Adopting a Puppy – Age Matters!

Adopting a Puppy – Age Matters!

Recently my very best friend added a beautiful coonhound named Merlin to her family, consisting of herself, her boyfriend, a loving young pit-mix, and a young cat. I was ecstatic, knowing that they had been looking for a puppy for a while.

There was one problem though, and she knew that was the case. This puppy was only 6 weeks old. Why was my friends 6 week old puppy a problem?

In an ideal situation would be to take the puppy sometime between 10 and 12 weeks, though if you’re picking them up later you would want for there to have been many interactions between you and the pup so you aren’t a completely new person. At the very least you should pick up your puppy when they are 8 weeks. This is because in this time your dog is learning about him or herself, about dogs, and about proper interactions. Your puppy will learn from his mother, his litter-mates, and from the other people and animals in his breeders household.

There is no benefit from separating a dog from its family unit early. There is nothing to gain from it. The breeder is the only one who might gain anything early because they get money from the dog early, and don’t have to spend money feeding those puppies an extra couple weeks. For a breeder to do this is not only unethical, but is in ignorance, irresponsibility, and at the very worst is out of greed. If a breeder gives puppies up before they are eight weeks old, or refuses to keep a puppy until it is eight weeks old then you should walk away. Along the same lines, if the mother is no longer able to interact with or is no longer on site with the puppies you should also walk away.

The steps a litter goes through are roughly these:

  1. Birth – 2 Weeks: No expectations. Nurse, Sleep, eliminate by mothers encouragement.
  2. 2 – 3 Weeks: Eyes and ears open. First chance to be aware of surroundings via more than touch and smell.
  3. 3-16 Weeks: Socialization Period. Begin interacting with surroundings.
    1. 6-12 Weeks: Critical Period. When dogs develop social skills. 50% of the dogs eventual temperament will be developed during this time. Incorrect social behavior is tolerated mildly but corrected.
  4. 13 Weeks – 6 Months: Beginning of adulthood. Incorrect social behavior no longer tolerated by other dogs.

In the first two weeks of a dogs critical socialization period some very important things happen. At this time the dogs are fully weaned and will not be nursing from the mother, but it is vital that they still be interacting with her. This is because she is the key figure in their lives and she will now be teaching them proper social behavior. Before now she allowed them the climb on her, nibble her, chew her, and even possibly hang from her ears or tail by teeth. Now, she will physically show them that the behavior they used to get away with is not appropriate and will not be tolerated. She will yelp when they nip her to show them that nibbling and biting is only tolerated so far. She will enforce rules and show them what is and what isn’t good behavior. The mother is the first one to show them they are no longer babies and that they are expected to behave, and what behaving means.

As mentioned above, it’s during this time that about half of the dogs eventual temperament is developed. This is because the puppies will learn that there is a hierarchy to things, that there are things expected of them. Not only will their mother teach them what they can and cannot get away with, but their siblings will do the same. We have all seen puppies rough-house and then hear one yelp and the playing stop. This is so important as this teaches dogs not only when they’ve gone too far, but also helps teach them the signs and signals that other dogs will give off when they’re reaching the line or need a break.

Dogs who are separated from their litter and from their mother before this happens are effectively socially and emotionally crippled. They aren’t given the opportunities to learn what is and isn’t acceptable social behavior and because of that are more likely to over stimulate others, or go too far when “playing”.

They are also more likely to become fearful in new situations as they have no experience truly interacting with their surroundings. Because of this they can go into these new situations and become fear-biters or fear-aggressive. These dogs are not angry or mean, but they will view new experiences as attacks and react by defending themselves. Dogs separated too early from their mothers and siblings are usually ones who will over or under react to dogs because they never learned how to read calming or stress signals in others. This usually causes many fights to happen and can cause your dog to develop more phobias and fears.

Other problems which people might experience from dogs who they get from a breeder too early can be health related. In the extra time with their litter and their mother the puppy will be protected and learn self-soothing techniques which can help them in situations of anxiety or overstimulation. If they don’t get this they are more prone to separation anxiety which because of the stress hormones released can very negatively affect your dogs long-term health. They can also have more difficulty with weight gain and growth in their lifetimes. They will be more prone to illnesses and health problems throughout their lives and they usually have a higher mortality rate than is the norm for their breeds.

