mouth, neck, hindquarters, tail and feet. Desensitize her to such areas by going slowly, giving praise for her cooperation with verbal encouragement and delicious bits of cheese. If feet are a problem, for example, then at the point on her leg where she gets nervous as you approach, give her the cheese (or chicken). Keep touching that place and giving treats until she is okay with it. Then make your way down the leg—stopping when she gets nervous and giving her mega-treats until she’s relaxed and you can keep heading south.
  Many Small Training Moments
You can train a puppy by asking for a response in ordinary situations many times a day. This method of getting the idea across and making good behavior an ingrained habit is more pleasurable and effective than drilling it in with practice sessions.
  Expect the Puppy to Do Most Things Wrong in the Beginning.
Don’t adopt the attitude that you can never let a puppy “get away” with anything, when all he’s doing is just trying to figure out what you want.
  Make a Rule, Stick to Your Guns.
Consistency is vital to a well-raised puppy. Don’t let the puppy get away with a forbidden behavior because you’re tired or in a rush, or because right now it doesn’t seem so important.
You cannot allow something like paws on the counter one day and then get furious the following day when the pup does it again.
Everyone who comes into contact with the puppy needs to follow those same rules—for example, you can’t have some family members or friends allowing the dog to jump up, because it undermines whatever rules you have laid down.
Praise profusely when the puppy does anything right, especially something new that he might not have fully understood. Your praise helps reinforce the behavior.
A puppy should be expected to sit before dinner or any treat and before getting groomed or patted. Sit should be the “please” and “thank you” that people work so hard to drill into their children—which makes polite kids so pleasant to be around.
Sitting before any greeting is really a helpful habit, because it means the dog is not in a position to jump and accidentally scratch with his claws.
  Go to Your Bed.
A puppy should be pleasantly sent to a bed that is near the door or near the dining table, and then praised generously and quite quickly released with an “Okay!” This makes it enjoyable to  “go to your bed”—it’s almost like a game the puppy is learning while developing a quick response to being told to chill out and back off.

Anything you let the puppy get away with she will continue to do when she is full-grown. You have to ask yourself: how cute will it be then? Letting a puppy get away with murder means you are setting the stage for an adult dog who is constantly being yanked and yelled at and made to feel like a delinquent. It’s much harder to undo bad habits than to go out of your way to avoid forming them early on.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

• Weigh puppy (for a base weight to compare to over time).
• Listen to heart and lungs for pulse and breathing rate and heart or lung abnormalities.
• Feel puppy’s belly to check internal organs.
• Take temperature—normal is 100°F to 102.5°F. (Ask the vet to show you how to use a rectal thermometer, so you can do this if your puppy is ever feeling under the weather.)
• Check male’s testicles to be sure two testicles are present and descended; inany case, discuss when/if neutering is planned.
.• Check female’s genitals for discharge or other signs of infection.
• Check skin, eyes, ears, anal region for normalcy and good health.
• Check mouth for signs that teeth and gums are healthy.
• Vaccinate depending on what puppy has already received.

• Start heartworm preventive tablets
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Monday, July 7, 2014

No matter where you got your puppy—from a friend, a breeder, a rescue or a shelter—you should visit the vet who will be your puppy’s doctor within a couple of days of bringing that puppy home. It doesn’t matter whether this puppy was just seen by a vet connected with the puppy’s origins—you still need the seal of approval from your own vet, who is an objective third party.
In the vast majority of cases, this visit is going to be a quick, pleasant outing, but in the event that there may be something wrong with your puppy, it’s important for both of you to find this out right away while you can be objective—before you have grown attached—and can think clearly about what options you have. I once had to give back to the breeder within days a gorgeous little Rottweiler puppy who leaked pee, because I couldn’t face the expense, uncertainty of outcome and pain of major surgery for an eight-week-old puppy.
Another reason to bring the puppy in to your vet for a checkup is for her to have a positive early experience with the doctor, who also gets to know her—and you—a little bit. Most vets understand the importance of this first visit, because they know it sets the tone for the friendly, trusting relationship they hope to have with your pup during a long, healthy lifetime.
If the puppy acts frightened or aggressive at the vet’s, don’t make excuses for him or try to soothe him. Patting or “cooing” to a dog translates to him as reinforcement of the very behavior you want him to stop. Be upbeat and matter-of-fact in the way you handle and talk to your puppy from the moment you go into the vet. Don’t allow your own apprehensions about going to the vet—or your projected fears on the puppy’s behalf—diminish the calm confidence you should be showing your dog.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Sunday, July 6, 2014


