What is the number one cause of death for dogs?
If you said being hit by a car, you’re wrong. The number one cause of death is relinquishment due to behavioral problems. Most behavior problems begin in puppyhood and are easily preventable.
During a puppy’s first few months of life, his or her owner must balance keeping puppy healthy with making sure his is socialized. Socialization is the process of getting an animal used to to an experience in a positive (or neutral) way, before the animal has developed any fear of it.
Research has shown that for puppies, the critical age for socialization is between 3 and 13 weeks of age. So from 1-3 months of age, your puppy should be exposed to as many situations as possible.
- Arrange for puppy to meet as many people as possible of different sizes, sexes, and skin colors. Make sure these are positive interactions with kind words and treats.
- Let people interact with puppy while he is eating. Having adults take away his food while he is eating and take away his toys while he is playing will help prevent guarding of these objects when he is older.
- Have puppy meet other dogs. Make sure they are dogs that you know are vaccinated and healthy, as your puppy is very susceptible to disease. These should be positive interactions with friendly dogs. If he shows any sign of being fearful, end the meeting immediately.
- Crate train your puppy. Crate training is essential for housebreaking and minimizing destructive behaviors and separation anxiety. It is the puppy equivalent of a “time out” for toddlers. When he is an adult, your dog will think of his crate as a safe place to sleep and rest. For more about crate training, see Crate Expectations by Cheri Lucas.
- Don’t take puppy to dog parks or allow contact with unknown dogs.
- Don’t let puppy walk on the ground in new areas. He can be taught to walk on a leash in and around your house.
- Don’t allow children to handle puppy without adult supervision. Remember, bad experiences during the critical period can lead to lifelong fears.
- Don’t allow puppy to jump up on people or mouth them. Even at a young age, puppies can be trained to sit and should not be petted while they are jumping up on people or trying to put their mouth on them.
Your puppy depends on you for guidance A good foundation of positive experiences will give him the ability to cope with all kinds of situations as an adult.