The Needs Of Puppies
    On May 13, 14, 15, 2011, the Professional Animal Behaviour Associates group (PABA), held a 3-day seminar at the University of Guelph .  Dr. Andrew Luescher, DVM  PhD DACVB, Director, Animal Behaviour Clinic at Purdue University, a world renown Animal Behaviourist presented the topic “The Psychological Needs of Dogs”.
    Dr. Luescher feels that puppies should never leave their mother and  litter mates before five weeks of age. Ideally they should stay until eight to nine weeks of age. The "primary" socialization is to other dogs and occurs between three and five weeks of age.  If puppies are not well socialized with dogs,  they may be afraid of other dogs and may show a predatory behaviour or aggressiveness to small dogs.
    The "secondary" socialization is to other species, humans, and other pets. This occurs between 3 and 14 weeks of age.  Puppies should be introduced to a variety of different people - men in hats, men with beards, umbrellas, bicycles, children, cats.  Dogs do not see children as small people but as a different species, and if not socialized, may show predatory or aggressive behaviour towards children.
    Puppies have two Fear Phases in the early months and care should be taken not to stress or frighten the puppy during those times.   A single traumatic experience can ruin a puppy.  The first Fear Phase is between 5 and 12 weeks of age.  From about 8 weeks of age, puppies show stronger fear reactions and retain fear of a specific object or person.  The second Fear Phase lasts about 3 weeks between 4 and 11 months. Socialization and desensitization to as many situations and people as possible should continue.
    Dr. Luescher feels that “Taking a puppy to puppy-class is the single best thing an owner can do for their dog in its entire life.”

 As Puppy Grows
    Meal feeding seems to be better for dogs, and this provides an opportunity to prevent food bowl aggression.  Food bowl aggression, even in young pups, is the beginning of other aggression's and some of those can be directed towards the owners.
    Arrange the home environment so the puppy cannot do the wrong thing but automatically does the right thing.  Set the puppy up to succeed.  Crate train the puppy and teach bite inhibition.  Teach the puppy to tolerate restraint and handling, including nail trims and receiving pills. Pills can be given with soft food, example: cheez whiz or smooth peanut butter.  Puppy proof your house.  Socialize your puppy with children, as children are a stressor for dogs.  You can play tug of war with your puppy - however only with an appropriate toy and only that toy, and the owner controls the game - initiate play when you want to and stop when you want to. 
    Train your puppy to a halter/collar and leash.  Make this a fun time.  Also, train your puppy to ‘alone’ time to prevent separation anxiety.  Don’t make a fuss when leaving the house, and do not make a fuss over puppy when returning home.  Leave puppy in a crate with a favourite play toy - example:  A kong filled with peanut butter and kibble.  Make the crate a fun place to be. 
    Go for walks and take the puppy to all sorts of places, always keeping safety and control a priority.  Dogs that just stay in the house and backyard may have an increase in anxiety.  There may not be enough stimulation and exercise for the dog. 
    Treat your puppy with yummy soft foods in scary situations.  One cannot get a dog to relax with commands alone.  One cannot reinforce fear with food.
    Above all - be consistent.  Puppies need routine and they need predictable and consistent interactions with their owners.  It is not fair to the dog to constantly change the rules.  This causes stress and frustration in the puppy because they never know what the outcome may be. A consistent environment allows the dog to be successful, feel safe, and be confident.

Prepared by Jeannie Angus, former Veterinary Assistant employee, after attending a three-day seminar put on by the Professional Animal Behaviour Associates (PABA).