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The Importance of Early Experiences for Puppies

There is a small window in a very young puppy’s life where it is important that he or she is able to form positive associations and be habituated to the things they will need to help them keep an open, curious, confident and fear free mind. They learn a great deal from their mother and siblings and from their surroundings. Puppies that have been allowed to be properly nurtured by their mother who herself has a strong maternal bond and is a well adjusted happy dog will be better set up for a happy problem free life. If they have been born and reared in doors  In a home or at least are brought in daily so that they become acclimatised to humans, children, general normal house hold happenings like the noise of the telly, a vacuum cleaner, being gently handled without too much interference  and allowed plenty of sleep and play with litter mates they will be so much better equipped to go to their new homes and remain curious, happy, confident puppy’s that with appropriate experiences and training will become great family members and companions.

The most crucial stage is actually before most people bring their new puppy home or at least before they have finished their initial inocululations. These early weeks are incredibly important and the most formative in how that puppy will relate to the world.  Puppies that have been born outside and kept caged and shut off with little interaction with the outside world which frequently happens with puppy farms and unscrupulous breeders, will have great difficulty forming appropriate relationships with humans and other dogs and animals, often being fearful and anxious. Puppies weaned too young or those that have had a lack of proper maternal bonding will often carry a deep anxiety that may present as separation anxiety, over attachment, nervousness and fear based aggression.

When considering having a puppy it’s really important to do your home work beforehand. Are your circumstances really suited to having a puppy? Are you out at work for long hours, are their children in your home and if so how old are they? What time and commitment do you have? Does the breed and type of dog you want suit your lifestyle. Assuming you are sure having a puppy come into your home as a family member is what you want and you know you can meet that puppy’s needs for life then it’s time to look for a reputable breeder. One of the best ways is through recommendation. You need to do your home work here too. A good breeder will want to do their homework about you too, making sure their puppy will be well matched to your home life and personality. A good breeder would want to do their best to ensure their puppies have loving homes for life and will probably grill you over your circumstances and motivations to have one of their puppies. Speaking to them on the phone you should get a feel for them and they you.

When visiting the litter of puppies for the first time it’s important to note how they are kept. The bitch should look in good healthy condition and have a nice temperament. If at all possible see if you can see the stud dog. If he’s from another kennel ask about him and see if they have photos, see if they have any related adults you can meet so you can assess their temperaments. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ideally the puppies would be in doors, but for practical reasons especially with larger breeds they may be in kennels or an out building. Either way their living space should be clean and dry, with plenty of toys and things for the puppies to interact with. The Whelping box if they are still in that should allow the bitch to get in and out easily so she can have some time out and get a drink. Even if they are kennelled outside they should be brought in doors to habituate them to indoor things. Once old enough they should be able to go in a play pen outside regularly. The more experiences they are habituated to gently with positive fun outcomes and not over faced and frightened the more well balanced they will be and retain their curiosity, confidence and seeking behaviour.

If you are able to see the puppies more than once that can be good so you see how their individual characters are developing. A good breeder will provide you with a puppy pack to take home with your new puppy. Usually with guidance notes on helping them settle in the early days, notes on worming and when to vaccinate, some of their usual food and often a free cover note for a months insurance which you then have the option of continuing. If this isn’t something they include it’s advisable to insure your pup as soon as possible.

Being as that crucial period for habituation and socialisation where puppies associations and how they will relate to the big wide world are fairly set by age 12 weeks and in reality the vaccines usually start at 9 or 10 weeks with the 2nd one at 12 weeks it makes it difficult to give your puppy the life experiences you might want if you can’t take them out due to the vaccine course not being finished. However there is still much you can do at home. Many vets practices hold puppy parties for puppies between 9 and 12 weeks where the floors will have been specially disinfected. These are great ways to let your puppy meet other puppies, people probably to travel by car. Usually the nurse running the party will advise new owners about worming, flea treatments, diet and other useful information. At home maybe invite some visitors, establish where the puppy will be sleeping and establish a feeding routine, teach him or her about being groomed, interact and play with your puppy, introduce children and other pets carefully, hoovers, TV other noises, the garden etc. If small enough maybe carry them so you can take them for short trips outside. You can introduce a daily routine of brushing and get him used to wearing a soft collar. Try to get your puppy used to new experiences gently and carefully without over facing them and causing anxiety and fear. Make things fun and hopefully you will be building a loving foundation for a great relationship with a Happy well adjusted dog.

Flower Essences can help a great deal when you first bring a puppy home. Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, Alaskan Soul Support or Animal Care are a good choice as to might be Aspen and Mimulus if the puppy is fearful and Walnut for helping with change. Honeysuckle for home sickness and missing the litter mates and mum. Alaskan Fireweed is for changes from the Alaskan system.