Overall, there is no benefit in separating a dog from its mother or siblings early and there are many negatives that would otherwise be avoided.

When getting a puppy always know that your breeder is doing everything that is best for their dogs. This includes things like health checks and not over-breeding, but it also includes simple things like keeping a litter together for a responsible amount of time, at least 8 weeks. If a breeder has beautiful dogs but does not do this, walk away.

In the case of little Merlin, my friend’s new pup, we’re moving forward. The breeder did do wrong by the pup by separating him from his litter and his mother at that age and more knowledge about the outcomes could have helped all involved, but what’s done is done. All I can hope is that by letting more people know why early separations are horrible for the dogs and why you should always completely look into a situation before getting a new dog from a breeder, or from anywhere, I can help dogs in the future avoid this situation.

Why Breed Matters When Choosing a Dog.

Why Breed Matters When Choosing a Dog.

As many can tell from my previous posts and articles, I am a big proponent of responsible dog breeding and of purebred dogs. This is not because I for any reason dislike or don’t trust shelter dogs or the shelters themselves, though some shelters have been shown to be doing very negative things in the recent past. This is simply because I believe that responsible breeders will last.

If responsible ownership is encouraged and enforced I would love to see a world where responsible breeders, whether they produce purebred or mixed breed, are the way to get pets. I would love to see a future where shelters are a thing of the past because there are few to no unwanted or homeless pets. Shouldn’t this be what we aim for?

Regardless of this ideal future, people do get their dogs from many sources and no matter where they choose the breed of a dog is always a factor.

Some might say that this isn’t the case, especially with mixed breed dogs. I however beg to differ. It has been my experience that many dog – person relationships could experience a significant change if the person takes into account the breed when not only bringing home a dog, but when training or interacting with them as well.

Here’s what I mean by this.

Certain dog breeds were and are bred or created for specific purposes. Dogs who are known as being destructive, loud, or difficult are usually bored, underestimated, intelligent animals! Do you think a mathematician would be happy to watch infants all day every day? Then why do we believe that an Australian Shepherd or Siberian Husky, dogs bred to work, would be satisfied by a half hour walk when you get home from work, after leaving them alone for 8 or more hours while you were there?

In the same regard, I have heard and experienced many people do the following. Say that they want a dog to get them to be more active. I have said this before in my post on responsible ownership, rather than encourage you to get out more this dog will most likely do nothing more than frustrate you. Instead, if you are inactive, get a dog that might only need a short walk daily, not a marathon sprinter.

Does this mean that all energetic people need Greyhounds and Salukis and all couch potatoes need Bulldogs or Pugs? No! Many Greyhounds are happy as a clam to lounge on the couch daily so long as they get the opportunity to dash every once in a while and get to go on walks regularly. Many Bulldogs would be happy to take a long slow hike so long as you give them adequate sitting breaks.

I’m also not saying that apartment dwellers shouldn’t have energetic dogs. I am saying that if you are to get one, know the responsibilities that go into giving them the appropriate stimulation and exercise.

Mental training is great and treat puzzles can keep some dogs entertained and happy for hours! You can also have just as much fun as your dog through activities like competitive obedience or agility or flyball. There are countless games, puzzles, activities, and more that you can do with your dog.

Always, always, always take all of the necessary steps when looking to add someone to your family, which is what you are doing when you get a pet. One of those steps is determining what personality, energy level, size, and requirements your furry friend is going to need. Looking at breed is a great way to do this! There are some exceptions to this and dogs cannot be 100% judged by their breed. Every dog is individual and every dog has its own personality traits that cannot be fully predetermined by breed alone, but it is a great place to start!

Training tools – Part 1: The Good

Training tools – Part 1: The Good

There are countless methods and tricks and aids to help with training. Today, I want to go over some of the good things you can use to help your training plan.

