In our Puppy Socialization classes, one of the lessons we try to teach new puppy owners is how to recognize the signs of appropriate and healthy play between dogs.
On one hand, we have some owners that are “helicopter parents” and at the onset of anything more physical than polite sniffing, they feel like their dogs are in mortal danger.
On the otherhand, we have some owners who believe their dog who is bullying or over-aroused is just playing with good intentions, and we are being too uptight. “Let dogs be dogs, let them work it out”, they’d say.
As instructors, our job is to either help those who are worried feel safe that their dog is having a good time – yes that includes facial and ear nips and tumbling and wrestling.
Our job is also to identify when a dog is getting overaroused, or is *not* picking up on the cutoff (please stop!) signals of other dogs and to interrupt or time-out.
To help our students (and anyone, anywhere!) we commissioned Hyedie Hashimoto to create an infographic. Please download a copy and print it off for your dog training facility, dog daycare, dog park – wherever it might be useful!
Bringing home a new puppy is a big event and it’s your job to raise them to be confident and successful in the world. Having helped over 3000 dogs (and their owners) since 2010, we’ve been asked a lot of questions from new puppy owners over the years.
Here are answers to the top 5 questions we’re asked:
How do I teach my puppy to eliminate outside?
When your puppy eliminates outside, throw a party! Wait until they’ve finished (so you don’t distract them), praise them, pet them, and give them a treat. Take your puppy outside often – every two hours to start. In addition, take them outside after any of these events:
If you can’t supervise your puppy directly, confine them so your puppy can’t wander throughout your home and have accidents. If your puppy does have an accident, stay calm, wait for them to finish and take them outside to ensure they don’t have to go anymore.
Do not punish your puppy! Punishing your puppy for accidents will scare them from eliminating while you are watching, which includes outdoors.
What do I do if my puppy cries when left alone?
You should avoid rushing back to your puppy if they cry when left alone, but it’s better to go slowly so they don’t cry at all. Get your puppy used to being alone by confining them briefly when you are still at home so they are calm while being physically separated from you.
Create a “safe place” for your puppy like a crate, exercise pen, or baby-gated area of your home
Put them in their safe place with something good to eat like a kong with wet food or a favourite chew item.
Once they’re busy with their item, try short departures from them. Answer emails, put on the laundry, or other chores around the house to help build your puppy’s confidence at being separated from you. These short departures set them up to succeed when you actually leave the house.
Ouch! How do I get my puppy to stop biting me?
When your puppy is in a biting mood, redirect them to appropriate items to bite (plush toys, tug ropes, bones, chews, etc). You can teach your puppy to bite less by saying “Ouch!” when they bite too hard. If they are too excited, you may need to calm them down with some quiet time in their safe space. Lastly, never play games where you deliberately encourage your puppy to bite
your hands. It’s normal for puppies to nip, and later, as their puppy teeth fall out, they will stop nipping altogether.
How do I teach my puppy to walk nicely on a leash?
Praise and treat your puppy whenever they are walking nicely with you. Puppies need to be taught
how to walk on a leash and may frequently refuse to move. If your puppy tends to freeze, return to their side and encourage them to come with you instead of pulling them along. You may also pick them up, walk a few steps, and put them down again. Most puppies improve quickly.
When should I start training my puppy?
Right away! It’s much easier to teach your puppy good manners and establish good habits now, rather than having to correct unwanted behaviour later. Also, puppies have a crucial socialization period between 8 – 16 weeks of age where they need to experience new people, places, things, and other dogs. Enroll in a puppy socialization class that offers a safe, controlled environment where the focus is on careful socialization and play.
Why Choose When Hounds Fly?
Start ANY time – We accept new students at any time, so you can start socializing your new puppy right away.
Flexible Schedules – Puppy Socialization classes are scheduled multiple days and times a week – mix and match classes for greater flexibility.
Convenient Locations – Puppy Socialization classes are held at our Dundas West, Pape Village, and North Toronto locations.
Outstanding Training and Effective Results – Our method (clicker training) is safe for all family members, strengthens (not damages) your relationship with your dog, and is scientifically proven to be the most effective.
Top Instructors – All instructors are Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partners, or have their CPDT-KA designation.
