Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hats, scarves, and mittens, oh my!

It was bitter cold yesterday. With 40 mph winds it wasn't conducive to spending much time outdoors! I had the day off, so Melissa and I did a few errands.

Our first stop was the bank. No need to use the drive thru.... not when I have a puppy to socialize. Out of the car Melissa comes, she stays nicely at my side as we walk across the parking lot. Voices....coming thru the intercom at the drive thru. Melissa hesitates for a second, and then continues on with a silly Borzoi grin on her face.

We enter the bank and Melissa stops. She has been inside before, but this time someone was sitting in a chair adorned in a hat, bundled in a coat and wearing boots! The person leaned towards Melissa. I doubt Melissa could see a face! From a dog's perspective this can be mighty odd, for a pup who has not seen something like this it can be a bit scary. I immediately began talking to the person. Ok, I've been known to start conversations with anyone about anything if I think it will help my dog. The person answered me, and just hearing a voice Melissa got her wiggly body and Borzoi grin on. Melissa immediately approached for pats and scratches. A lesson in different looking people? Objects that look scary that turn out to be ok? It sure was!! Another page in Melissa's chapter on maintaining her confidence around new and different looking objects.

Next stop, a local pet store, not only to buy some treats for Melissa, but to expose her to even more sights and sounds. You guessed it...more hats, scarves and mittens, but this time they were moving. Children bundled up against the cold wind dressed in snow pants and heavy jackets, adorned with hats and mittens offered another great opportunity for another learning experience for Melissa. Many of the children wanted to pet her. I was very impressed with one of the parents who took the child's hat off and said 'now the puppy can see who you are'. It is something about our eyes and mouth that dogs focus on. If a puppy can't see them, they approach hesitantly. Dress the person or child up in a heavy coat with swishing sounding snow pants, a hat,a scarf, and add mittens and a puppy is surely going to take a second look.

Several of the children wanted to pet Melissa. She was not all wiggly, but standing calmly still sizing up the situation. So I asked the children if they could help me train Melissa to take a treat politely. They all obliged...and they more they talked the more comfortable Melissa became...and a bit too interested in scarves with fringes! Each child held their palm upward and I placed a treat into their hands. I told them to stand very still, that it was important that Melissa come to them when she was ready. One child, then the next, Melissa walked towards each to take the treats. This gave Melissa a nice association with being close to children bundled up in cold weather gear. We repeated giving treats and Melissa was now eagerly going to one child to the next. Another good experience for puppy Melissa; when the children left to go, she wanted to follow them and did a play bow and toss of her head....a sure sign she was comfortable with hats, scarves and mittens!

Melissa is being exposed to a variety of sights and sounds and continues to develop into a happy outgoing girl. She just turned 4 months of age a few days ago. Is her socialization over? Not by a long shot. I will continue to expose her to new and different sights so she develops into her full potential. The prime socialization period is over, but puppies still need to experience new and different things several times a week in a variety of settings well into young adulthood. Follow along on Melissa's adventures as we enter a New Year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Puppy Melissa's First Christmas

It's been a busy few weeks, but the 3-day Christmas weekend has finally arrived. Having a puppy around the Holidays takes a bit of planning on our part. My priority has been finding ways to give Melissa enough physical exercise. Luckily the temps have risen to just above freezing, making the snow soft enough for the dogs to run through. Melissa had a good work-out this morning with her Lab friend Lucy and is now sleeping soundly.

Puppies are curious, all gift wrapping material and presents have been confined to a room that is off limits to Melissa. Baby gates come in handy in managing Melissa's whereabouts.

Chocolate and Poinsettias are poisonous to dogs, if at any time you suspect your dog has ingested a toxic item please call the Poison Hot-line 888 426-4435

Holidays mean an over abundance of food. We humans might be able to handle the fancy appetizers, the eggnog, candy and desserts, but our dog's digestive system is not made to handle such items. Although pleading eyes may tell you otherwise. Keep to your dog's regular diet as much as possible; her digestive system will appreciate it.