  • 6 foot+ leash:
    • A solid strong leash is a wonderful tool. No only is it necessary for walking, and leash training, but it can be used when training a recall command or when training sit outdoors.
  • Solid Collar:
    • In addition to being a key safety need in case your pet ever gets lost, their collar is important to training. Not only to get them used to it, but as it’s used for walks, securing, and of course the identification.
  • Front lead Harness:
    • These harnesses are great because rather than hook your leash to the top of the dogs back or neck, you connect right at the front of their chest. This is so helpful when training a polite walk and proper heel because if your dog tries to pull they not only feel resistance, but are forced to change directions. This helps to teach them that pulling does not mean getting what they want faster.
  • Head Harness:
    • These are wonderful for the same reason the front led harnesses are great. Pulling causes the dog to turn.
  • Crate:
    • While one might have once thought it inhumane and horrible to put a dog in a box metal crate, we know that this is actually a wonderful tool and benefit to the dog. It gives you a secure place to put your puppy or dog for short periods of time while you are away and it also gives your dog a safe place to go if for example you have many friends over and your dog gets over stimulated.
  • Toys:
    • The stimulations from playing and chewing is so key to a happy dog. If your dog is bored, destructive behaviors can and usually do follow. Use toys as a reward after training, or to show a job well done for play motivated dogs.
  • Treats:
    • When used in training and in addition to an appropriately nutritious diet treats are your dogs best friend. You can highlight good behaviors, redirect, and more by using treats.
      • Treat and Toy combination: These are great tools to use and there are different levels of difficulty depending on your dog’s level, from a peanut butter filled kong all the way up to puzzles you have to lift, twist, and pull. These are also wonderful for crate training because you can stimulate your dog while they are in the crate without you.

There are countless good training tools out there but here are some of the basics which every dog-owning family should have and use. As always, if a tool puts you off or makes you feel bad using it, don’t. Follow your gut in your training.

Top Dogs of 2014 According to AK

Top Dogs of 2014 According to AK

Earlier this morning the AKC announced their top 10 dogs of 2014 and here’s what they said:

  1. Labrador Retriever
  2. German Shepherd
  3. Golden Retriever
  4. Bulldog
  5. Beagle
  6. Yorkshire Terrier
  7. Poodle
  8. Boxer
  9. French Bulldog
  10. Rottweiler

Most of this is not to shocking for the majority of the public. Labs, German Shepherds, and Goldens are regularly seen in neighborhoods around the country. What is surprising to me is how many big dogs are in this list! Even the Poodle is found in a multitude of sizes including the “Standard” which is the same size as those found at the top three.

All of these dogs in the top five are known for their friendliness but the Beagle, Bulldog, and a few others are also known for their stubbornness, independence, and intelligence which sometimes adds up to a dog which is difficult to train.

It is nice to see these dogs, several bully breeds included, all with gained popularity. Both Bulldogs, German Shepherds, Boxers, and Rottweilers are all listed as “Aggressive” breeds in various places across the US. To see these breeds listed as some of the top breeds in the country I hope means that we are starting to move away from the idea of an “Aggressive Breed” and move more towards educating people on how to properly train and raise their animals, and how training and socialization in addition to good breeding and temperament understanding all adds up to a polite and well-mannered dog.

What is “BSL” and why are so many people against it?

What is “BSL” and why are so many people against it?

Breed Specific Legislation, or BSL for short, is something that is hated by many people in the show and shelter circuits of the dog world. This is for many reasons, but the main reasons are:

  1. It does not stop what it is put in place to stop, namely Dog-Human aggression.
  2. It does little to nothing to protect animals from being mistreated, neglected, or any other number of forms of abuse.
  3. It actually in some ways make certain breeds more attractive to people who want dogs for the wrong reasons (ie. status, fighting, etc.)
  4. Many dogs who have done nothing and have no history of aggression are removed from loving families and put down for nothing other than their breed.