About When Hounds Fly Puppy Socialization Classes:
This class is for prepared puppy owners that planned ahead and understand that the critical socialization period of a puppy is between 8 to 16 weeks. They know that during this developmental period, carefully implemented socialization experiences towards people, other dogs, and the sights and sounds of urban living will significantly reduce the likelihood of fear, anxiety, and aggression issues arising later in life. These owners understand that prior to complete vaccination, their puppy needs to have a rich socialization history and that a well-run puppy socialization class is a key component of that. This class is designed for these owners and their puppies.
Each class will consist of three components – 1) Structured, supervised, and healthy socialization opportunities, both on and off-leash for the puppies in the classroom 2) Weekly socialization topics and best-practice advice and practical exercises 3) Very basic clicker training exercises.
A couple of months ago I got an email from friends saying they had been thinking about it, and they wanted to get a puppy. They wanted some tips and also some feedback. They recently found a breeder that was selling Golden Doodles (Golden Retriever/Poodle crosses) online and they had went to visit the breeder to see the puppies. Here’s what they said they saw:
The litter of puppies was living in a shed in the backyard. It was clean but separate from the house
There were two unsold 6 month old puppies on the premises and they were CRAZY
They could take the puppies home right away if they wanted.
They had the good sense not to make an impulse decision, so instead they went home and emailed and asked what I thought.
I broke it to them and said they had basically visited a back yard breeder/puppy mill operation.
Sorry To Break It To You, But…
If you bought your puppy online with a credit card from a web site that sounds like “perfectpuppies.com” or “buyapuppyonline.com”, you probably got a puppy mill puppy.
If you bought your puppy from the window of a pet store, you definitely got a puppy mill puppy.
If you answered an advertisement on Kijiji, you got a back yard breeder puppy.
If you didn’t have to actually apply and go through a selection process to get your puppy.. well anyways you get the idea.
Other than the animal rights aspects of this (see horrible puppy mill video here) why should anyone care? These backyard bred puppies weren’t abused at all. They were just raised by people who got two dogs together and made a litter. We’ll get them at 8 weeks old and do a great job at socializing them and training them, and live happily ever after, right?
What Happens Before 8 Weeks Matters a Ton
Grisha Stewart, her in book, Behavior Adjustment Training, talks about her own dog, Peanut. She rescued Peanut from the shelter at ten weeks old. Peanut ended up being severely dog and people reactive. How could this be? She was a professional dog trainer, and she took him to two six-week puppy classes and two six-week adolescent dog classes. She used systematic desensitization and classical counter-conditioning to try to help Peanut get over his fears. The problems began before Peanut was even born.
Genetics: Peanut’s mother was so fear-aggressive, the shelter had to euthanize her.
Chemical Stress in Utero: Peanut’s mother lived in presumably not-so-nice conditions when Peanut was in-utero – this stress affects the development of all the puppies she was carrying.
Environmental Stress: From eight weeks to ten weeks, during a critical developmental period where puppies start becoming aware of danger, his entire litter was exposed to a building full of fearful dogs, and he was also neutered at eight weeks old. Not a place or a procedure for a young puppy to learn the world is safe and wonderful.
Basically, much of how your puppy will turn out is determined before you even take your puppy home. Therefore, where you get your puppy matters a ton.
(FYI, Peanut is a therapy dog now. But it took her jedi-like skills to make it happen and in doing so, she created an entire protocol for helping dogs get over fear.)
Find the Right Breeder, Get the Right Puppy
When you have determined what breed you want and what is appropriate for you (a whole separate topic), start looking for a breeder and think about all the things that Peanut had against him.
Genetics – What were the parents like? Are they health tested? Are they therapy dogs/CGN titled? Sport titles?
In-Utero Stress – What kind of environment does the bitch live in? (Imagine what it must be like to go through the gestation period inside a filthy, uncomfortable puppy mill with dozens of other barking dogs, or be in an uncomfortable backyard shed, isolated from social contact)
Environment from birth to 8 weeks – What kind of environment do the puppies live in as their eyes open, ears start hearing, and they start learning about the world? What are they being socialized to, and how are they being socialized? Or are they living in a back yard shed, where they will have never seen anything other than the four walls of the room?
Responsible breeders also take measures to reduce pet overpopulation. This can be done by offering to take back the dog at any stage of its life (it puts the onus on the breeder to select appropriate homes for each puppy) and possibly through a spay/neuter clause in the contract.