There is so much to do this time of year! Our dogs do not understand what all the commotion is about. Take the time to give lots of physical exercise before you visit with guests. Your dog will then be ready to curl up with a new bone or a stuffed interactive toy stuffed with something extra special for the time your dog is home alone or you are busy with company. Use crates, x-pens or baby gates as needed, keep your dog safe from running out an open front door.

It's time to put the glaze on our two day project: a chocolate hazelnut torte. Paul is making the chocolate shavings as I type. You guessed it, the kitchen is off limits to the dogs while we prepare the dessert.

Melissa will have another run through the woods and another play session with Lab Lucy before we visit with friends. The two are evenly matched when it comes to playing. They run, they chase, they wrestle. More about appropriate playmates in a future blog.

Have a safe and happy Holiday weekend.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Puppy Melissa and Heavy Machinery

I am sure you are wondering what raising a puppy has to do with heavy machinery! I took advantage of a front loader parked as another opportunity to continue Melissa's socialization. It had been parked for some time, the engine was cool so I allowed her to explore around it and on it.

She approached it confidently, hesitated for just a moment before putting all 4 feet on the metal loading section. In order for her to feel even more comfortable around this large piece of equipment, I placed a few treats on it. This made for a nice association: new object/surface = food = something pleasant. It provided a new surface for her to walk on, and a new smell to sniff: diesel. Just another chapter in Melissa's world of being exposed to as many things as possible so she continues to develop into a stable confident dog.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Puppy Melissa Goes Visiting

The Holiday Season is upon us! Time with family and friends, travel, baking and gift wrapping. Melissa is included in most of these activities but when I cannot keep an eye on her she spends time in her x-pen with a good size bone. Some people prefer to use a crate, but Melissa is already a big girl and I have the space to set up the ex-pen for her, and it gives her lots of room to play and stretch out. The majority of times Melissa is included in our activities, her socialization continues!

I have been scheduling students such that in between appointments Melissa and I have been visiting and taking in some different sights. She actually met something she was not sure of this week. A Lab statue! While visiting with my good friends Nancy and Bob, Melissa was invited into the house. And there it was....the yellow Lab statue on the hearth eyes staring at Melissa. She approached cautiously. I let her advance at her own pace. I touched the statue, Melissa came closer. In time, Melissa moved close enough to take a sniff. Not real....and she moved away to check out the huge toy basket on the other side of the room. Seeing and investigating something new is all part of socializing puppy Melissa.

Bob had never met Melissa. A new person for Melissa to meet! I was proud of my 16 week old puppy who sat politely and did not jump! We've been practicing. Melissa's reward for sitting nicely was having Bob talk to her and rub her all over. Had Melissa jumped up, Bob would have moved away and waited for Melissa to sat once more. There is no need to ever yell at our dogs. Yelling or pushing doesn't give our dogs any information. Melissa learns by being rewarded for any behavior we want repeated. Her reward in this case was the attention she got from Bob.

She also got to visit with Nancy and Bob's 12 year old Lab Sara. Sara is one of those bomb proof dogs who gets along with every dog she meets. I knew Melissa was safe with Sara. We kept Sara safe also.
A senior dog does not need a 44# puppy walking across her body and causing pain to old joints and muscles. We monitored where and how Melissa placed her feet. When Melissa wanted to play a bit too rough by pouncing on Sara, we redirected her to one of Sara's many toys.

Melissa settled down for a chew while we chatted. Another good experience for Melissa in her chapter of socialization. Melissa is learning that no matter where we go she can settle and lay at my feet.

Sara has a huge toy basket!! She is one lucky girl. Toys for all seasons, Sara loves to carry a toy around. She even visits the vets with a favorite toy. WOW...Melissa was so excited she walked into the basket. So many choices. My favorite was the yellow Easter peep...that really peeps.

