The Power of Proper Puppy Socialization and Training Classes

 

By Stephanie Gibeault, MSc, CPDT

Published: May 16, 2018 | 3 Minutes 
Updated: May 03, 2021

 

  • socialization
  • play
  • cognition

Most dog owners have no doubt heard about the importance of socializing their puppy. Proper socialization means providing positive experiences with as many new people, dogs, and situations as possible. It’s essential for developing a confident and well-adjusted adult dog that is comfortable with all life has to offer. Unfortunately, despite the significance, many people aren’t providing enough socialization for their young canine companions. New research from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph shows that puppy classes are an important part of ensuring that your dog is properly socialized.

The researchers sampled 296 puppy owners across North America, giving them questionnaires when they enrolled in the study and again when their puppies were 20 weeks old. The results showed that nearly one-third of the puppies in the study received only minimal exposure to people and dogs outside the home. The researchers defined “minimal exposure” as interactions with up to five dogs and 10 people in a two-week period. That may seem like a full social calendar, but it’s nowhere near what a puppy needs for proper socialization. The researchers warn that a lack of socialization opportunities can lead to behavior problems down the road.

In his book, “Before & After Getting Your Puppy,” Dr. Ian Dunbar recommends that your puppy meet at least 100 different people in his first month at home. That should include individuals of different heights, ages, and ethnic backgrounds, as well as people with glasses, canes, hats, umbrellas, in wheelchairs, etc. One of the easiest ways to contribute to this necessary level of socialization is to attend puppy classes.

Almost half of the puppies in the present study attended puppy classes, and those dogs were exposed to more canine friends and people, including children, than the sheltered puppies that received only minimal exposure. Class participants were also more likely to expose their puppies to new situations involving loud noises, large trucks, and people at the front door.

As a result, those puppies that attended classes were less likely to show nervousness or have symptoms of separation anxiety. For example, they had fewer fear responses to things such as their crate or a vacuum cleaner.

 

"You may be bigger, but I'm just as cute."

There wasn’t just a difference between the pups. Owners who attended puppy class treated their dogs differently than those who did not attend a class. Attendees were more likely to reward their canine companion’s good behavior. They didn’t use verbal corrections as often and were far less likely to punish their dogs — redirecting negative behaviors instead. (For example, if a puppy is chewing on the furniture, they might redirect his attention to a chew toy.)

This has important implications. Dogs that are trained using positive methods, such as those used by the puppy class attendees, learn to enjoy training and develop an eagerness to please. Positive methods also foster trust and communication between owner and puppy, leading to a stronger bond. In keeping with other studies, the current research found that the owners who used punishment reported more fearful behavior in their pups. So, not only did the class-attending puppies gain valuable confidence, their owners learned training techniques that further prevented fear and anxiety in their dogs.

This research showed that puppy classes are an effective and essential component of socialization. But not all classes cover the same material. The researchers discovered that although more than 80 percent of the classes taught behaviors such as “sit” or “down,” only 70 percent allowed the puppies to play with each other. And, unfortunately, less than half covered experiences such as gradual exposure to noises or trading items to prevent resource guarding. So, choose your puppy class with care. Look for a curriculum with the maximum value for socialization — trainer supervised and controlled interaction between puppies to encourage proper dog-to-dog behaviors; exposure to new sights, sounds, and smells; and handling and restraint exercises. Talk to the instructor before enrolling, and ask if you can visit a class to ensure positive methods are used and that puppy playtime is conducted in a safe matter (i.e. larger, boisterous puppies are not allowed to bully smaller, shy ones).

Don’t ignore the power of proper socialization. Make sure that your new puppy has as many positive experiences as possible to build his confidence and develop his character. Even if you’ve trained dogs before, don’t skip classes. Your dog will learn more than basic obedience behavior — he will learn to feel comfortable out in the world!

Your Complete Guide to First-Year Puppy Vaccinations

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When you bring that fuzzy ball of puppy energy into your home, you know right away that your new puppy depends on you for, well, everything. It’s up to you to give your new puppy all the care they need every day. It can be a little intimidating — your puppy needs the best puppy food, plenty of attention, puppy training, puppy-safe toys, puppy socialization, a comfortable place to sleep, and proper veterinary care. And that includes making sure to schedule puppy shots throughout your puppy’s first year.

Which Shots Do Puppies Need?

Going to the vet over several months for a series of puppy vaccinations—and then for boosters or titers throughout your dog’s life—may seem inconvenient, but the diseases that vaccinations will shield our puppies and dogs from are dangerous, potentially deadly, and, thankfully, mostly preventable.

