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Sunday, Sep. 22nd 2013

50 First Dates and Puppies….

OK so you have a puppy and you want your little ball of fur to grow up and be the perfect pet dog, right? You have already picked out your veterinarian bought all of the supplies and even lined up a trainer for a puppy class… Well good for you! I am going to let you in on a little known secret as well and I call it “50 first dates” and trust me it is absolutely critical to do with your pup before the age of 20-25 weeks…
Why 20-25 weeks? Well that is the age when puppies leave the social development stage of their short little lives and they become less apt to accept new things and pair them with positive associations… Now this is not to say that a dog past 20 to 25 weeks cannot be taught but trust me from the age of let’s say 8weeks to 20weeks they are complete and total sponges and I want you to use it to your advantage…
In the last several years there has been an increase in dogs that are shy, anxious and even a little fearful of strange people and it has actually led to an increase in aggression and even in some cases dog bites… So this article is not only an explanation of a possible reason for this trend but a common sense approach to training puppies that anyone one can utilize to teach dogs that strangers are awesome and they even bring presents!
OK so back to “50 first dates” well it is pretty much what it sounds like… Your dog must meet at least 50 new people every week during this critical socialization period, and there is a specific way we are going to meet these folks… But the bigger question is how on God’s green earth are you going to find 50 people a week? Well the answer is simple go to a Petsmart or Petco and just walk your pup in the store, let’s face it puppies are adorable and everyone is gonna want to say hello to your little ball of fur. Practice 30 minutes a day 2-3 days a week and trust me 50 people is not gonna be a hard number to hit!
Now what about the argument that until your pup is 100% vaccinated you should not take the dog in public? Well I am going to give you my opinion and then send you directly to your vet with this article in your hand and let your vet be the deciding vote but this is really outdated thinking… The social developmental period in dogs is so small that waiting till the dog is 4-6months old (to have completely finished all rounds of shots) is just crazy. Now understand me a couple of things do need to happen before the “50 first dates” game begins…
1.       The first round of shots need to be given
2.       You need to take the pup somewhere that is cleaned regularly
a.       This negates the dog park and other places where lots of dogs poop and pee and never gets a good thorough cleaning
3.       The younger the dog and the fewer the rounds of vaccines they have received, I might just put them in the shopping cart and keep them off the ground
Ok so you are at the store and your first person walks up and says “Oh what an adorable dog, can I say hello”? Well this is where the magic happens! You say absolutely but I need your help… Give the stranger a treat (maybe some tiny cut up hot dog or cheese work great) and ask the stranger to do three things…
1.       Ask the dog for a sit (you will have teach this command at home)
2.       Give the pup the treat
3.       Then pet the dog
Wha-La you have just completed your first of “50 first dates” now just repeat 49 more times and keep doing it till the dog reaches approximately 20 weeks of age! I actually include this as homework for all my puppy clients and you would be blown away how it changes a dog’s perspective on those people they meet daily but do not live with. Let’s face it you are teaching your dog three very important things…
1.       To meet anyone my butt has to be on the ground (this keeps us from learning to jump up on people)
2.       That strangers bring presents and I love people
3.       Human touch is a good thing and is always rewarded…
Now you tell me that these are things you didn’t already want your pooch to learn? And not to mention it got you and Fido out of the house together… I love this exercise and I think if you give it a chance you will to… It is not a guarantee that your dog will be perfect but as with all things the more you work with your dog the better they will be… So go out and get to setting up some blind dates!

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