It was a busy day for Melissa, she even got to practice stairs that lead up to Nancy and Bob's house. She checked off many of her 'to do' items on her socialization list, while I got to visit with some long time friends. Thanks Nancy and Bob, it was a fun visit!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Puppies and Winter

Here in the Northeast, a week ago we had 50 degree temps, a very mild December. Two days later we had our first snow fall. Four days later we had 8 inches of snow fall and the temps spiraled downward. Today it is sunny, mid-20s but with the wind it feels much colder.

Puppy Melissa has a dense plush coat. She is a Borzoi, but despite her heritage I take caution in the winter with my dogs, especially young pups. I avoid walking her anyplace where salt has been spread. If I am unable to avoid salted areas, I make sure she walks thru some fresh clean snow before she is put back in my car, and when she comes in the house I rinse off her feet. Salt can burn, it can irritate. I do not leave Melissa outdoors for extended periods of time. I dry her coat off when she comes indoors. Snow melts, her coat is saturated with water within a few minutes of entering the house, I do not want a young puppy to get chilled.

Fresh fallen snow is soft, she runs through it, she rolls in it, she tries to catch the snow flakes. She attempts to play with her outdoor toys but most of them are frozen! This makes it hard on her mouth due to her teething. The best toy I have found is the Hol-ee Roller Ball. http://www.jbpet.com/Hol-ee-Roller-Ball,1813.html Our Hol-ee Roller Balls stays outdoors 24/7, they last about 4 to 5 years with a good amount of tugging. It has become one of Melissa's favorite toys. She rolls it, she carries it, she tosses it. Great exercise!

I play games with Melissa, she also has an imaginary 'friend' in the woods that she chases and stalks. I have yet to see this 'friend' but watching her play, she surely does act like she is playing with someone! I find appropriate dog friends for Melissa to play with. There is nothing like a good run and tug with another dog to burn off energy while developing muscle which is so important for a growing puppy.

I am cautious of Melissa's developing joints. I do not allow her to run on ice or any other slippery surface. She also has plenty of time to rest/sleep, which is very important for growing puppies. Once she is tired from playing outdoors, she is ready for a nap. We are still supervising her every move indoors, she is just 15 weeks old and we have a lot to teach her about manners in the house. Until she knows what is, and what is not, appropriate we are monitor her whereabouts at all times. And yes we do allow our dogs on the furniture!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Puppy Socialization continues

Although the Holiday Season is upon us, I am still taking the time to expose Melissa to new places, people and objects. She is only 14 weeks old, she is still in the prime time to socialize and expose her to many things. Here are a few things Melissa did this past week:

1) Went to Saratoga and met a very good friend of mine; along with one of those colorful race horse statues that grace the streets.

2) Met some carolers and was greeted by a man playing a guitar.

3) Walked by a moving bus. Gosh those things are noisy, but Melissa took in all in stride.

4) Walked into the bank and met even more people.

5) Was exposed to the trash can rolling down the drive way.

6) Heard gun shots in the distance.

7) Met two Poodles, a mini named Dash, and a standard named Kodi.

8) Met a stranger with a hat and wearing glasses, along with about two dozen other people and children.

9) Put her feet in the cold water at a pond.

10)Went for many car rides.

11)Met people wearing rain coats who leaned over her to pet her.

12)Had people wearing gloves pet her.

13)Walked over grates in the road.
14) She met a few indoor cats at a friend's home.

Melissa continues to be learn new skills. She can target to my hand, is able to respond to her name with mild distractions, waits to be released from her crate and to go through a doorway. Whether she will need to wait on the start line for agility, to stand still while she is being groomed or while being examined by the vet, the skills she learns now will benefit her for a lifetime. By exposing her to the big and noisy world now, I am setting her up to be at ease with whatever comes her way in the future.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Toys for puppies, and adult dogs also!

