A Puppy for Christmas: You know we tell not to gift a pup, but we know that you are going to do it anyway! (Don’t feel bad, even Dr. Loftin’s family is getting a new dog for Christmas!) And since visions of sugarplums and fat puppies dance through all of our Christmas dreams, Loftin Vet would like to offer some practical tips to help your new Christmas pup grow into a well-adjusted dog.
The first 3 to 4 months of a puppy’s life is a critical time to socialize your new pup. Socialization involves exposing your new best buddy to as many new people, other animals, and experiences as possible. (There are specific behavioral terms to describe each exposure experience; however, for simplicity, we will use the word socialization to cover all aspects of exposure.)
If you spend any time with Dr. Loftin, you are familiar with his love of analogy, so of course, he has a favorite comparison for puppy socialization. He compares the first 3 to 4 months of a pup’s life to wet cement. It is effortless to shape and form wet cement with the gentle sweep of the trowel; however, as time passes, the cement dries and becomes harder and less pliable and nearly impossible to shape and mold. Do you get the picture? We’re not implying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but we are saying the simplest and most effective time to instruct a dog is in his or her first few months. We implore you to invest time in the first 3 to 4 months of your pup’s life to socialize your new best friend.
Expose your pup to as many new people as possible
Make sure your new fur baby has the opportunity to meet a variety of new people regularly. For example, expose him to children, people in uniforms, and guests in your home positively and encouragingly. Your puppy will learn to associate new people with enthusiasm rather than fear.
Expose your pup to as many new locations as possible
Don’t leave your puppy at home. Introduce her to errands, so she feels comfortable riding in the car. Pet taxis and even pet seat restraints are available for safe travel. Consider brief visits to our vet office (we will give her treats and love) and her groomer so that the initial introductions will be a fun adventure. And we are happy to report that Lafayette has many pet-friendly businesses where pets are welcome. Remember, never leave your pet in a hot car.
Expose your pup to as many new pets as possible
This tip requires some discretion because young puppies are not fully vaccinated. That makes dog parks and many socialization classes off-limits. However, one-on-one play dates with fully-vaccinated doggy friends are a great way to introduce your pup to other dogs. Always supervise doggy play and never leave food unattended.
Handle your puppy
Your puppy needs to be handled. Rub his paws; brush his coat; rub his ears; roll him over and scratch his belly. Even a routine bath can be an essential learning experience. This shows him that you are his human alpha, and it will make veterinary care and grooming much more comfortable as he matures. If he resists, don’t give up! Giving up teaches him that he is in charge. Instead, gently and consistently continue to handle him regularly.
Growling, lunging, showing teeth, and biting ARE NOT normal, cute, or tolerable behaviors in young puppies. If your pup displays any of these behaviors, it is critical to seek professional assistance while these behaviors are most likely to be correctable.
And don’t forget routine veterinary puppy care. Puppies need a series of vaccinations, parasite testing, and regular heartworm prevention to stay in tip-top health. Also, spaying and neutering by 6 months prevents certain diseases, prevents unwanted heat cycles, AND has a positive impact on behavior. Give us a call! Loftin Vet Hospital is ready and waiting to assist you and your family in your new puppy journey.