The current dog which is under scrutiny is the Pit Bull, which is actually more of a type name like herding or hound, than a breed itself, but in the past dogs such as German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, Akitas, and more were the “aggressive” dog found in newspapers and legislation. (Many Insurance Companies will not allow you to get renters or homeowners insurance from them if you own an “Aggressive Breed” of dog)

BSLs are put in place in many cities and even countries around the world in an effort to bring down dog bite numbers in the surrounding areas. But just like treating a symptom without knowing the illness BSLs have done little to do what they are meant to do. In many of the places which rely on BSLs, such as Great Britain, Ireland, and parts of Canada and the US, there has been little to no change in numbers of reported dog bites since legislation was put in place to restrict or ban ownership of certain breeds.

When looking at animal welfare side of this it is terribly shocking. Firstly, though it may make it more difficult to acquire a dog legitimately this does not stop people from buying and breeding dogs for dog fighting and status. In fact, by making a breed illegal to own or more difficult to register, it is actually causing a dog fighting ring to go more underground and cause them to be harder for the authorities to crack down on. More people who should not own dogs or who only want an animal to help make them look tough will look for this breed because of the image BSLs put on the dogs.

The final point however, number 4 above, is what really makes me dislike BSLs. Many people who move to cities who do not know there is a BSL in place, or even people who have lived in cities for years before a BSL is put in place but who are not “grandfathered in” learn that they can either move or get rid of their dog. This is heartbreaking and unfair to the families and the dogs.

Humans make such a point to say that we should not judge one another by our skin, nationality, culture, and more. So why is it acceptable to judge a dog by its breed when it’s proven that how an animal is raised, treated, and cared for matter more than the breed of dog itself?

As always, Responsible Breeding and Responsible Ownership should be what is taught.

Please read the articles included below for a more in-depth look at BSLs, the truth about Pits and Bully Breeds, and more.

Chako – Pit Bull Rescue

Positively – Mom, we’re getting a puppy…

Positively – American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position on BSLs

Your Pit Bull and You – Learning is not Breed Specific

Huffpost – Bully Breeds vs Insurance Companies

Tidbit: Pit Bulls are generalized to be any dog with a block head, muscular body, and a deep chest. As you can imagine, many breeds fit into these characteristics. Even the “Pick the Pit” website makes a point to say that Pit Bull isn’t a recognized breed in itself and includes many pictures of dogs regularly called Pit Bulls or even Pit Mixes though they are Purebred dogs of other breeds.

What is a Puppy Mill

What is a Puppy Mill

In my “Responsible Dog Owner” post I mentioned how to acquire a dog. One way which many people may get their dogs, either intentionally or unintentionally, is through a puppy mill. This is not a responsible way to get a dog though. You will hear this reiterated by just about everyone in the pet owning world as well. Here is why.

A puppy mill breeder is not a breeder who tests their animals for health, raises puppies with love and encouragement, never over breeds a dame, or any other numbers of things which responsible breeders do to make sure their animals are happy and healthy at all times.
A puppy mill breeder is in breeding not for the betterment of a breed and not because they want to continue good temperament they have in their dog.
A puppy mill breeder is in breeding for nothing but the money. They will breed a dog until she cannot have puppies anymore. They will not do the required health tests and will breed dogs with faults, health problems, and bad temperaments. They will sell dogs on the internet without requiring the Perspective buyer to meet the dog, and they will ship the dog out. They will not ask buyers questions before selling a dog. They will not require any kind of contract. If for any reason a person cannot keep a dog, they don’t want to hear about it.
These people do not take responsibility for what they do and do not believe they should. They keep animals in horrendous conditions and many do not believe they are doing anything wrong.
The people who purchase from them are either uninformed or unknowing. Many people will look online and see a picture of a dog who they fall in love with, when they hear that they can have the dog in a week and they don’t have to do anything but pay a couple hundred, they’re sold. Puppy mills are also a frequent supplier for any pet you will get from a Pet Store. Many people who go this route may not know what they are doing because in a world of convenience and instant gratification, it would appear to these people as though this is how it should work.
That is not the case.
When looking for a dog the only options you should entertain are responsible no-kill shelters or responsible breeders. Please, do your homework before deciding to bring a dog into your home, and when you do, do so responsibly.