There are many types of toys made for puppies. I tend to choose interactive toys that engage a puppy's mind. I like toys that I can put their food/treats into and will keep their interest but without being totally impossible for them to get the food. As they get better at using their paws, their mouths, and their neck muscles, I may put the food in a bit differently, or use a different type of food that may take them a bit longer to get out. I may refrigerate, I may freeze, I may stuff loosely, I may stuff tightly, it all depends on the dog. Melissa seemed to give up easily when I first introduced her to interactive toys, so we are slowly moving our way through the easiest to the more challenging. Toys that are durable and offer some good chewing fun are also on my list. Some may not be 'toys' in the true sense; after many hours of chewing they are safely ingested. I still consider them 'toys' because they entertain my puppy, she interacts with them and they give her something appropriate to chew on which is ever so important while she is teething.

Here are a few of Melissa's favorites:

The Everlasting Treat Ball is our newest toy. It is less then two weeks old, and so far is passing the grade. It is made of some sort of squishy rubber that Melissa loves to gnaw on. Treats/dry food can be put into the bottom, and it is capped with a very hard treat that Melissa has yet to make a dent in. The other evening my older dog had a good chew on the Treat Ball, not a tooth mark on the rubber or in the hard treat. This toy so far gets an A+. Melissa is still figuring out how to get the last of the treats out of the bottom, it takes her a bit longer, it keeps her busy, her mind is active. Best of all I know what my puppy is up to...and it's not chewing the furniture!

The Busy Dog Ball: place dry food in either of the two holes. Dogs can see the food, they roll the ball, the food comes out. Great way to feed your puppy while you have your meal. Food bowls? No need for them. Melissa engages her mind during mealtimes.

The Kong company has come out with some new shapes in the last few years. The red dog shaped bone is a new favorite of mine. It is softer then the original Kong and can be stuffed on each end. Melissa was able to work on this one the first day, while it took her a few days to learn how to use her paw to hold the original Kong.
For the traditional pyramid type Kong, I find the black ones to be much harder then the red ones. They can be placed in the dishwasher and are very durable. My oldest Kong is over 16 years old, but to be honest in the last month it is starting to show some wear. After several dogs, a gazillion washings, it might be ready to retire.

The Twist and Treat made by Premier. Made of two separate pieces that screw together. There are tiny holes where peanut butter or cream cheese can be smeared to engage your dog for a longer time, along with putting food inside the cavity. At first I loosely screwed the two ends together so the food would fall out easily for Melissa. Now that she has the hang of it I am able to screw it a bit tighter. We want our pups and dogs to work for their food/treats, we want them to deal with a tiny bit of frustration, but we don't want them to give up totally. Make sure they are successful when first trying these toys, then increase the challenge.

The TUX, made of zogoflex material. I use wet food inside the cavity which isn't very deep. This toy may be a good one to try for dogs who give up easily on some of the other interactive toys. Melissa likes chewing on the knobs, carrying it around, dropping it and watching it land. Keeps her entertained!

The Kibble Nibble ball is another one made by Premier. Melissa has just graduated to this ball, after conquering the use of the Busy Dog ball. This one is edged in rubber so makes it a bit quieter. It is a bit more difficult for the dry food to fall out occupying Melissa for a longer time. She sees the food, she hears it rattle, she moves it around, food falls out and she stays busy.

And two of my favorite chews that are safely digestible. Bully sticks and dried trachea. I obtain mine from Bravo Raw foods. Melissa has only chewed half a 12 inch trachea in the last 3 weeks. Her puppy teeth and gums are getting a good work-out. The bully stick fascinates her, but only after an adult dog chews on it for a bit and softens the edges.

And Melissa's favorite a real bone. A bit messy, so not always easily transportable. This is not an item I would bring into a hotel room while traveling with my dogs. Melissa is chewing on a bone right now as I type. I spread a blanket down for her, she is learning to lie quietly chewing her bone while I work at my desk. I give bones to Melissa in her crate, outside and on a blanket when I can supervise so she doesn't carry it around the house. When using the long bones, I take out the marrow which can cause digestive upset. The bone can be re-used and stuffed with peanut butter, a bit of their dry food mixed with cream cheese or canned. For the dogs who like a challenge, stuff with some softened food then freeze it before offering it to your dog!

