Ask the Trainer

  • Ask the Trainer - Socializing a Puppy

    Socializing your dog is one of the most important things you can do for them. Socializing is simply the process of teaching your puppy what is normal in the human world. The good news is that this is not hard and will be a fun and positive experience for both of you!

    Unfortunately many people wait too long to socialize their dog and set them up for a difficult life. A dog that is not socialized properly has a drastically higher chance of showing fear or aggression later in life.

    It is crucial to understand that socialization is more than simply introducing your dog to a bunch of people. You also need to socialize your dog with other animals and acclimate them to a variety of environments. Anything they will see as adults should be introduced to them while they are young!

    Socialize them early!

    Many people with good intentions will tell you not to socialize your puppy until they have all of their shots. If you follow this advice you will be waiting until roughly sixteen weeks of age before socializing your puppy and this is too late! Puppies go through something called the Critical Socialization Period from six to sixteen weeks of age. This is the time that their little brains are like sponges, soaking up all the information about the world. After sixteen weeks a dog’s socialization window has closed and raising a well-adjusted dog becomes far more difficult.

    The reason many puppy owners are told to wait until the dog has all of his shots is due to a perceived risk of Parvovirus and Distemper. Your young puppy will receive a 3-in-1 shot for Distemper, Adenovirus and Parvo (DAP) and this shot will be given 3 times before 16 weeks of age. Until receiving the third shot, there is a chance that your puppy is not fully protected from these diseases.

    Don’t worry, if you socialize your puppy properly and take adequate protective measures, the risk of them contracting Parvo or Distemper is extremely slim. Let’s start with some don’ts. Don’t take a puppy who is not fully vaccinated to the dog park; don’t take them to pet stores; don’t let them wander around sniffing in areas where many dogs or animals have been; and don’t let them meet adult dogs unless you are 100% sure the adult dogs are vaccinated and healthy.

    What should you do to socialize your puppy before they are fully vaccinated? There are a lot of fun and safe ways to socialize a puppy! Many people have puppy parties where they invite friends and family over to meet the new addition. Make sure to invite men, women, children, people with beards, small people, large people, and people with different skin colors, to name a few. Basically you are trying to expose the puppy to as many unique people as you can. We recommend introducing your puppy to at least one hundred people by the time they are 14 weeks old.

    Socialization with other animals

    Most young puppies love other dogs, but this doesn’t mean your job is finished! If you do not introduce your puppy to a large number of other dogs they stand a very real chance of developing dog aggression later in life. Take the time to introduce your puppy to as many other dogs as you can. You need to limit the number of dogs they meet before they are fully vaccinated, but after their third round of DAP it is off to the races!

    Make sure that your dog meets a huge variety of dogs. You want them to meet big dogs, small dogs, male dogs, female dogs, etc. Your trainer can also recommend some additional socializing based on the breed of your dog. For example, dogs with high prey drives such as German Shepherds should be highly socialized with small dogs to help prevent future issues. It is also important to make sure your dog meets a lot of dogs of the same sex. Generally speaking, dogs are more likely to not get along with same sex dogs when they reach adolescence or adulthood, and additional socializing can help prevent this.

    You should also introduce your puppy to any animals that they may need to coexist with in the future. Most puppies will love a cat when introduced properly, but it may be a different story when your little puppy is two years old. An adult dog that meets a cat for the first time may instantly consider the cat to be prey and this can lead to disastrous results.

    Introduce them to different places and objects

    When you are socializing your puppy it is easy to forget a very important part of raising a well adjusted dog: acclimating them to all the environments, noises and sounds that they will experience throughout life! This includes trucks, buses, cars, bikes, horns, hats, jackets and every other part of daily life. When a dog is properly socialized they should be able to walk down a busy city street full of people, dogs, and cars without any fear. If your dog doesn’t see a big city until they are a year old you may be in for a surprise. They may be terrified!

    Take it slow and have fun!

    Whether you are introducing your dog to people, other animals, new objects or new locations it is important to take it slow! Do not take an eight week old puppy to downtown Chicago for the afternoon. If you overwhelm your puppy and scare them you can actually sensitize them to a stimuli. That means they will become more stressed each time they see it rather than less stressed. That is the exact opposite of what socialization is meant to do! Practice walking your puppy on leash in public and ease them into each situation. Use this time to practice leash skills so that the dog can get used to walking calmly past new things. If your puppy looks scared it means you have pressed him way too far and need to remove him from the situation. The goal here is to have ALL positive interactions. If your puppy seems fearful when you are socializing him it is important to immediately notify your trainer. They can assist you in the process of desensitizing your dog to whatever is scaring him. Don’t worry, fear can be overcome, but it is important to start as soon as possible! Socializing your dog is incredibly important and incredibly fun. If you follow these guidelines the odds of your puppy growing up happy and social are extremely high.

  • What is the best containment solution for you and your dog?

    dogs outside Blog

    You love your dog and would probably do anything to keep him safe!  In order to give your dog the best life possible, it is crucial to find a way to keep him contained in your yard and out of undesirable locations. Luckily, depending on your specific situation there are many great ways that you can do this. Options include a physical fence, an electronic fence, and boundary training. Each of these methods has its advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to think about all of your options before making your choice.