By four months of age a puppy’s sharp little teeth have been replaced by adult ones—twenty-eight puppy teeth become forty-two permanent ones.
This time can be difficult for him, because it can be painful when his adult teeth come in, and they can drive him crazy. Chewing is one way to relieve the pain and tension, so most puppies want to chew nonstop to feel better.
There can be problems with teeth, such as baby teeth being retained after the adult teeth come in—the new teeth erupt but the baby teeth do not fall out. This can cause problems like infection, misalignment of the permanent teeth or problems with jaw development.
You need to check your puppy’s mouth regularly while the new teeth are coming in. If you see a double row of teeth—it is easiest to see this in the front teeth—or anything that looks fishy to you, have your vet check it out. Retained baby teeth have to be surgically removed, as they do with people.

Even by the seventh or eighth month the puppy’s fur has not fully grown in, so if you live in a cold climate you might want to protect him with dog clothing of some kind. He’s still a growing baby: dry the puppy off when he gets wet so he doesn't get a chill.  

The exception to this is breeds similar to Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes and Samoyeds, whose fur is fully developed at an early age. This is probably because in their native environments these breeds were subjected to below-freezing temperatures before their first birthday. In the summer, don’t clip these thick-furred breeds, which have double coats. Just as it functions against the cold, their long hair provides insulation against the heat.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Puppies get hiccups after eating, drinking or play. No cause for alarm. (Quite normal, quite funny.)
Puppies can go into a hypercharged energy state in which they run, jump, bark and spin as though jet-propelled. These episodes can last a few minutes and happen a few times a day. (Also quite normal—and funny!)
 “Buddha Bellies”
Puppies’ bellies can distend dramatically after they eat. This is not related to the dangerous bloated stomach of an adult dog suffering from “bloat” after eating. It is no cause for alarm if you notice a bulging little “Buddha Belly.” (Quite normal and adorable.)
 Eating Feces
Eating dog poop—their own or others—is probably the grossest thing that some puppies will do. (Quite common and revolting.) There are a few theories about why they do it—nutritional deficiencies is one—but for you the main thing is not why they do it but how to stop them. The simplest way is to clean up after your dog every time he poops, even if you happen to live in the country—just the way people do in a city. This lack of poop on the ground will also save you from the odor and the flies—and save people from eventually stepping in the stuff.
The other suggested remedy is to put something in the dog’s food that makes his poop unappetizing to him (you’d think it wouldn’t need any help, wouldn’t you?). The suggestions are to sprinkle either Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer or a vet-supplied product called For-Bid on the puppy’s food. These apparently make otherwise delicious-tasting poop not so tasty . . . but who are we to judge?
If you have multiple dogs and the puppy seems interested in eating any feces on your property, then all the above suggestions still apply.
 Puppy Won’t Go Down/Up Stairs
Puppies don’t have good enough depth perception to see the individual steps—the stairs look like one long slide to them. Some puppies just figure it out, one step at a time—other pups put their front feet one step down but then don’t seem to be able to figure out how to get their back feet down to join the front end—they just stretch way out across the steps.
To help your pup understand how stairs work, sit at the bottom of the stairs and put her on the first step. Clap your hands and when she jumps off, give her lots of praise. Next put her on the second step from the bottom and clap and call until she comes down the two steps to you. Then the third step up and so on, until she gets the hang of it.

