Information for owners of puppies younger than 4 months.
It’s going to be hard to socialize your puppies before their socialization window closes, so Conditioned Relaxation will be a good thing to focus on, as it’s your best bet for the easiest way to socialize any fears or anxieties your puppy has after the window is closed.
Work hard on your handling:
- Handle your dog’s feet, rubbing between their toes and paw pads and pinching their nails to get them used to the pressure.
- Open your dog’s mouth, running your finger along the outsides, and then insides, of their teeth and gums.
- Play with their ears, massaging the base of their ears, lightly pulling the ears, and sniffing inside to memorize the smell of your puppy’s healthy ears.
- Gently tug on their body and rough them up.
- Mess with their tail, wagging it for them, rubbing the base of the tail, and gently pulling on it.
- Get them used to head pats, since people like to give head pats and dogs hate it.
- Look in their nose and eyes- they should be clear and free of fluid, especially green discharge.
- Lift up the scruff below the collar- if your puppy is well hydrated, it should snap right back when let go.
- Hugs! Gradually increase the length of time and intensity of the hug, and use a restraining hold to get your puppy used to this as well.
- Feel your dog’s heartbeat- on the sternum for smaller puppies, or for larger puppies, gently bring their elbow back, and put your finger on the two ribs just behind where the elbow points. Follow those ribs down and you should be able to feel the heartbeat.
When you find something your dog has trouble with, keep working on it! Small durations, with lots of praise work well, as well as naming the body part and telling them to relax. “This is your paw. Relax.” and then pouring on the praise as you very quickly handle the paw. Gradually increase the length of time of your handling and/or the intensity.
Remember to use your socialization list and try to get them used to as much as possible. Obviously, this is going to be difficult right now, but do what you can (while remaining safe).
To help your puppy have manners with kids, place your puppy on leash, and tell them to be relaxed. Keep the leash short and be ready to praise. First off, have the kids walk by at a distance, and then gradually shorten the distance until they are going right past the puppy. Increase distance again and ask the kids to jog by, then run. Gradually decrease distance again. Don’t forget to repeat with high-action intensity, having the kids run and jump and skip and scream and wave their arms! (Normally kids have no issues helping with this!). Through all of it, prepare your puppy first by having them relax, and then praise like crazy as they stay relaxed. Feeding treats or then having them play appropriately with the kids can also really help motivation.
The above will also help with jumping up on people, but you can address that by walking into your puppy, as well, when your puppy jumps up on you. This will put your puppy off balance and then you can praise when they drop down to all fours. If your puppy is jumping up, he gets no attention.
Grooming: Get your puppy used to their fur being brushed, being hugs, their paws handled, their nails clipped, their ears handled, and their teeth brushed. Even if you choose to have someone else do these things, by preparing your puppy now, you will help your puppy have a good time instead of being stressed out, and you will make your groomer’s job easier! All of these things have been addressed earlier in the Handling Exercises except for the brushing. So, for brushing, there are lots of brushes out there. Generally most dogs will need brush with bristles and/or one with pins. Watch your dog to see if they have any ticklish spots, and don’t go too fast, or your puppy will think it’s playtime. If your puppy wants to play, have them relax, do a short session, and then go play. Go lightly on the ears and legs and other sensitive areas, and praise abundantly.
Nail Trimming: The handling exercises for the feet will help a lot, but you aren’t done yet! Continue work by taking your nail trimmer and tapping each nail, then once that’s easy, shave off the very tip of the nail, praise, and go play. Gradually work up to trimming more nails in a single session- don’t try to do it all in the first session!
There are two types of nail trimmers: scissors type and guillotine type. Both can come with guards, but I don’t use guards, personally. The scissors type tends to be stronger, so if your puppy has strong nails, get that kind.
Your puppy will have either black, brown, or white nails. If your puppy has white nails, you’ll be able to see a pink part of the nail- that’s the quick, where the blood vessels and nerves are. Don’t hit that part when you’re trimming, and you’ll be ok. It’s harder to see the quick in brown nails, but still possible. For black nails, you can’t see the quick. Instead, shave off just a little at a time. Looking at the nail crosswise, you’ll see a white circle that will get wider, and then a white dot will show up in the center. That’s the quick- go no further! Alternatively, for black nails, you can look at it from the side and just trim off the tip of the nail. The bulky part of the nail will hold the quick somewhere in there, so if you don’t cut that part, you won’t hit the quick.
Another option for nails is to use a dremel tool instead. Do not use your shop dremel- it’s too powerful. Instead, use a pet-safe dremel, and make sure you keep it moving, spending no more than 3 seconds per nail. Your dog will not allow you to hit the quick, and the dremel produces nice smooth edges instead of the sharp edges that result from cutting.
How often you need to cut your puppy’s nails depends on a variety of factors, including how hard the nails are and what surfaces the puppy tends to walk on. Surfaces like cement will wear down nails faster than grass.
Teeth brushing: You can use any toothbrush you want with your dog (just don’t share, please) but DO NOT use human toothpaste. Our toothpaste contains fluoride, and dogs can’t spit it out. Use dog toothpaste- it comes in delicious flavors like beef, chicken, liver, or peanut butter. (It also comes in mint flavor, but dogs generally don’t like mint- that’s purely for people.) Put some dog toothpaste on their toothbrush and let them lick it off. Then, once your teeth handling exercise is going well, put some of their toothpaste on the toothbrush again, and brush just a little of their teeth. You aren’t trying to get anything clean yet–you’re only getting them used to it. Praise as you go, and then go play a game. As your puppy gets used to this, you can brush for longer, getting those back teeth, and then also open their mouth to get the insides of their teeth. Regular dental care will help them be healthier and happier, and need fewer dentals. How often you need to brush depends on your dog and what he eats- dry food and lots of chew toys will decrease the need for brushing, while not chewing on things and eating wet food will increase the frequency required.
Basic Obedience Exercises:
Poisons and Household Hazards:
Many common household items can be dangerous to your puppy. Food items like raisins, grapes, onions, garlic, and chocolate are toxic. Some household plants can also be poisonous to dogs. The ASPCA has a fantastic website with details on dangers of various common items including plants, foods, and household items, as well as a helpful Poison Hotline if your dog does get into something they shouldn’t.
To help protect your dog, train a strong Leave It command. Teach them not to steal food from the table or counter. Practice with safe items at first, just in case, but still don’t let them successfully take it. As your dog forms a habit of not taking all food-like items, they will be a lot safer. Training a strong sit-stay or down-stay can help you keep them out of danger while you clean, as well, and confining them while you’re gone away from tempting plants can keep them safe.
Contact Mel if you have any questions!