Early Socialization Starts Before 8 Weeks
Two years ago I hosted a Puppy Socialization Party for a 7-week old litter of Icelandic Sheepdogs from Solhundur Icelandic Sheepdogs. Prior to leaving the litter to go to their forever homes, these dogs have been on car rides, to a dog training school, met dozens of people (house visitors to their house, as well as people out and about) and had even had some beginner clicker training.
This past winter break, Rachael and I were invited to go to a Puppy Socialization Party at Van Wijn Tuin Dutch Shepherds. In this video you can see the puppies live inside a home environment, where they are exposed to a variety of surfaces, meet a variety of people (including one child this evening), have all sorts of cameras with flashes point at them, and have these strange house visitors even feed them to start building positive associations with strangers.
Responsible breeders have to put in so much more effort than their kijiji/puppy mill counterparts. Consider the amount of work to be done… it is literally a full time job for months for one person to properly raise a litter of puppies in a textbook fashion. This socialization has to even include being taken off property to other places (in a safe fashion, taking into consideration risks of disease).
These puppies will have been exposed to almost all of the items of Dr. Sophia Yin’s Socialization Checklist before they have even left the litter. How lucky are these guys vs. their backyard breeder counterparts?
Let’s say you do this perfectly – you find the best breeder that has litter after litter of champion show dogs, agility superstars, and therapy dogs with brilliant temperaments, and they raise the litter according to procedures such as the Puppy Prodigies Early Learning Program – and then you take the reigns and enroll in a high quality puppy socialization program and continue the process of careful socialization and training – all of this is no guarantee of the perfect dog.
Mother Nature can have a way of throwing you a curve ball. Casey Lomonaco, writer, and dog trainer/behaviour consultant extraordinare, did everything textbook with her puppy, Cuba, yet when he hit adolescence, he started exhibiting highly reactive behavior in very strange situations. You can read about her experience here: http://www.rewardingbehaviors.com/2012/10/06/voyage-with-cuba-the-next-leg/
Close to a Sure Thing: Adopt a Mature Dog
This is just my opinion, but I believe that if you want to maximize the chance that you’ll end up with a dog that fits your ideal lifestyle, the best way to do this is to rescue a mature adult dog. In particular, a foster-to-adopt arrangement would be ideal, since oftentimes, problem behaviors are suppressed until after the dog has been placed in a normal home environment. A four year old dog, confirmed to be good with children, is likely to remain good with children for the rest of his life. A three year old dog that sleeps at home calmly all day, is likely not to develop separation anxiety later in life. A two year old dog that loves tug, loves food, and loves training, would probably make a great project dog for dog sports.
That being said, even this is no guarantee, since fear and anxiety can be learned (my seven year old Petey, who is totally neutral towards dogs, could be attacked savagely by a dog tomorrow, and become dog aggressive because of it) or develop with age (changes in visual acuity, pains and discomfort, dementia, etc.) Many of my clients’ own dogs started off being good with all dogs, but due to repeated attacks or being charged by off-leash dogs, learned to become aggressive.
A Lifelong Commitment
Regardless of how you end up with your dog, you chose him, not the other way around. He didn’t ask to go home with you – it was your decision and yours alone. For that reason, you have an obligation to stick with them right till the end. And, if you care about the welfare of animals, and you don’t want puppy mills and backyard breeders to produce litters of fearful and aggressive dogs that end up in shelters, where you get your puppy is what makes the difference.
My friends ended up finding another Golden Doodle breeder. Some key differences – the litter was being raised in the family house, where they were exposed to people all day long, as well as the sights and sounds of a household. They were able to meet the parents. And, the puppy is doing great in puppy class – fearless, loves to play, self-regulates arousal, accepts handling and restraint, likes people, and is pretty easy to train. They have “normal” puppy challenges such as house training, inappropriate chewing, nipping etc. I hope that they never have to worry about fear, reactivity, and aggression problems. Otherwise they might have to become professional dog trainers to develop the skills to overcome them.
How do you safely take a toy or bone away from a dog?
Does your dog exhibit aggressive behavior when he has a bone or toy? This issue is called Resource Guarding and if not addressed, can escalate into dangerous behaviors like biting.
From an evolutionary standpoint, dogs developed this behavior for obvious reasons. If a dog didn’t protect high value objects like meaty bones from theft, it would starve, pure and simple!
In practical terms, that toy, bone, or high valued object is rewarding to the dog, and having it taken away is an undesired outcome.
Forcing the dog physically to give up the toy will cause this problem to escalate, up to and including severe biting. So how can we address it safely?