My all time favorite is the Buster Cube. Melissa is not ready to try this one, maybe in a few weeks. Right now she is very visual. If she can't see it, she is not going to use her nose to keep searching. I am using those toys that entertain her, cause a bit of frustration but also keep her interest to keep trying.
I have obtained most of these toys through Clean Run, they are located in South Hadley Massachusetts, and also have a on-line store. Check your local shelter, they also carry many of these products.

What is your pup's favorite toy?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Puppies and Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and this year we have a 13 wk old puppy to consider when planning our Holiday weekend. Here is what we have planned:

1) Wednesday late afternoon: a long hike with 2 and 4 footed friends so Melissa will be tired so I can bake in the evening.
2) In fact she will have several play sessions outdoors to tire her out every day of the Holiday weekend. A tired dog is a good dog. Melissa will be content to spend some time in her ex-pen with a bone while we eat dinner. We also have a new interactive toy for her.
3) We will make changes in our schedule to accommodate her. Her house training is coming along nicely, we don't want her to regress by leaving her confined for long periods of time. We will keep to her routine as much as possible.
4) No leftovers or table scraps for puppy Melissa. Few dogs who are given leftovers or who raid the trash come away with no ill effects, most have digestive upset. During the Holiday Season be most vigilant about cooked bones. They should be wrapped and disposed of in a sealed trash can that has a secure lid. Take the trash out to an area where your dog will not be tempted.
5) We will take advantage of this busy weekend to socialize Melissa. New people, new places, new sights and sounds.
6) We will also make sure she has some down time. Away from the hustle and bustle of the festivities. We want to socialize her, not overwhelm her.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Those puppy teeth!!

Puppy Melissa discovered pant legs last week. It began with just a little nibble. If we walked, Melissa grabbed on harder. Not only was the pant material soft to chew, but when the pant leg moved Melissa thought it was great to chase. Dogs love to chase moving objects, it is hard wired in some breeds more than others.

So what were we to do? We have been setting and managing Melissa's environment so she does not have the opportunity to get into bad habits, while rewarding the good choices she makes. We certainly did not want chasing after pant legs and chewing on them to continue. But at the same time I did not want to dampen Melissa's enthusiasm to chase and hold onto an item. In the future I would like her to pick up, hold items in her mouth and bring them to me. If I yell 'no' it is not giving any information to Melissa! If I pull back, she will pull harder. The solution has been to redirect Melissa's attention to a toy. Before she makes a move towards our pant legs, we begin moving the toy in front of her. The toy is on a rope, the movement gets her excited, and she grabs on.

We have also increased her exercise, both physically and mentally. The latter with the use of interactive toys and shaping games (more on shaping in a future blog). Chewing on pant legs has diminished considerably. Melissa has been redirected to appropriate items to chase and chew; and I have increased her enthusiasm for playing with me. Along the way we are building a relationship built on trust and understanding.

Melissa is not being a bad dog when she chews on inappropriate items, she is not trying to be dominant over us. She is simply going through the chewing stage of puppyhood. As very young puppies they use their mouths to explore the world. In a few weeks Melissa will begin to lose her puppy teeth and her adult teeth will begin to erupt. There will be days of sore and swollen gums, and days where Melissa's chewing will intensify. I am ready! I have a freezer full of bones for her to chew, along with some new interactive toys for her to play with. For the days of sore gums, I will feed soft food and offer ice cubes to alleviate any discomfort. I will also be monitor her whereabouts very carefully so she will not be able to chew on any inappropriate objects like furniture, shoes or pant legs. She is not a bad dog, she is a normal puppy, it is my job to set up her environment for her to be successful in all she does. This is just one of many stages of raising a puppy. Keep them safe, while you both continue to have fun.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Puppy Class

