Puppy Advice

How Should I Socialise My Puppy?

Hello Pippa,

I have got a 16 week old puppy and have been reading up on all the do's and don'ts of puppy training. There seems to be a lot of emphasis on socialising the puppy.

How do I go about this as I don't really know any other dog owners as I have just moved into the area?

Kind Regards,

Mrs Karimi.

Dear Mrs. Karimi,

Dogs have a critical period of socialisation between approximately 3-14 weeks old. It is essential for them to encounter as many different types of experience and noises as possible to enable them to be equipped for life within a human environment. Dogs need to experience people, children, dogs, smells, bangs and crashes to prevent them becoming anxious or fearful.

After this critical period dogs still require ongoing socialisation. This will involve more experiences outside the house after the dog's vaccinations. To socialise a puppy ask professionals such as your veterinary surgeon or behaviourists for any puppy parties or classes they might know. Puppy training groups will not only help to teach you how to train your dog, but also allow your puppy to socialise with all the other pups.

As part of my exercise school, I pick up dogs from their home and let them run in a large secure field. I only up a maximum of 6 dogs and it is purely for exercise and socialisation. Once a week I run a puppy group. It is a great opportunity for dogs to mix together in a secure environment. Naturally owners receive a report detailing their puppy's favourite friends and toys...I think I get just as much fun writing it as the owners do reading it!

Please call me on 01303 269172 or find more information on my exercise school at www.bestbehaviourschoolfordogs.co.uk.

Which Breed is Best for Me?

I am wondering if you can help. I'm planning on getting a puppy and wondered which breeds would be best suited to living in a flat. I live in Folkestone, so can take it for plenty of walks but would prefer a dog that does not need too much living space.

Thank you for your email. Research into the best breed to suit your lifestyle is absolutely the best way to prevent behavioural problems happening!

Dogs have been bred with different abilities and characteristics. These include retrieving, guarding, herding, tracking and so on. You need to consider the natural behavioural traits of the breed to see if they will fit with your lifestyle. As you live in a built up area, it would be advisable to avoid breeds that are known to be barkers or have a tendency to escape and run off.

You also need to consider a dog who you find attractive. You'll need to look at the size, coat type and sex of the dog you want. You must be realistic about the amount of time that you can commit to a dog. Please do not buy a Spaniel or a Collie when you know you can only provide it with a 20 minute walk each day. That is not enough exercise for them and you'll come back after work to a house that is destroyed!

All family members should agree and all be responsible to meet the need's of the dog. Research together, the best place is the internet, books and advice from professionals. I have Miniature Schnauzers, which are small dogs that do not malt and do not need lots of exercise. They are just perfect!

What are the General Do's and Dont's of Dog Training?

I have recently bought a puppy as a surprise for the family. He is a wonderful new addition to the family and he is generally very well- behaved. I want him to continue in this way as he grows older. Could you let me know the general do's and dont's of dog training so that we start off on the best foot as dog owners?

You are right to want to give your puppy the best possible start to training and to continue to enjoy him once the Christmas surprise has worn off. Always remember to be calm and consistent with a puppy. Repetition pays off!

From the outset your puppy needs to understand that you are in charge. He needs to respect your authority, reducing the likelihood of him developing behavioural problems in later life. A strong owner or leader does not need to initiate bullish or heavy handed techniques. By far the best approach is clear-cut body language and plenty of praise to shape desired behaviour, ie. positive reinforcement. A dog will soon realise what pleases you and what attention he would rather have!

Cages or crates provide a lovely environment or 'den' for a puppy as long as they are introduced gently and positively. The crate must be of the appropriate size for the breed when it is fully grown- this gives them room to manoeuvre when they are relaxing or sleeping overnight. Leave the door open and praise your puppy every time he goes near it. Scatter some food in the crate so he associates it with treats. He will soon choose to spend time in there. Your dog should move out of the crate to go to the toilet as dogs rarely soil their own den. This will help with further house training as you can let him straight out in the morning and reward him going to the toilet outside!

Puppies should be discouraged from jumping up. What can often be funny or cute as a puppy can end up being a very annoying habit as your dog grows up (and just comes in from a muddy walk!).

The critical period of socialisation is from approximately 3-14 weeks. This is the most important period in a dog's development. During this time your puppy learns 'how to be a dog'; with behaviour such as bite inhibition and understanding body language from their mother and litter mates. Your puppy also needs to be exposed to all the things that he will encounter as part of your family. Your puppy needs to be acclimatised to your vacuum cleaner, washing machine, drill, lawnmower and everything else around the house and garden that could cause alarm. Good associations will overcome any feelings of fear that your puppy initially displays. Chat to your dog in a bubbly manner and give him treats when you start to use the vacuum cleaner. Dogs will follow your lead. If you are calm this will provide reassurance, and, remember, if you constantly watch him for a reaction you are inviting one!