We read about so many different dog vaccinations, for so many different illnesses, that it can sometimes be confusing to know which vaccinations puppies need and which puppy shots are important but optional. Here is an overview of the diseases that puppy vaccinations will help your pet avoid.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica

This highly infectious bacterium causes severe fits of coughing, whooping, vomiting, and, in rare cases, seizures and death. It is the primary cause of kennel cough. There are injectable and nasal spray vaccines available.

If you plan on boarding your puppy in the future, attending group training classes, or using dog daycare services, often proof of this vaccination will usually be required.

Canine Distemper

A severe and contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal (GI), and nervous systems of dogs, raccoons, skunks, and other animals, distemper spreads through airborne exposure (through sneezing or coughing) from an infected animal. The virus can also be transmitted by shared food and water bowls and equipment. It causes discharges from the eyes and nose, fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, twitching, paralysis, and, often, death. This disease used to be known as “hard pad” because it causes the footpad to thicken and harden.

There is no cure for distemper. Treatment consists of supportive care and efforts to prevent secondary infections, control symptoms of vomiting, seizures and more. If the animal survives the symptoms, it is hoped that the dog’s immune system will have a chance to fight it off. Infected dogs can shed the virus for months.

Canine Hepatitis

Infectious canine hepatitis is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, and the eyes of the affected dog. This disease of the liver is caused by a virus that is unrelated to the human form of hepatitis. Symptoms range from a slight fever and congestion of the mucous membranes to vomiting, jaundice, stomach enlargement, and pain around the liver. Many dogs can overcome the mild form of the disease, but the severe form can kill. There is no cure, but doctors can treat the symptoms.

Canine Parainfluenza

This is one of several viruses that can contribute to kennel cough.

Coronavirus

The canine coronavirus is not the same virus that causes COVID-19 in people. COVID-19 is not thought to be a health threat to dogs, and there is no evidence it makes dogs sick. Canine coronavirus usually affects dogs’ gastrointestinal systems, though it can also cause respiratory infections. Signs include most GI symptoms, including loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Doctors can keep a dog hydrated, warm, and comfortable, and help alleviate nausea, but no drug kills coronaviruses.

Heartworm

When your puppy is around 12-to-16 weeks, talk to your vet about starting a heartworm preventive medication. Though there is no vaccine for heartworm in dogs, it is preventable with regularly administered heartworm medication that your veterinarian will prescribe.

The name is descriptive — these worms lodge in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries (that send blood to the lungs), though they can travel through the rest of the body and sometimes invade the liver and kidneys. The worms can grow to 14 inches long and, if clumped together, block and injure organs.

A new heartworm infection often causes no symptoms, though dogs in later stages of the disease may cough, become lethargic, lose their appetite or have difficulty breathing. Infected dogs may tire after mild exercise. Unlike most of the conditions listed here, which are passed by urine, feces, and other body fluids, heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. Therefore, diagnosis is made via a blood test and not a fecal exam.

Kennel Cough

Also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough results from inflammation of the upper airways. It can be caused by bacterial, viral, or other infections, such as Bordetella and canine parainfluenza, and often involves multiple infections simultaneously. Usually, the disease is mild, causing bouts of harsh, dry coughing; sometimes it’s severe enough to spur retching and gagging, along with a loss of appetite. In rare cases, it can be deadly. It is easily spread between dogs kept close together, which is why it passes quickly through kennels. Antibiotics are usually not necessary, except in severe, chronic cases. Your vet may prescribe a dog-safe cough suppressant to help your dog (and you) get some rest, and some  dog-safe throat soothers can help make a dog more comfortable.

Leptospirosis

Unlike most diseases on this list, Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria, and some dogs may show no symptoms at all. Leptospirosis can be found worldwide in soil and water. It is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be spread from animals to people. When symptoms do appear, they can include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, severe weakness and lethargy, stiffness, jaundice, muscle pain, infertility, kidney failure (with or without liver failure). Antibiotics are effective, and the sooner they are given, the better.

Lyme Disease

Unlike the famous “bull’s-eye” rash that people exposed to Lyme disease often spot, no such telltale symptom occurs in dogs. Lyme disease (or borreliosis) is an infectious, tick-borne disease caused by a type of bacteria called a spirochete. Transmitted via ticks, an infected dog often starts limping, his lymph nodes swell, his temperature rises, and he stops eating. The disease can affect his heart, kidney, and joints, among other things, or lead to neurological disorders if left untreated. If diagnosed quickly, a course of antibiotics is extremely helpful, though relapses can occur months or even years later.