If going up the stairs poses a problem for your puppy, do the same exercise in reverse.

Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The paradox is that the most critically sensitive developmental weeks in a puppy’s life—when some say it is best to introduce him to places and things—are the very weeks when others recommend keeping your puppy physically isolated because he is most vulnerable to getting illnesses from other dogs.
Standard medical advice suggests that a puppy should not be exposed to other pups until two weeks after the puppy vaccine is given. The earliest that shot is given is at twelve weeks. But what becomes of a puppy who is isolated for that long at such a crucial period? How is his development stunted? Generally speaking, dogs with this isolation grow up oriented and attached to people much more than to other dogs. For most people this is an acceptable outcome, since a dog that is more responsive to them is easier to train and relate to—even if he may be awkward around other dogs, or downright antisocial to them.
Your puppy isn’t fully immunized until sixteen weeks, but the critical socialization period ends around week twelve or thirteen. Some experts would tell you to keep puppies away from all other dogs and public places until their puppy shots are finished at sixteen weeks; others claim that  your puppy will be emotionally stunted unless she meets lots of dogs and experiences loads of social situations by the time she reaches her sixteenth week. As noted earlier, you can never recapture that super-sensitive period; many canine behaviorists believe you need to expose the young dog to lots of experiences, protecting her health as best you can but not being so protective that she misses out on the interactions. It’s a risk/reward decision you have to make for yourself, and there are suggestions later in this section on how to walk that line.
  What’s the Worst That Can Happen, Medically Speaking?
Most of the infectious diseases that puppies are vaccinated against have fortunately become rare, or even extinct (in good part because of aggressive vaccination programs in the past). Parvovirus and distemper are two of the most common and dangerous diseases that can affect puppies: distemper has been almost entirely wiped out, and parvovirus (“parvo”) doesn’t occur often. Rabies is rare, and “canine infectious hepatitis” is practically unheard-of, although it can be deadly to an entire litter.
Kennel cough (also called Bordatella) is probably the most dangerous illness that’s out there for all dogs, which means it can be even more serious for little puppies. It is a highly infectious airborne disease that a dog can spread by coughing or even just breathing—and it’s an illness that is contagious before the carrier dog even has symptoms himself.
Veterinarians’ waiting rooms are notorious places for the disease to spread—certainly never let a small puppy down on the floor at the vet’s. Do not let him sniff or play with any other dog in there. Puppies are physically vulnerable and their immune systems are not fully up and running yet. It doesn’t matter whether people tell you their dog has had vaccinations or is in good health—that dog can be carrying an infectious disease that does not bother his strong, adult constitution, but could lay your little puppy flat.
  So Should Your Puppy Socialize or Be a Hermit?
What is the truth? Which side of this issue is “right”—or more right? As with so many black-or-white controversies, both sides have a point, but the gray area is where the answer lies.
How to resolve this dilemma for yourself? How precise are those critical weeks in a puppy’s emotional development? How essential is it for her to get out and about—and on the other hand, is the physical risk of mingling with other dogs that great?
Talk to your vet about it, but understand that there are doctors who may know less about the social development of dogs than they do about “disease process,” so their point of view may be skewed toward the physical health considerations. This conservative approach on the part of some vets may be weighed in favor of safeguarding puppies from infectious disease, but it disregards the importance of how a dog can suffer lifelong damage from early social isolation.