Melissa has started puppy class! The class I am attending is taught by using the most up to date techniques based on scientific evidence. No yelling, jerking on leads or choke collars are allowed; positive reinforcement abounds. The atmosphere is stress-free. The setting is conducive for all the puppies to learn because they want to, not because they are intimidated. The instructor takes care that each dog has their own space to work in. No other dog can intrude on Melissa's space while she is trying new skills. She also has opportunity to show off the skills we worked on at home during the previous week. Training in a classroom situation teaches her that the skills we learn at home can follow over to different places. What good would it be if Melissa could only sit, stay and come at home? We learn in a quiet environment at home, then slowly increase the distractions in a class room situation, and then we take it on the road.

I want a dog who is able to follow my cues in all situations. Melissa is learning to focus and follow my cues no matter what is going on around her. She is learning self control skills, along with basic manners that will make her a pleasure to live with in the years to come. The classroom situation is just a tiny part of her continuing socialization. We go to different places and see different people every day. And we practice our new skills where ever we go. This photo shows my friend practicing with 3 dogs we took on a hike. Melissa is learning to come when called; it means run to the person who called and get rewarded with the best of tasty treats. Note that the other two dogs are patiently waiting their turns...an example of great self-control! No pushy rude behavior here! All taught by using positive reinforcement techniques.

But what about vaccinations? Melissa had her first vaccine before I brought her home. All the puppies in her class also are required to have at least one vaccine. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has issued a statement on the importance of socialization. '....it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated'. For more info on how the benefits of early socialization out weigh the risk of waiting until the full series of vaccinations are completed: http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/images/stories/Position_Statements/puppy%20socialization.pdf

Have fun with your puppy!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rainy day: What to do with puppy Melissa?

It began raining late last night. It was still raining this morning when we woke. It is still raining mid-afternoon. What do to with puppy Melissa? Besides putting her meals into interactive toys such as Kongs and the Twist and Treat by Premier, I have done a lot of hand feeding and training today. A few days after Melissa came to live with us, I began clicker training her. For more info on clicker training visit www.clickertraining.com. I am focusing on behaviors I would like Melissa to repeat. I am capturing and reinforcing any thing she does that I would like for her to do again. For example: She began to lift her right paw. So I clicked and treated that. Behaviors that are reinforced will be repeated. Guess what? Melissa is now offering the paw lift more and more. This morning I began putting a name to it, 'wave' just as she was lifting her paw. Click and treat. I'm having fun, her mind is engaged, she has something to do.

By focusing on the good stuff our dogs do, it puts us in a different frame of mind. Look for the good stuff, and either ignore the unwanted behavior or manage things so they can't do the bad stuff. Telling a dog 'No' is not giving them any information...remember that our dogs do not come to us knowing the English language. By focusing and rewarding the good stuff, Melissa is becoming more attentive and focused on me. A dog that is focused on you and knows what is expected of her will be calmer.

Rainy day? No problem. Hand feeding during training sessions, interactive toys, lots of bones for Melissa to chew on, and several 2 to 3 minute training sessions spread out through out the day makes for one tired puppy.

Got a question about your puppy? Write me at hemlock@nycap.rr.com. If you want your question published let me know and I will include it in this blog along with an answer so everyone with a new puppy can benefit.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What new experiences did your puppy have today?

Melissa had another busy day. I had a cancellation mid-day so I put the free time to good use. Along with time I had set aside in my schedule to expose Melissa to new things, this extra time allowed us to see and do more than I had planned.

What did puppy Melissa experience today?

