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Supplemental 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 an excellent 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 (below) and try to get your puppy used to as much as possible. Obviously, this is going to be difficult right now, but do what you can (while remaining safe).