Talk to your vet about when your puppy will be old enough for tick preventatives. Once your puppy is old enough, keep your dog on tick preventative medication, topicals, or wearables to help stop ticks from biting in the first place.

Parvovirus

Parvo is a highly contagious virus that affects all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies less than four months of age are at the most risk to contract it. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal system and creates a loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and often severe, bloody diarrhea. Extreme dehydration can come on rapidly and kill a dog within 48-to-72 hours, so prompt veterinary attention is crucial. There is no cure, so keeping the dog hydrated and controlling the secondary symptoms can keep him going until his immune system beats the illness.

Rabies

Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that invades the central nervous system, causing headache, anxiety, hallucinations, excessive drooling, fear of water, paralysis, and death. It is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Treatment within hours of infection is essential, otherwise, death is highly likely. Most states require regular rabies vaccinations. Check with your vet about rabies vaccination laws and requirements in your area.

Talk with your veterinarian about more information and guidance on necessary and optional vaccinations.

Puppy Vaccination Schedule

The first thing to know is that there is not just one puppy vaccination schedule for all dogs. Factors such as which part of the country you live in, and your dog’s individual risk factors will come into play. Some dogs do not need every vaccine. This decision is between you and your veterinarian. Always discuss puppy vaccinations at your regularly scheduled appointments.

That said, here is a generally accepted guideline of the puppy vaccination schedule for the first year.

Puppy’s Age

Recommended Vaccinations

Optional Vaccinations

6 — 8 weeks

Distemper, parvovirus

Bordetella

10 — 12 weeks

DHPP (vaccines for distemper, adenovirus [hepatitis], parainfluenza, and parvovirus)

Influenza, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease per lifestyle as recommended by veterinarian

16 — 18 weeks

DHPP, rabies

Influenza, Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, Bordetella per lifestyle

12 — 16 months

DHPP, rabies

Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease

Every 1 — 2 years

DHPP

Influenza, Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease per lifestyle

Every 1 — 3 years

Rabies (as required by law)

none

How Much Do Puppy Vaccinations Cost?

How much puppy vaccinations will cost depends on several factors. Where you live is a big one: Veterinarians in crowded and expensive urban areas will generally charge more than a rural vet in a small town. You may be able to find low-cost clinics providing rabies vaccinations sponsored by your local municipal government. But no matter what the range in costs, some vaccines, such as the “core vaccines” and rabies, are necessary.

  • The average cost can average around $75—100. These will include the core vaccines, which are administered in a series of three: at 6-, 12-, and 16 weeks old.
  • The core vaccines include the DHLPP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, and parainfluenza). Your pup will also need a rabies vaccination, which is usually around $15—20. (Some clinics include the cost of the rabies vaccination.)
  • Often animal shelters charge less for vaccines — approximately $20 — or are even free. If you acquired your dog from a shelter, he would most likely have been vaccinated, up until the age when you got him.

The initial puppy vaccination costs during the first year are higher than during adulthood.

Vaccinations for Adult Dogs: Boosters and Titers

There is a difference of opinion about having your adult dog vaccinated every year. Some vets believe too many vaccinations in adult dogs pose health risks. But others disagree, saying that yearly vaccinations will prevent dangerous diseases such as distemper. Talk with your vet to determine what kind of vaccination protocol works for you and your dog.

Many dog owners opt for titer tests before they administer annual vaccinations. Titer tests measure a dog’s immunity levels, and this can determine which, if any, vaccinations are necessary. One key exception to this is rabies: a titer test is not an option when it comes to the rabies vaccine. This vaccination is required by law across the United States. Your vet can tell you the schedule for your particular state, with boosters often lasting three years.

And it’s all worth it. For your effort and care your puppy will lavish you with lifelong love in return. This critical first year of her life is a fun and exciting time for both of you. As she grows physically, the wonderful bond between you will grow, too.

 

Puppy Potty Training Timeline And Tips 

Housebreaking, house-training, or potty training— no matter what you call it, all new dog owners want to teach their new puppy not to mess inside their new home. The best way to achieve this goal is by establishing a timeline to follow, and sticking to it.

While you’re adhering to your timeline, it helps to firmly establish the rules for where your puppy should and should not eliminate, and dog crates and puppy pads can be very useful training tools to assist you in establishing your potty training plan.

