Puppies are a lot like babies - adorable but they need a lot of hand holding. They're constantly experiencing new and different people, places, and smells which can illicit a variety of responses. Because of this, I get tons of puppy questions. Below are a few of the more common dilemmas listeners have called me about recently.
We gave our children an adorable little Labrador Retriever for Christmas. Our concern is that the dog seems to shy away when the kids’ friends come to our house. How can we get our puppy to be more friendly?
‘Christmas puppies’ are going through a very critical period of development right now. It’s important to understand that what a puppy learns early on and the situations the puppy is exposed to at that stage can have long-term effects on how it will react to similar experiences for its entire life.
Your perspective may be, ‘look at how much the children love the puppy ... they run to her, pick her up, and hug her.’ The puppy’s perspective may be, ‘why are these kids manhandling me? From now on I’ll do everything I can to flee from children and avoid this abuse’.
Because the puppy is so impressionable, now is the time to introduce him or her to a variety of people. Introductions should be made with NO PRESSURE, and it must be done on the puppy’s terms. If the puppy is comfortable, have visitors offer treats or play with the puppy’s favorite toy – create positive associations with these new people and avoid intimidating the puppy. If you force it and it's not on the puppy's terms, you may create negative associations with certain people which will last with the puppy for a long time.
My puppy causes a big fuss when I get out the vacuum cleaner. She seems to hate it. She growls and nips at it and won’t settle down until I shut it off or stop moving it. Should I just put her in her crate while I vacuum, or is there a way to teach her to get used to it?
Now is the time to introduce your puppy to household items, like vacuum cleaners, garbage cans, paper shredders, brooms, and mops. Just leave it out, scatter treats or toys around it and let the puppy get used to it with no pressure. Then slowly and deliberately begin to move it around or turn it on for short periods of time. Everything your puppy experiences now will have a greater lasting impression on him than it ever will again.
If you find yourself confronting doggie dilemmas like these or others, email me, and I'l respond on the blog. Also, check out some photos of my favorite puppies below.