1) She met a woman carrying a backpack.
2) She met a child.
3) She walked on a new trail, just the two of us, no other dog or person.
4) She met several people wearing heavy winter coats.
5) She visited the bank and met several more new people.
6) She saw and heard commercial lawn tractors sucking up leaves.
7) She got the chance to go up close to one of those tractors once the engine was stopped.
8) She got her nails trimmed.
9) She ate one of her meals in her crate in the car.
10) She put her feet in mud puddles, and in a creek.
11) She walked on tile, cement, asphalt, rugs, a floor with grids that had a rough surface.
12) She discovered grates in parking lots. She sniffed, peered down, and walked across.
13) She hiked with friends and 3 Labradors.
14) She heard gun shots in the distance.

Don't let the all important socialization period go by without your puppy experiencing several new things each day. Socialize in your house, at a friend's house, and out in public. Now is the time for your puppy to explore and discover the world. Having strangers touch Melissa and lean over her, while wearing different type of hats, jackets etc is just a tiny part of her socialization. Hearing different sounds, seeing new sights and taking in new smells is also part of Melissa's puppy-hood. The more she experiences during this critical period, the better she will be able to cope with every thing that comes her way during her lifetime. Have fun with your puppy, I know I am!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Puppy Playgroups

Melissa has been busy meeting many two footed and four footed friends. This past weekend Leslie Nelson of Tails U Win training center in Connecticut was in the Albany area for a two day seminar. It was a great opportunity for puppy Melissa to meet different sizes and shapes of dogs.

At 11 weeks of age, I want all her encounters during this critical socialization period to be positive. A scary experience at this time in her life could have ramifications for life. So I am careful as to what dogs she meets and who she plays with. She has played with one or two puppies at a time. She has played with stable adults who have good social skills.

By allowing her these opportunities, Melissa is continuing to use the social skills she learned from her dam and siblings. She is also learning how to use her mouth softly. Puppies play rough and tumble games, they have mock battles, they use their mouths...a LOT. By playing with other puppies and adult dogs they learn just how hard to bite...this is called bite inhibition. Should Melissa bite too hard on a playmate, they will move away and end the game or they might bite harder, communicating to Melissa that she went too far using her mouth.

Just this weekend Melissa did not heed the warning from an adult Toy Poodle who had wanted to greet Melissa but puppy Melissa moved too fast. He turned his head, a message in dog language to slow things down a bit. Melissa did not heed his message, she pushed right into his face, she wanted to play now! The Poodle escalated his communication. He growled at her, he was telling her politely to back off. And she did, she offered a play bow, slowed things down a bit and then they were off playing. It was a valuable lesson for Melissa, she learned another dog-dog communication skill. I know the owner of the Poodle, I knew the Poodle has good social skills, I knew it was a safe learning opportunity for Melissa.

In the past few days Melissa has played with a 20 week old Doberman named Jules, a 14 week old Collie named Darrowby, and 14 weekend old German Shepherd named Bessie, a 7 month old Australian Terrier named Lily, a year old Beagle named Pip, a year old Lab called Lucy and our 12 year old Borzoi Catera. Each with different play styles, each offering Melissa valuable play time while enhancing her social skills.

Playing with other dogs and puppies not only teaches our dogs social skills it tires them out and helps develop muscle. Whether you opt for a small group or a large group of dogs, choose her playmates carefully. When your pup offers the famous play bow you know she is ready to have fun.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Puppy Chewing!!

Those teeth, those needle sharp teeth! I am sure anyone who has had a puppy has experience that sensation. Puppies explore the world with their teeth, they are investigating how things taste, how certain items feel in their mouths, and they play using their mouths.

Puppies are not being dominant, which is an old fashioned term in this day of training, when they use their mouth on you. Your pup is just being a puppy. But what do to about those sharp teeth? Start by giving her appropriate chew toys. In the photo you see Melissa chewing a bone, but also notice that she is on lead...the other end is being held by my husband. We do not allow Melissa free run of the house. Just like a toddler you must monitor your pups every movement. You must know where she is at ALL times. There are just too many items in your house that Melissa would investigate using her teeth: the leather furniture, wires, wood cabinets, shoes etc. We are setting Melissa up for learning good habits. She is learning that we can watch TV while she is on a rug chewing a bone. Chewing her bone is more rewarding to her then chewing other items.