For most people the answer will be moderation: don’t live locked away but do be careful where you take the puppy. That doesn’t just mean choosing a puppy kindergarten carefully, it means you need to think twice about taking the puppy into any public place where other dogs will be or have been. Avoiding heavily dog-trafficked areas like parks and sidewalks, doggie-day-care facilities and the vet’s office (unless medically necessary, obviously) will go a long way toward lowering your risk.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Value of Meeting Strangers
When dogs meet people other than their owners—especially children, if there aren’t any in your household—it sets a good foundation for being comfortable around humans. Puppies should meet men, women and children, as well as people of a race different from your own. Some dogs may seem “racist” because they growl or behave otherwise aggressively toward people who are different from those they’ve been exposed to at the breeder’s or your house. A dog will do this if he has not met a wide range of people—and whatever smells or looks unfamiliar will usually bring about a negative reaction.
Even though the pup hasn’t had all her vaccinations yet, you can go to a willing “dogless” friend’s house—if they have a fenced backyard, so much the better—at least until she’s had her second set of immunizations at nine or ten weeks.
Then, after ten weeks, you can have friends visit at your house—so much the better if they have immunized, gentle dogs and/or children (the children should be gentle ones, too—although their immunizations are not as relevant!). Before ten weeks there is no good reason to expose your little pup to other dogs, who, even though they themselves may be healthy and immunized, may have come into contact with ill dogs or bacteria that could compromise a very young puppy.
  New Situation Equals Treats.
Shower the dog with treats when he’s faced with new people, places or things. Make all experiences fun and positive. Expose him to lots of friendly humans: give treats while waiting on lines at shops or banks, and enlist strangers to hand the treats to the dog when possible.
When at home, keep a stash of tasty dog treats somewhere near your door (inaccessible to the pooch, of course) and hand a treat to anyone who comes around—visitors, the mailman, deliverymen, service people. Ask them to hand it to the puppy so she associates a good treat with anyone who comes to your house. The puppy should sit first for the stranger before getting the treat.
  Carry a Treat Tube.
Invest in a squeeze tube for cheese or organic peanut butter and try to keep it close at hand during the socialization period. These tubes are fabulous ways to give your dog a mouthful of something heavenly when there is something threatening coming his way—a big lumbering truck, shopping cart, bicycle, skateboarders, etc. Just open the top and squeeze a small amount directly into the dog’s mouth—no need to even get your hands dirty. A treat squeeze tube is an especially useful tool to help socialize a particularly jumpy, nervous, easily spooked dog. Everything is less scary when you have a mouthful of peanut butter!
NOTE: Skippy squeezable peanut butter in a tube sounds like a great quick food reward, but it is not a recommended food for dogs (it isn’t all that good for kids, either). Peanuts are one of the most chemically treated crops in America: unless they are grown organically they are covered with pesticides.
Furthermore, the sugar and salt content of Skippy and other commercial brands are not good for dogs’ teeth and digestive systems. They are also fattening and thus a poor choice for overweight dogs. For dogs with delicate stomachs and tendencies to diarrhea, peanut butter can act as a laxative.
  Borrow Children.
Find a friend who’ll “loan” you a small child or two—and then give the children bits of cheese to feed the dog. Accustoming a puppy to children is one of the most important steps in socializing a pup, because, let’s face it: children are everywhere. And the problem with kids is that they look, act and sound so different from adults: they are louder, faster, and higher-pitched and make unpredictable noises and motions. Some dogs have a really hard time getting used to the little humans, so the sooner they get started, the better for all concerned.
  Make Your Own Puppy Play Group.

If you can’t find any puppy classes near where you live, or you don’t want to do the legwork of finding an acceptable puppy kindergarten, you have the option of creating a do-it-yourself puppy social group. Many professional breeders recognize the importance of “civilizing” their puppies, but there’s no way they could take eight puppies to a class. Many of the more dedicated breeders have come up with their own versions of puppy education, and there’s no reason you can’t follow their lead. Come up with a plan that gives your puppy a good exposure to a variety of adults, children and other dogs.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner 

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Pups that are denied play activity until they are twelve weeks old can develop strange behaviors such as self-mutilation (licking until there is a sore, etc.) to relieve their tension. The further price these puppies have to pay (besides missing out on playing!) is that they learn less well, are more insecure and antisocial, are often afraid of people, noises and other animals and are reluctant to explore.
Play activity during the socialization period teaches a pup to have a soft mouth (the “inhibited bite” learned from his littermates’ squeals when he bites too hard) and how to greet an unknown dog. If puppies don’t play with other pups at this stage, they may become too attached to people and be fearful of other dogs.

