As you may know, I wear a lot of hats both at home and at the office. I write a blog for Grace Park; I take on many supervisory tasks at work; I’m chief taste tester for new treats; and I’m head of security at home.
Recently, I took on the new, challenging role of Life Coach for my little cousin, Mavis. My aunt & uncle adopted her this summer. Mavis is their first puppy ever, and let me tell you, she is a handful.
Puppies don’t know anything about how to be good dogs. They don’t know that outside is where you go to the bathroom, or that biting isn’t cool. They don't understand that shoes and couches aren't chew toys or that cats are not for entertainment. To say puppies have a difficult time with boundaries is an understatement.
Puppies have a short window of time to learn how to cope with everything life might throw at them. This time period is known as the socialization window, and it typically begins to close as early as 16 weeks of age.
The socialization window is the most important time to expose your puppy to anything and everything you want your puppy to be OK with as an adult dog. During this time, your puppy should meet as many dogs as possible. DayCamp at Grace Park Animal Hospital is a great way to meet lots of dogs, by the way.
Higher strung puppies need to meet more dogs than lower key ones. Your puppy should also meet as many people as possible, including children. If you live with cats, your puppy should meet them, too. But socialization isn't just about meeting lots of people and animals, socialization is also about having new experiences.
Walk your puppy on a variety of surfaces, such as grass, mulch, dirt, sand, gravel, and sidewalks. Walk her over manhole covers and grates. Take your puppy out in public so she can see other people walking dogs, riding bikes, joggers, and people pushing baby strollers.
Be sure to walk your puppy in the rain, too. A lot of dogs don't like going out in the rain (I mean, who does, honestly), but having quick, stress-free potty breaks in a downpour can help normalize the experience for your puppy.
Give your puppy lots of great experiences. Make sure baths and trips to the vet are fun. Get your puppy used to having her nails clipped, her fur brushed, and her ears inspected.
If you enjoy eating outside, take your puppy with you on your patio-dining adventure.
If you like to spend time at the lake or in the pool, give your puppy the opportunity to explore the water on her own terms.
Never force a puppy to go in the water, because this could lead to a bad experience, and we don't want that!
In fact, don't force any encounters, but do gently encourage your puppy out of her comfort zone with treats, petting, and reassurance. Things we big dogs take for granted, like the fact that some people grow beards and wear hats can be really unnerving to a puppy. And it may sound silly to you, but seeing an umbrella open for the first time can be shocking. Think about it!
Other things to consider are sounds, like roosters crowing, sirens from emergency vehicles, and thunder. These experiences might be more difficult to capture, but always have treats on hand so you can reward your puppy when she reacts with confidence or, better yet, doesn't react at all.
As the Life Coach, I made sure Mavis and her parents knew about all this stuff. And at 5 months old, Mavis is practically a professional (although, my aunt tells me her potty training still needs work).
That aside, Mavis is growing up to be an amazing, well-adjusted dog.
My life coaching has been so successful, that I've decided Mavis is ready to take on an official role of her own: DayCamp Ambassador at Grace Park. The wisdom and confidence I've instilled in her makes her the perfect greeter and temperament tester for new arrivals at camp. When you meet Mavis there yourself, tell her her Life Coach sent you.
Thanks for reading! Now for some fun...
Mavis looks a lot like her Uncle Lupin, but I can tell you, she’s not a Great Dane! At 5 months old, Mavis weighs approximately 20 pounds. She recently had a Wisdom DNA Panel. Mavis's DNA is comprised primarily of three breeds. Can you guess what they are? Click here to enter our Mavis Mystery Mashup contest for a chance to win a Wisdom DNA panel for your own dog!