When You Wake Up

Each day begins the same for you and your puppy. When the alarm clock goes off, wake up and get your puppy out of the crate and outside to do their business. Don’t stop to make coffee, check emails, or brush your teeth.

Keeping the crate in or near your bedroom lets you hear a whimper or a whine if your pup needs to go out during the night or before your alarm sounds. When they’re still small, you may be able to pick your pup out of the crate to carry them outside. This will prevent them from stopping and peeing on the floor on the way to the door.

Always head out the same door to the same area where you want your puppy to potty, and keep them on a leash outside while training (even in a fenced yard), so you can see what’s happening and react immediately.

After Meals

Another morning ritual will be breakfast. After you take your puppy out to potty, they will be ready for their first meal of the day. Try to keep this scheduled at the same time each day. This will aid in regulating elimination, so you can set your watch to potty time.

After the meal, only wait between 5 and 30 minutes to take your puppy outside. The younger the puppy, the sooner they should be brought out after a meal to potty. As the puppy grows older, they will gain bladder control and learn to hold it longer each day. Most puppies eat three to four meals a day when they are growing, and most puppies will have to poop after meals, so paying attention to this short follow-up period is important.

Also, remain watchful when the puppy drinks water. Treat this just like a meal, and take them out to potty soon afterward. Choosing a puppy food that digests well and avoiding feeding within two hours of bedtime will help.

After Playtime And Naps

There are many other times that a young puppy will need to go potty, besides the first thing in the morning and after each meal. These instances include periods after naps and playtime.

Naps are mini-versions of the morning routine. Make sure that whenever your puppy is sleeping, you take them outside the moment they wake up.

During playtime, the stimulation of the digestive tract may also give your pup the urge to have a potty break. Some seemingly random clues that a puppy needs to go out can include sniffing the floor or carpet, wandering away from the family, becoming overexcited with zoomies, whimpering, or running to the door. If you see any of these signs, take your puppy out to potty immediately.

Praise for Potty Training Success

As you establish the routine of taking your puppy out after sleeping, eating, and playing, you also must focus on what to do once you are outside.

Find a spot that will become the “potty spot,” and always take your dog to the same spot. Stand quietly and wait until they are ready, and as they commence, give a voice command or signal to “go potty” or “do your business.” Then wait for the results, and praise lavishly if your puppy goes. Say “good boy/girl!” then give the pup a yummy treat.

Do this every time you are outside (or indoors if using puppy pads or dog litter boxes), and soon enough, the puppy will understand that doing their business in the proper spot will bring lots of love and treats. Also, after they eliminate outside, play with your pup for a few minutes before rushing back inside.

If your pup doesn’t go when you’re outside, you may have to take them inside and come back out again in a few minutes. Even they do go, they may need to head back out very soon, so stay vigilant.

Remember, if there are accidents indoors, do not punish your puppy. If you catch them in the act, you can make a noise or say “uh-oh” to get their attention, and they will likely stop. Immediately, gently pick up your puppy, take them outside, and praise them heartily when they finish up. Always be sure to sanitize soiled indoor areas with appropriate pet stain cleaning products, so the pup isn’t drawn to the same spot again.

Many owners have great results by also placing a bell on the door handle, and training their puppy to ring the bell when they need to go out. Start by ringing the bell as you exit with your dog, and praise the puppy as soon as they learn to ring the bell on their own.

Leaving Home and Last Call

When you have to leave home for several hours and your puppy needs to stay in a crate during the day, remember to plan ahead. If you’re unsure about how long your puppy can hold it, use the month-plus-one rule. Take the age of your puppy in months and add one, and that is the maximum number of hours that your puppy should be able to comfortably hold it between potty breaks. A 3-month-old puppy plus one equals 4 hours that they should be able to stay in the crate without a mess.

Remember that the last thing you should do before you go to bed for the night is to take your puppy out for one last potty break before bedtime. However, your pup will usually be able to hold their bladder for a longer period when they are asleep and not active.

“When it comes to how long potty training takes, it depends on the puppy and the schedule you keep,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, AKC chief veterinary officer. “If training begins early, a 6-month-old puppy is usually able to be depended on most of the time to eliminate outside. However, if you feel that you’re not making progress, you should have the puppy checked out by a veterinarian. They may have a urinary tract infection or some other health issue causing the delay in house-training.”

By scheduling meals, walks, playtime, and other activities in a daily routine, you and your pup will be on your way to success in potty training, but it won’t happen overnight, so remember to be patient.

 

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