Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Social Networking for Your Dog

In the past, puppies were often kept at home until their complete set of vaccinations had been completed. Unfortunately, these "bubble puppies" developed behavioral issues including being afraid of people or animals, and an inability to read other dogs' cues. This often led to unwanted aggression that could have been avoided with proper socialization.

Start Now
Today, veterinarians and trainers know that puppies really need social interaction to become well-adjusted dogs. A 2009 position paper released by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists stated that the importance of socialization for puppies less than 16 weeks of age far outweighs the slight risk of disease. Puppies between the ages of seven and 16 weeks of age are curious and ready to explore, but they must be monitored in a safe environment under the guidance of you or a pet care professional.

Socializing your dog isn't hard; it simply means acclimating your dog to as many new sensations and situations as possible to prepare him for his life out in the world.While the process of socialization may occur rapidly with a young puppy, don't be surprised if things take a little longer with an adult dog.

Socialization Starts at Home
There are things you can do to socialize your puppy out in the world that will prepare him for more interactive socialization later on. Here are a few tricks for making the process fun:

1) Take your dog for a walk on different types of surfaces, such as grass, dirt, gravel and sand to familiarize him with the feeling of different textures on his paws and to help him become more agile on uneven turf. 

2) Introduce your pup to new people on a regular basis. This includes men, women and children of varying ages, races, sizes and ranges of mobility. 

3) Pretend to be your dog's veterinarian. Inspect his ears, paws, teeth and tail to get him used to vet and grooming visits.

4) Purchase a socialization CD containing sounds that a puppy might find scary, such as fireworks or sirens. At first, play the CD softly, then gradually increase the volume when your dog has become accustomed to it.

Leaving the Nest
Morris K9 Trainer Robin Lash believes that "among the best ways to socialize your puppy is to enroll him in a good puppy class that screens for aggression, requires first vaccinations and de-worming, and regularly disinfects surfaces." Puppy classes are great controlled environments that allow puppies to acquire social interaction skills and keep young dogs engaged when they are the most energetic and inquisitive. 

Stick With It!
The key to socialization is introducing your dog to new stimuli slowly and steadily. Start with low-key interactions in your home or neighborhood, then move on to play dates with another dog or puppy, and finally consider enrolling your dog in a puppy class, daycare, or group class like those offered at Morris K9 Campus. Although it's best to practice some form of socialization with your dog each day, keep the sessions short and reward your dog with a treat or cuddle when you are finished. This will make the process fun and rewarding for both of you. A well-socialized dog is a happy, well-behaved dog that will make you proud!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Supplies? Check. Dog? Check. Now What?

So you adopted a dog. Congratulations on the new addition to your family! Are you ready to help him or her become a happy and well-adjusted dog?

Keep Calm
Many new dog owners are so excited to show off their new friend that they forget that a newly adopted dog will need some time to acclimate to a new house, a new family and a new routine. When your dog first arrives at home, he or she will need a few days to investigate each room (with your supervision, of course) and get to rest up. When you leave the house, make sure you are clear about which areas are off-limits to him using gates.

A Place to Call His Own
A crate, while a safe and stimulus-free environment, can also be lonely and confusing for a new dog. Transform it  from a prison to a haven with a few steps. First, position the crate in a low-traffic, distraction-free area of your house. Then add some comfortable bedding and toys that he can make his own. Finally, reward your dog with a treat-stuffed toy every time he goes into the crate. This will reinforce the positive nature of the crate and provide entertainment.

Whether your dog received regular or intermittent veterinary care before you got him, make sure to make him an appointment to see a certified vet within two weeks of his arrival in your home. This will assure that your puppy is in good health and will open the door to breed or age-specific recommendations the vet may have for your specific dog. At 6-8 weeks of age, a puppy should receive his first set of vaccinations, including distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus and parainfluenza. Other issues your vet can assist you with early on include spaying or neutering, pest control and the ideal diet for your dog.