Start training him as soon as possible. Introduce sit, down and stay, before moving on to heel and recall work. Puppy classes are wonderful to assist socialisation and training as long as they are well run. Puppies need fun playtime often followed by plenty of sleep!

I am often at Pets at Home in Park Farm, Folkestone and run a puppy socialisation day. All dogs under the age of one are welcome, where they will have the opportunity to mix and play with other dogs in a safe setting. Please check my website under the events page and bring your puppy along for some fun!

Why Does my Dog Eat Rocks?!

I live near a quarry and my puppy loves to eat the lime stone rocks! I keep telling him not to eat them but apparently it is good for him according to a book that I'm reading, I'm a bit sceptical? Any ideas?

Your dog is a puppy and therefore I do not consider the condition to be too serious at present. It is quite common for dogs to eat items considered as non-edible and there are a number of reasons for this.

Dogs that have deficiencies in their diet will be more inclined to seek the minerals and vitamins that they need from other sources. It is quite common for dogs to eat soil; especially the soil from prized flowers pots, much to the owner's dismay!

Initially consider your puppy's diet, is it lacking anything? You need to be feeding the quantity of food suitable to your puppy's weight and you should be feeding a good quality food. I recommend dry kibbles that are natural in colour. Feeding anything highly coloured is fuelling your puppy with artificial colourings. You will find that this will pass through him quickly and it will not be giving him all the essential nutrition he requires.

The fact that your dog is eating limestone is not too worrying. Limestone is a soft rock, which in powdered form can neutralise acidity. Your puppy might be eating limestone to rebalance an internal complaint, or might simply just like biting into it while he is teething!

The most appropriate way to deal with this behaviour is take a toy out with you to distract him. As you pass a rock which you think he might attempt to eat, distract him with a squeaky toy and use your voice in a sing song manner. If you are more fun than the limestone rock your puppy will immediately want to play with you! Avoid using verbal scolding, yelling, or punishment as it will just give him extra attention for the unwanted behaviour. Many animals learn to refrain from the behaviour when their owner is present, but still engage in the problem behaviour when their owner is absent. Use positive rather then negative training methods!

In adult dogs eating inappropriate objects can be very serious. The name of the eating disorder is called Pica and is considered a behavioural problem rather than a medical one. Hard stones and rocks can be very dangerous when they are swallowed as they block the intestine, often requiring surgery for removal. Dogs often demonstrate Pica due to anxiety, frustration or attention seeking.

If your dog develops Pica as an adult the condition is far more serious and you would need the help of a Behaviour Counsellor. I hope this helps, please contact me on 01303 269172 if you need any further advice on nutrition or Pica.

Which Breed is Good with Young Children?

I am a mother of two children, a five year old daughter and a three year old son. We have recently decided to get a family puppy. I am writing to ask your advice about which breeds of dog I should consider. My main consideration is that the puppy is a family pet, so good tempered with young children. We absolutely do not want a breed that may have violent tendencies. The amount of exercise the dog needs is another consideration. I work part time. My husband works full time. We can do frequent exercise, but we don't want a breed that needs excessive exercise. Lastly, the size of dog is important, we live in a three bedroom house so would be looking at a medium to small breed of dog. I do hope you can help.

You are doing absolutely the right thing before you get a dog- research! You need to consider all the characteristics you have mentioned in a dog; temperament, exercise and size. It is vital that you choose the right breed of dog in order to prevent behavioural problems occurring.

Given the specification you have listed, with obviously the pre-requisite of 'being good with children' as the priority I would advise one of the terrier or spaniel breeds. Terriers can vary massively in look but are generally considered to be very good with children. Other dogs and would require only a moderate amount of exercise depending on the breed. The joy of some terriers, such as the Airedale, Miniature Schnauzer and Welsh terrier, is that they hardly malt; however, they would need their coats to be clipped or stripped every couple of months. Other Terriers that are great family pets are the Border and Cairn terriers, they are generally just very content to be around people!

The spaniel breeds require more exercise, but would also fit your requirements. You could consider the King Charles Spaniel or the Welsh or English Springer Spaniel. These are extremely loyal and loving towards people and would be the right size for your house.

If you were to consider a slightly larger breed the Labradors and Retrievers make great pets.

Good luck with your search, maybe consider purchasing a breed book or look on the internet. Matching your requirements and a breed you like the look of is vital!