A puppy that is isolated at any point during the socialization period will have an impaired learning response: his ability to learn is damaged for the rest of his life. Studies have shown actual  changes in the growing brain of a puppy that is cut off from his littermates and people for even one week. Puppies should not be left alone for long periods. They should not be shut away in isolation as a form of punishment when they are developing, because it will stunt their emotional growth.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dogs reach maturity at different times, ranging from one year up to four years depending on their size. The smaller the dog, the sooner he enters each phase of maturity. Until dogs are four months old they all follow pretty much the same growth patterns. After that the periods of development vary slightly, with smaller dogs graduating to the next phase of development before the larger ones.
Once a dog reaches full maturity, there is a reorganization of the pecking order: during this final phase of growth the dog tries to show her identity within the pack once and for all. The way your dog reacts when she reaches full maturity will be the sum total of how you and she have handled issues and perhaps confrontations in the stages that led up to full maturity. If you have allowed a dog to reach a “high rank” during the first stage of classification (twelve to sixteen weeks), then you now face the ultimate test: any challenge between you and the dog over who will ultimately have “alpha status” can become aggressive.
The alpha figure in a wolf pack disciplines all lower-ranking individuals who try to take benefits they did not earn. If your dog acts aggressively when you challenge him and you have had him since puppyhood, his personality is a result of how you allowed him to mature. Whether or not there are confrontations between you and the dog at this juncture depends entirely on the type of dog you are dealing with and how you have responded in the past to his demands. If your dog’s instinct is to be passively defensive, then when you confront him he will display total submission—or he may display silly puppy behavior.

If you have a dog who, when challenged, responds with aggression, don’t think of him as being a “bad” or “difficult” dog—he is a high-ranking dog behaving in an aggressive style, protecting his turf. But if he respects you as the pack alpha figure, then you’re home free.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Monday, June 23, 2014

Between nine and twelve months may come the first sign of aggression, which develops in stages with puppies. Aggression usually emerges in a puppy after nine months and before a year, which is when sexual maturity begins, along with all the hormones that make it happen.
Then, when the dog hits eighteen months and late adolescence, there’s another round of assertion, independence (which you may view as disobedience) and aggression. By about two years of age, many dogs have reached the full extent of whatever aggression they have in them, and there may be a dogfight or biting incident around this time.
You need to be on alert for the emergence of aggression if your puppy has already shown signs of being aggressive—because it takes very little time for him to go from disobedience, to growling, and then to biting. And unless you pay close attention to the signals that he gives off, you can go from a having a darling little puppy (aggression comes in all breeds and sizes) to having a tragedy on your hands.
Aggression problems do not “just happen”—they usually brew for a while, like a volcano before it erupts—so you have to know what markers to look for and how to deal with them. If you ignore the first growl or any other aggression, you can be certain it will escalate to the next level. A growl is a warning—you have to take it seriously. You can’t make excuses for it or hope it was a one-time thing. A growl is the first symptom of an aggressive pattern that will inevitably escalate and have a terrible outcome if you don’t nip it in the bud. But dogs will sometimes develop aggression in a tidy progression, while at other times they may show only a minor warning sign before erupting into full-blown aggression. So no matter how your dog expresses that aggression,  take it very seriously and deal with it on the spot. The bottom line is that if a puppy is born with aggression, there’s not much you can do about it. Some breeds have an inborn tendency toward aggression. If a puppy six months or younger growls or snaps or bites, then he’s either got a strong genetic tendency or has been badly abused. Whatever the case, puppies like this often have to be euthanized because you can’t safely keep them and it would not be moral to try to give them away.
Showing aggression before six months old means that the puppy has got it “in his blood,” and sadly, these puppies do not have a high probability of becoming safe, reliable pets. If you have a puppy who is leaning in this direction, get a professional trainer right away because training can’t start too young—even at two months of age. You have a dog who may become a dominant, assertive adult who will need obedience training to put him in his place.
Aggressive behavior and attitudes are not things that a puppy outgrows—in fact, if you don’t curtail those instincts, the puppy will grow into a dog who feels free to act on aggressive impulses. A puppy has to learn that you will not tolerate any aggression by him against other dogs or smaller animals. Your puppy must be raised to understand that every human is above him in terms of “the pack.”
  Teen Fears
Don’t be surprised by sudden changes in your dog’s reactions. The “fear of the familiar” is not an uncommon syndrome: suddenly, something the dog has seen many times seems frightening to him. Your dog may suddenly develop “teenage shyness,” or what seems to be a phobia, in which he growls or barks at a new object. This is probably a result of adolescent hormones galloping through his system.
Teenage shyness can lead to fear-driven aggression in some dogs, so you need to continue his socialization education so that he can overcome a cautious, worried attitude toward new experiences.
  Your Reaction Matters.