So what are appropriate chew toys? Kongs stuffed with some food, it can be part of their meals, it can be some cream cheese or p-nut butter. Melissa enjoys her Twist and Treat and Kibble Nibble Ball made by Premier https://www.premier.com/store/CMSView.aspx?page= Check out their website, most local pet stores carry these items. Bones are another option for chewing. The marrow should be taken out as this is what causes digestive upset. Melissa is eating a raw deer bone. Raw bones are fine, they can be part of a raw diet (Bones and Raw Food BARF), but cooked bones can splinter.

Melissa was well exercised before she was given the bone while we relaxed last night. More on how to exercise your pup and how your pup learns to use her mouth appropriately in the next few blogs. Melissa has been chewing a bone while I type, time for a potty break...and more exercise.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More photos of Melissa

Exercising puppy Melissa

Just got back an hour ago from hiking with a friend and her dog. Of course puppy Melissa went with us! She met a fisherman coming onto shore with his canoe, ran on the beach with her Lab friends, walked thru a pine forest, laid in a mud puddle, climbed up and over fallen trees.

She has had a busy day for new experiences: 1) a trip to the vet just to spend time in their waiting room where she got to meet more new people, 2) my friend coming to the house to visit, 3) Melissa spent time with other dogs while on the hike 4) she was on several different surfaces....tile at the vet's office, cement on the sidewalks of Albany, sand on the beach, pine needles in the forest, grass in a meadow, and lots of leaves not only to walk on but also to roll in! and 5) she walked around a shopping plaza, met a man pushing a cart full of groceries, and saw more cars moving. A busy day for a 10 week old puppy, but oh so important for her socialization. Don't forget new experiences in your own home for your pup...have dog loving visitors come at least 3 times a week.

Right now Melissa is sound asleep. Time for me to catch up on things around the house...before she wakes up and needs to go out. Have fun with your pup, I am having a blast with Melissa!

Puppy Socialization

A big word...socialization. Simply put, take your puppy to as many places, to meet as many people, to see as many different things as you can. Pups who are exposed to many sights and sounds between the age of 4 to 18 weeks, the prime socialization period, are more comfortable living in our world.

Melissa has been having at least one new experience each day since she arrived at our home two weeks ago. Socialize but don't terrorize your puppy. Select appropriate pups to play with your pup. Breeds have different play styles. I am monitoring who she meets and how they meet. I am cautious that she does not get body slammed or frightened by other pups or adult dogs. Just like people, dogs have different personalities. Some are bold and play rough, some are softer and like to play with only one pup at a time. I respect this in my dogs, some are leaders some are very happy being followers. That said, Melissa has met many different breeds in the past two weeks and has been having a blast rolling and running.

Melissa had her first hotel experience this past weekend....another chapter in her socialization. A friend and I were at Dogs Learning Center www.dogslearningcenter.com in Massachusetts for a training seminar with Kathy Sdao from Seattle Washington. Melissa got to meet many different people, dogs, she slept in a new room, walked on different surfaces, and played with different toys. Being among other positive reinforcement trainers I knew the environment was going to be relaxed and safe for Melissa.

Today my older dog had an appointment at the vet, you guessed it..another opportunity to expose Melissa to the world. She met a man wearing a hat and heavy coat, and a young boy who stopped to pet her. She saw fish in the aquarium. She walked on the side walks and watched cars, trucks and buses go by. All part of her being exposed to the world.

If you have a new puppy and would like to ask me a specific question please e-mail me at hemlock@nycap.rr.com. I will answer you on this blog so everyone with a new puppy, or anyone about to get a new puppy, can read what we all are doing with our new pups.

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Puppy!!

A week ago we brought home a new puppy. My goal is to help all new puppy owners thru the many phases of puppy-hood. Please follow the socialization of Melissa in the weeks to come.