As a positive reinforcement dog trainer, you must make the behavior of giving up the toy or bone a rewarding behavior. This is commonly done by trading objects with the dog with food – after all, the dog can’t guard a toy while simultaneously taking food from your hand.
Furthermore, if every time a toy or bone is given up and it’s put away, there’s no incentive for the dog to ever give up the toy, so its important to trade for food, and then return the toy to the dog. This creates a win-win situation where there’s no downside at all to giving up the highly valued object.
If you trade for food, and return the toy enough times, you’ll find your dog actually looks forward to releasing the toy as you approach. Its at this time we can put the behavior on cue with “Out” or “Drop It”.
If your dog has developed a serious case of resource guarding, where he starts growling and even biting as you approach, it is absolutely critical that you get professional help with this work as the risk of eliciting a dog bite is very high.
Whatever you do, don’t force the dog to release the object. This only teaches the dog that he was right to guard the item in the first place, and will increase the severity of the guarding and increase the severity of his aggression response. He’ll progress from guarding looks and body language to growling, and ultimately may resort to biting to protect the object.
Start early with your puppy to practice trading. If your adult dog is growling or biting, get help right away with a trainer or behaviourist that uses positive reinforcement to teach the dog that giving up toys is a fun and rewarding game.
Did you know that in the US, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year? And, of those incidents, 77% of them are bites from the family pet (or a friend’s pet), and 50% of bites occur on the owner’s property? This means that you are more likely to be bitten by your own family dog than someone elses!
The next important fact to know is that dog bites rarely happen “out of the blue, all of a sudden”. Most dogs exhibit a wide range of body language and signals to indicate they are uncomfortable with the situation. The problem is, humans either do not understand or choose to ignore those clear communication signals. The dog is forced to either tolerate, run away, or bite.
The first thing you should do is learn how to greet and interact with dogs appropriately. The first rule is you should always ask the owner of the other dog if is it OK to say hello to them. Not all dogs will tolerate a stranger giving them a rough head pet. This is especially important to teach children. Lili Chin. of www.doggiedrawings.net created this great illustration called “How Not To Greet A Dog”:
Needless to say – dogs do not like head pets, people leading over them, staring them in the face, scrunching their hears, hugging them chest to chest, or kisses to the head. You never see two dogs greeting each other this way. You DO see primates greeting this way though – and guess what, we’re primates.
The second thing you should do is learn how to read canine body language. Once you know what to look for, it becomes very obvious when a dog is upset or in a position where a bite is possible. Visit www.doggonesafe.com and view the “Learn to Speak Dog” section here: http://www.doggonesafe.com/Speak_Dog
A few examples of signs of anxiety in a dog include
Head turns away from you
Whale Eye / Half Moon Eye (whites of eyes showing, especially when normally you never see them)
Shake-off (as if the dog was wet, but he’s dry) after the hugging/touching ends
Standing up and walking away
If your dog does these things while being touched or greeted by other people, this is a sign that your dog is uncomfortable. If you don’t listen to them, they may feel like they have no choice but to start showing signs of aggression like. Many people fail to even notice these more obvious signs:
Lip curls / showing teeth
Nose-bumping (jumping up to bump his nose against yours)
Air biting (intentionally biting and missing as a warning shot)
The third thing you should do, especially if you are the owner of a new puppy, is ensure they are extremely well socialized by the time they turn 13 weeks of age! Ensure your new puppy has met over 100 different types of people, has been handled in a variety of ways (but always gently), and fed yummy treats. This early socialization helps increase the tolerance that your puppy will have for the types of greetings they don’t like.
Lastly… if you have a young one, or are inviting young ones over to your house where they will interact with a dog – teach them that dogs are not stuffed animals or playthings – basically do the opposite of what is in the following video:
And here is a video of Gunner the Dalmation displaying every warning behaviour possible that precedes a bite. I have no idea what the mother of this toddler is thinking!!!
Hopefully you are reading this article BEFORE your new puppy arrives! Puppyhood is a very brief period of a dog’s life and getting it right from the start will save you a lot of heartache and headache down the road. Here are our Top 5 Puppy Training Tips to help you out!
Tip 1: Socialization
Puppy socialization is the process of exposing your new puppy to a wide variety of experiences in a safe, comfortable, and positive way. Puppies under the age of 14 weeks are extremely impressionable and early, positive experiences prior to this age can help ensure that your puppy grows up to be confident. The biggest mistake puppy owners make is thinking their dog is “too small” or “too fragile” and should stay at home until they get older. These dogs will never be as confident or relaxed as they could be. Moral of the story – take your puppy with you everywhere!