The way you react to any inexplicable behavior on your dog’s part has a direct effect on his developing personality. You will only serve to reinforce his bizarre fears if you are solicitous and reassuring. When the dog is acting out this new terror, your positive attention for a negative action is a reward for it. Instead, just go about things as normal. Use a pleasant, conversational tone to tell him to knock it off if he barks or whines at some familiar object. Your casual attitude neither punishes his irrational behavior nor rewards it with comfort or praise. Dog owners need to ignore the canine melodrama of puberty and look forward to the return of normalcy.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Sunday, June 22, 2014

This is the time when a puppy’s body is still growing, and for many breeds the time of greatest physical development. But the process is ongoing, even past the pup’s first birthday. Do not think that a puppy’s social education stops at any point. There’s no stopwatch for when a puppy has grown up, or when he has learned all that he needs to know. As with children, there are differences in how individual puppies develop and mature, but you should not doubt that your input is making a positive difference.
During this period, puppies can learn basic commands if you teach them in a relaxed and cheery atmosphere. Think of this as “puppy kindergarten” and make it fun. Consider how important it is for children to enjoy and look forward to school when they first start—the same is true for teaching dogs. Make the process entertaining and satisfying and you will have an eager student for life.
For the whole first year of life, a puppy is being socialized and is maturing. If he is one of the giant breeds, he won’t mature until around eighteen months, so his juvenile stage may last a lot longer.
  Instinct to Run Off (Four to Eight Months)
At some point during this period, most puppies develop the urge to take off. Until this stage, most puppies happily come back to their owners when they are called. Now you may be shocked to discover that your obedient little pup suddenly has wanderlust and is deaf and blind to your calls. The puppy’s desire to hit the road and explore may last a few days or even as long as a month, but it is a natural part of growing up and an important part of canine development.

There is one problem, however. If your dog should get away and have a terrific time while she’s out and about, that memory will stay with her a long time—and that happy memory can influence her readiness to respond to your calls to her in the future. This natural inclination to take off is something you need to be on the lookout for at this age. When you’re walking her during this period, pay attention to whether she’s acting differently, whether she seems oblivious to you and ready to run off. If you have any suspicions about whether she is feeling newly emboldened, put her on a long line or retractable leash until she settles back down again, whether that’s in a couple of days or weeks. You do not want to let your dog take charge of the situation and run the risk of her having such a fun time being out and about in the world that she thinks twice about obeying your commands later on.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hormonal changes take place in both the male and female during this time that are similar to the changes that human beings go through during puberty. The surge of hormones can be as dramatic for some dogs as it is for some children. The body has to cope with the changes brought on by the new hormones, while the mind has to cope with the side effects that often accompany the physical upheaval. Like teenagers of any species, the puppy will have mood swings and will at times be distracted, confused and difficult to communicate with. There’s nothing wrong with your dog—he’s just a normal teenager.
  Showing Independence at Eighteen Weeks (Four-and-a-half Months)
By this point, the emotional umbilical cord that has kept the puppy quite tied to you—and willing to stick by your side—begins to break. By five months the pup is ready to take off by himself, often without a backward glance. Obviously this is a generalization, and there will always be individuals who do not fit this age-related description.

