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Top Tips for Helping New Puppy Owners

Puppy

Valarie V. Tynes, DVM, DACVB, DACAW

The information you give your new puppy owners can literally mean the difference between life and death. Studies show a large percentage of puppies are not in their original homes after about 18 months of age and the average age of dogs in animal shelters is 2-3 years.1,2 The entire first year of a puppy’s life is critical if he is going to grow into a dog that a family can live with.

Educating the new puppy owner about behavioral health is just as important as educating them about parasite control, vaccinations, and when to spay or neuter. Consider it the “vaccination” against behavior problems!

Fortunately, the rules for behavioral health are pretty straightforward.  First, encourage owners to focus on praising puppies for all appropriate behaviors! In other words, “Pay for what you like!”  A tiny tidbit of treat, a scratch behind the ears or even a “good boy” when a puppy sits, chews on his own toys, or eliminates outside all help teach the puppy what he can do to make good things happen for himself.

This is so much more instructive than punishing behaviors you don’t like, especially because punishment comes with a big risk: It has been shown to increase fear and anxiety and thus the possibility of aggression.3,4,5 Worst of all, it can severely damage the owner’s relationship with the puppy.6 It can be confusing to the puppy and while it may frighten him into not doing something, it doesn’t teach him what we do want him to do. So the second important guideline to share with your new puppy owners is to avoid punishment.

The third helpful tip for your new puppy owners can be to apply an Adaptil Junior collar. Adaptil Junior is a collar impregnated with dog appeasing pheromone, the same pheromone that mother dogs release during the period of time when they are nursing puppies. Numerous placebo-controlled studies have demonstrated its ability to help decrease signs of fear and anxiety in many situations.7,8,9 Most importantly, when placed on puppies during their critical period for socialization, it has been proven to help with the socialization process. Puppies between 8 and 16 weeks of age that wore an  Adaptil collar for just 30 days showed signs of being better socialized 1, 3, and 6 months later than puppies that wore a placebo collar.10

These three simple tips we have mentioned here can be life-saving. Train your staff to get involved in sharing this message, use handouts to reiterate the message, and recommend a good puppy class, ideally one taught at your own clinic where these lessons can be repeated again.

We’ll be looking at puppy classes in the next post in this series, but in the meantime, be sure to refer your clients to the Fear Free Happy Homes website for information on keeping their pets behaviorally healthy!

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

References

This article was brought to you in collaboration with our friends at Ceva.

  1. Miller DD, Staats SR, Partlo C, et al. Factors Associated with the decision to surrender a pet to an animal shelter JAVMA 209; 1996: 738-742
  2. Salman MD, New JG, Scarlett JM, et al. Human and animal related factors related to the relinquishment of dogs and cats in twelve selected animal shelters in the United States. JAAWS 1(3); 1998: 207-226.
  3. Hiby EF, Rooney NJ, Bradshaw JWS. Dog training methods: Their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare. 2004;13:63–69.
  4. Herron ME, Shofer FS, Reisner IR. Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2009;117:47–54.
  5. . Casey RA, Loftus B, Bolster C, et al. Human directed aggression in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): Occurrence in different contexts and risk factors. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2013.
  6. Ziv G. The effects of using aversive training methods in dogs-A review. J Vet Behavior 2017;19:50–60.
  7. Mills DS, Ramos D, Esteller MG, et al. A triple blind placebo controlled investigation into the assessment of the effect of Dof Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) on anxiety related behaviour of problem dogs in the veterinary clinic. AABS 2006;98:114-126.
  8. Gaultier E, Bonnafous L, Vienet-Lague, et al. Efficacy of dog-appeasing pheromones in reducing stress associated with social isolation in newly adopted puppies. Vet Rec 2008;163:73-80.
  9. Gaultier E, Bonnafous L, Vienet-Lague, et al. Efficacy of dog appeasing pheromones in reducing behavours associated with fear of unfamiliar people and new surroundings in newly adopted puppies. Vet Rec 2009;164:708-714.
  10. Effects of dog appeasing pheromone on anxiety and fear in puppies during training and on long term socialization: Denenberg S. & Landsberg G.M. JAVMA, (2008) 233;12