Tip 2: Disease Prevention
Puppies do not have a fully functional immune system and as such should not be exposed to dogs of unknown vaccination history or other areas of potential contamination. There is a particularly strong strain of Parvovirus that is prevalent in Toronto that will absolutely cripple a young puppy. Until your veterinarian advises, do not take your puppy to places like the dog park! Do attend a Puppy Socialization class, or arrange for play dates with adult dogs whose health background you are aware of.
Tip 3: House Breaking
The easiest and most effective way to house break a dog is through crate training. It is cruel to NOT crate train a dog, since a dog that is crate trained will love their crate and will be comfortable staying there for long periods of time. A dog that loves their crate can go anywhere (air travel, dog shows, dog sport events, hotels, car rides, etc.). A puppy should not have unsupervised access around the house – you are just asking for accidents to happen everywhere and the more they have accidents, the harder it is to house break your new puppy.
Tip 4: Chewing, Biting, and Destructive Behavior
Dogs chew. Puppies chew like crazy as they teethe and this will continue even as the adult teeth come out. Confine your puppy in an X-pen when they are unsupervised so they can’t chew inappropriate items. Make sure your puppy has a wide assortment of chew toys, and help them develop a preference to chew items like marrow bones or kongs by feeding meals out of them. Also, if your puppy is mouthy on you, don’t punish your dog – just put the dog away and give them something else to chew on. Nipping goes away on its own.
Tip 5: Begin Training and Establish House Rules on Day One
With positive reinforcement training, an animal can be trained as soon as it can see and hear. We start training puppies at When Hounds Fly at 8 weeks if possible; some breeders begin clicker training weeks before that. The earlier you start, the better, since early clicker training helps develop a thinking and creative dog early in their life. Similarly, set clear rules for your dog on day one. It is easier to relax them later, than take away privileges later. For example, if you know your Great Dane shouldn’t be on the bed or couch, don’t let your Great Dane puppy on the bed or couch, ever! Or, if you know it’ll be a problem if your soon-to-be 100 lb Newfoundland jumps on grandma, don’t greet and cuddle a jumping 20 lb Newfoundland puppy! Also, a puppy that is frequently left home alone for short amounts of time is far less likely to develop separation anxiety later in life.
We encourage all new puppy owners to enroll in our Puppy Socialization class! While we take puppies up to 16 weeks of age, we would encourage anyone getting a new puppy to start sooner and not delay.
Here are two books that we consider to be the absolute gold-standard in puppy raising/training books today.
We’re sharing this because we want to make sure that our prospective students get started on the right foot. Many of the best selling books on dog training are actually full of inaccurate information, or place the emphasis on often irrelevant concerns.
Unfortunately, neither of these outstanding books are available at your local bookstore. Fortunately, both are easy to order, and both are available as eBooks.
Our Top Pick – Puppy Start Right by Kenneth Martin, DVM, and Debbie Martin, RVT, VTS (Behavior)
Ideal for puppies and dogs of all ages, this book is a must-have resource for dog trainers, puppy socialization class instructors, and dog parents.
Whether you are raising a new puppy or have an adolescent or adult dog, Puppy Start Right can help solve many common nuisance behaviors. Puppy Start Right is a positive approach to problem-solving, prevention, and training—without the use of punishment.
Foundation training exercises are perfect for the household companion dog or the future star in competitive dog sports. Exercises include teaching your dog to focus and offer attention, targeting behaviors including a place or bed cue, the recall, sits and downs (stay cues), loose-leash walking, and the “bring,” “drop it,” and “leave it” cues. Enjoy step-by-step instructions with corresponding photos!
A Close Second – Available as an eBook! – Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Sophia Yin, DVM
With 176 pages and over 400 photos, Dr. Yin explains why puppies do what they do, how even minor modifications in their environment and your inter- actions can dramatically affect their behavior, and how quickly they can learn when you set them up for success. This visual guide provides readers with a step-by-step plan for bonding with their pup, learning to communicate clearly, and providing the pup with essential life skills.
How Your Puppy Developed Before You Got Her
Why Start Training So Soon
A Foolproof Potty Training Program
Dr.Yin’sLearn to Earn Program for Puppies
Socializing Your Pup to Dogs, People, and Handling