This is why it’s important that you train your dog before eighteen weeks to follow you, to be aware of where you are. Think of it as “looking over his shoulder to keep you in his rearview mirror.” Unless you already have this thought process programmed into the puppy’s busy little brain, by the time he has reached five months he may well be oblivious to your location when he’s ready to have a good time. By the time he is eighteen months old, a puppy is going through big physiological changes—if the puppy is not neutered, then the testosterone level in a male starts to rise and, with it, the dog’s attitude can become bolder and more feisty.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Thursday, June 19, 2014

We tend to view dogs in this age group as still being puppies—which can be a big mistake. If you demand too little, that’s what you can expect from your dog. We continue to cut a lot of slack to a dog in this age group, permitting her liberties that her own mother and siblings never would if she was still living with her “original pack.” Even though your dog is still puppy-cute, don’t smile on misbehavior and let it slide. You can’t laugh off poor behavior in your puppy any more than a responsible parent would tolerate a prepubescent child “copping an attitude” and thinking they can get away with it. Anything you wouldn’t want a full-grown dog to do, don’t allow your puppy to do—or you will live to regret it or work yourself ragged trying to undo it.
The pup’s personality can go through big (although usually temporary) changes during this period. For a week or two at a time he’ll suddenly seem shy or unsure. You need to be the rock: stay predictable, be consistent in what you expect of him and how you expect him to behave. Just as your parents survived your teenage years and all that they entailed, so you will live through your puppy’s adolescence.
Obedience Training Now! Puppy Classes from Twelve Weeks
As the puppy enters the “juvenile period” by end of the twelfth week, he is ready for obedience training. Dogs mature at a much faster rate than humans: if you view this age-group as representing the early teen years, you’ll know by comparison how firm and clear you need to be with a puppy at this age. Some people believe that the twelve-to-eighteen-week age is an optimum learning time for a puppy, who will develop into a better dog by participating in puppy classes. If such classes are offered in your area, it may be a good investment in your dog’s future and in your relationship with him.
Most puppy classes encourage the whole family to attend so that everyone can be aware of basic health-care issues and simple training. Children can be guided in how to handle themselves and their puppy, getting that relationship off to a good start.

The classes should be aimed at having fun and meeting other puppies and their owners—a training system based on positive praise and rewards will make the class enjoyable for both of you. Getting used to other dogs is an important part of the puppy’s socialization, and doing so in a group under a watchful eye is a good place to start. This is the age when most puppies should have gotten all of their vaccinations, which makes it safe to mingle with other dogs.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


The first vet visit should fall within the formative weeks during the fear-imprint period (eight to twelve weeks), which will give you a good chance to let the puppy have a positive experience with the vet, who you hope will be especially warm and gentle with a little pup. If you aren’t happy with how the doctor treats you or the puppy, then this is a good time to find another health provider, before there is a medical emergency.
This is the precise period when the closest bond is formed between dogs and their people. If your behavior with the youngster is that of a loving, sensitive and reasonable leader, it will have a positive influence on how he turns out. Your effect on your pup is enormous: you are your puppy’s world. Puppies are fascinated by their human family and everything in their new home; they also have a strong desire to play.
  Kids Compared to Dogs

People often compare children to puppies, which is a mistake in my view, because few of the similarities are actually relevant and the dissimilarities are numerous. But if making a comparison is appealing, you can get a rough idea of the equivalent maturity between puppies and children by translating “weeks” into “years.” That would mean that this puppy developmental age of twelve to twenty weeks is like human adolescence—a time in human development when kids act out, test boundaries and do all the things that require adults to set limits and enforce them.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner