I’m the guy people come to when they need help fixing their puppy or dog. Either the dog is shy, fearful, aggressive, bites, anxious, won’t listen, drags them on walks, jumps on company, or is urinating in the home. Some issues I see are caused by something the breeder or owner did when the puppy was young.
There have been countless of times I hear “we purchased our puppy at 4-6 weeks”. 4-6 weeks should be a clue right away that you’re going to have problems. Responsible breeders do not sell or get rid of puppies prior to 8 weeks. Puppies become a lot of work between 6 and 8 weeks but this is a crucial time in the puppy’s development. Puppy’s socialization with dogs occurs from 4 to 6 weeks and 6 to 12 weeks socializing with humans. If a puppy is taken away from the litter too young, they probably will not know “dog language” which can cause fear of dogs. Another outcome can be acting inappropriately around dogs which can cause issues of fear or aggression. Puppies will be better adjusted if allowed to socialize with their litter mates until they are 8 weeks old.
Be prepared to socialize your puppy when you do bring him home. Socializing entails lots of contact with people, including adults and children. Remember, from age 6 to 12 weeks is the time the dog learns about people and how we communicate. If a puppy is kept locked up all day long because you are away at work and has little contact with people due to your hectic schedule, you may have a dog very fearful of people. Fear eventually turns into bite, if not addressed.
Another part of socialization is environmental. Dogs can have fear of a variety of environmental things; cars, traffic, stairs, slick floors, any public place. You should take your puppy on trips and make sure it’s fun wherever you go. The more places you take your puppy the more confident and less fearful they will be. I tested an imported dog once. He took one look at the ceiling fan (which was running), panicked and ran out of the room. This dog obviously never saw a ceiling fan before. As time went on, I learned this dog was fearful of a lot of environmental things. I surmised he had been raised in an outdoor kennel and never socialized to the environment. Since this was a police dog prospect he was returned to the vendor. This is an example of the importance of socialization to the environment.
If your dog shows fear of something the worst thing you can do is coddle or try to comfort the dog. By doing this you are in fact reinforcing or rewarding the inappropriate fear. Ignore the dog when they are fearful, reward the appropriate behavior. The best advice I can give to puppy owners is to enroll in a group puppy class. Again, the great thing about puppy classes is socialization. You will learn how to raise the puppy to be a happy balanced dog. The puppy class should touch on potty training, health, training equipment needs, handling, grooming, distractions (environmental socialization), and introduction to sit, down, and come. The class should be taught with all positive training techniques and lots of yummy treats! Normally a puppy class is 6 weeks in duration and costs are $75-$100. If you don’t have the time or this seems expensive you should think twice about getting a dog. Dogs are time consuming and cost money, if you want a happy healthy companion.
At about 4-12 months of age is when we enroll in formal obedience class. My clients who call in the later, 10-12 month age are usually experiencing behavioral issues. Save yourself 6 months of grief and enroll when your dog is 4-5 months of age. With basic obedience I teach the sit, down, stand, place, come, and address any behavioral issues the owner is experiencing with their dog.
In closing, my goal for all my clients is off lead control. I believe all dogs should be able to be free to sniff, run, play, and chase. For a happy balanced dog you ought to be able to go for a walk in the woods without fear of your dog running away. Check out my recall video. Happy dogs frolicking in the woods, yet I have total control, if needed. Now go grab some treats or a toy and spend some time with your companion.