    Physical Fencing

    Physical fences generally provide the best peace of mind to dog owners.  A good physical fence should keep your dog in and other things out of your yard. There are a large variety of physical fences available and it is important to consider both height and material.  For medium to large sized dogs, we would recommend a physical fence that is at least 5-6 feet tall. This should help prevent the dog from being able to jump over the fence.  The fence should also reach as close to the ground as possible to make it harder for your dog to burrow under it.  When looking at materials, don’t just go with the cheapest.  Some inexpensive wood fences can easily be broken by a large dog.   If you go with a picket type fence make sure to consider the amount of space between pickets of the fence.  If the space is too large dogs can quickly escape.  A small dog can get through an amazingly small space!  This can become a large issue if you have an HOA that restricts the type of fence that you can have.  

    There are definitely some draw back to physical fences.  The biggest one is often the cost. Installation for a quarter acre yard will generally start around $4500 and go up from there. In addition to the installation it is important to think about upkeep.  You will need to ensure the fence stays in good shape so that the dog remains contained by it.  This could mean additional costs each year.

    Another problem we often see when dog owners have physical fences is that they do less training than they would otherwise.  Dogs are often left to act up in the back yard because it is their safe place.  It is important to teach the dog how you expect them to act while in the yard.  Teach them not to bark at everyone, not to fence fight with the neighbor dog, not to try and jump the fence, not to dig out of it and not to run out of the gate.  Having a physical fence should not be an excuse ignore your dog’s undesirable behaviors!  

    Electronic Fencing

    Electronic fencing has become a very popular option for keeping dogs safely contained at home. Most electronic fence systems work by burying a wire around the perimeter of the yard. This wire emits a radio signal that is picked up by a collar on your dog. When the dog comes close to the signal a stimulus is provided and your dog will return to your yard. For the typical well behaved dog, an electronic fence is an excellent solution. One of the biggest benefits of an electronic fence is that installation is quick and very cost effective compared to a physical fence. Electronic fences keep your yard feeling open and spacious, as well as complying with most HOA requirements.

    Layout options are almost endless with electronic fences.  You can create a simple full perimeter layout that gives your dog access to your whole property or you can create multiple zones.  These zones can limit your dog to certain spaces at certain times.  You could generally leave your dog in the backyard, but also have the option of letting him play in the front yard on certain occasions. The benefit to this option is knowing exactly where your dog is at all times. Do you have an herb garden or a pool that you don’t want the dog getting into?  You can block off certain areas inside the main fence perimeter, something that is far more complicated with a physical fence.   Installation is completed on average in about 4 hours and should have a minimum impact on your property.

    One of the most important elements of an electronic fence is the training that goes along with it. Before an electronic fence is installed you should let your trainer/installer know  if your dog guards the yard. If the dog has a tendency to become territorial towards visitors, these issues should be dealt with prior to a fence being installed. Once it has been determined that the dog’s attitude is appropriate for a fence we can move on to establishing the boundaries. We are firm believers in ensuring that a dog understands something before we expect them to do it. For that reason it is important to focus on teaching the dog what the system is and how it works before you give them freedom in the yard. Training should be a stress free process for both you and your dog.

    A large drawback to electronic fencing is that many owners do not have the same peace of mind that physical fence owners do.  Even when your dog is perfectly trained and will not venture out of the containment zone there is nothing to prevent other animals or people from coming into your yard. For this reason we always encourage anyone with an electronic fence to keep a close eye on their dog while they are outside.

    Boundary Training (with no physical or electronic barrier)

    This type of training teaches your dog the boundaries of the yard with no actual fence.  The huge advantage is that you do not need to spend money on either an electronic or physical fence.  Your yard will still look exactly the same as it did before.  It will however require a lot of work on your part to ensure your dog is contained.

    Dogs are smart, and with training they can learn just about anything.  We have trained thousands of dogs to understand that they are not supposed to leave the yard regardless of what is happening outside of it.  We start off by showing the dog what the boundaries are. It is easiest to achieve this if there are some clear visual cues that the dog can learn; the edge of a driveway, a row of bushes, or a flower bed. After the dog learns the boundary we teach them that they are not supposed to cross it without us telling them it is okay.  Once they learn this, we will introduce distractions outside of the boundary and practice ensuring that the dog does not leave the yard.

    This type of containment requires lots of training and time to ensure that your dog becomes respectful of their boundaries. One of the main advantages to this route is that your dog will become very well trained throughout the process.  Both electronic fences and physical fences allow owners to easily ignore some bad behavior, but this route will force you to fix it.  In our book, that is a great thing!

    Let us Help you Decide

    We can certainly help you decide what containment solution is best suited for you and your dog.  Each option has its pros and cons and not every option is right for every dog.  As long as you choose wisely, your dog will be very happy with your choice to allow them to run free and be safe in their yard. Regardless of the option you choose, we always encourage obedience training to go along with containment.  The more training you do, the happier you and your dog will be!

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