You should also begin basic training with your dog very early on. For example, make sure to supervise his behavior while he is getting used to his new surroundings, and provide acceptable chewing or playing alternatives to your precious possessions. By providing a treat when asking your dog to do something, you will be effectively communicating with him, and he will love it! Morris K9 Campus offers a wide variety of formal training classes for dogs at least 20 weeks of age to help make them model canines!

Socialization Our last post discusses the importance of socialization, particularly at a young age. Please read this post to make sure your dog is as well adjusted as he can possibly be.

Exercise and Play
As you probably know, brand new puppies need to expend LOTS of physical and mental energy, but you might not realize that adult dogs do, too. No matter what their age, dogs require an outlet for their energy and emotions. Some good options include fetch games and basic obedience. Just be sure to regularly rotate the toys and activities to maintain your dog's interest.

What Else Can I Do?
Even if you provide all the best for your dog, some canines just crave more structured activity and/or rewards. If you think this is the case, you might consider signing up for one of our beginner agility classes. To learn all about agility, please read our agility blog post or give us a call.

The Goal
Obviously the goal of all of your hard work acclimating your new pet to his new lifestyle is to make him and YOU happy! By following the guidelines above, you will ensure that you have a close relationship with your very confident, obedient and loving dog.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Puppy Pointers

If you're a new puppy owner, you know that it can be trying at times to remain calm. We have a few creative suggestions for helping you to keep your sanity while overseeing your puppy's growth and development.

Frosty Formula
If your puppy is teething, try freezing a wet washcloth for him to chew on. The cold cloth will soothe his gums. Just be sure to supervise your puppy so he doesn't chew up and swallow any pieces of the washcloth!

Chopstick Challenge
Have any leftover takeout chop sticks?  Try cutting them with a pair of scissors. This is very similar to the sound a dog hears when he gets his nails trimmed. Acclimate your dog to the sound by rewarding him with a treat every time you make a cut to the chopstick. When you are ready to try his actual nails, go slowly. He may only allow you to trim the nails on one foot first. Just try the other foot a few hours later, or when the puppy is sleeping after a long walk. Eventually you will be able to get them all in one fell swoop! (Or, you could bring him in to us for a quick and efficient trim. We'd be happy to help!) 

For the rest of our tricks, please join us at any of our puppy offerings.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Job for Your Dog

Looking for something fun and rewarding to do with your dog? How about Agility! 

What Exactly is Agility?
Agility typically involves a dog and handler team navigating an obstacle course in a timed run. Each agility course is arranged differently by the Judge, and it is the job of the handler to guide the dog through the course cleanly and efficiently. Some common agility equipment includes the A-frame, SeeSaw, Weave Poles and Tire Jump.

With multiple categories and levels of competition, there is plenty of room for aspiring agility students. Of course, dog-handler teams can always pursue agility purely for fun as well!

What Can Agility Do For My Dog and Me?
Agility can be a fun and satisfying activity for dogs and their owners, but why else should you consider it? First, agility helps with off-leash control and is a great way to develop a true bond with your dog. If you participate in agility at Morris K9 Campus, you will benefit from state-of-the-art equipment, rubberized contacts and ergonomic flooring, which is gentler on both your joints and those of your dog. In addition, our agility ring is completely enclosed, heated and air-conditioned, so you and your dog can comfortably enjoy this activity year-round.

Is Agility Right for Us?

Generally, agility is best suited for dogs that are dog- and people-friendly, relatively in shape and focused, but we have found that dogs of any age and breed who are devoted to agility training can find it very satisfying. If you think you and your dog might enjoy participating in agility, please give us a call to schedule an assessment and to receive additional information about this fulfilling canine pursuit.

Is Your Dog a Good Citizen?

So you’ve completed basic dog training courses…but can your dog prove what he's learned? You might want to consider Canine Good Citizen (CGC) testing. CGC testing, developed by the American Kennel Club, is the only nationally recognized testing for pet obedience. It is open to breeds of all types and can really give you some bragging rights! In some states, proof of successful CGC testing completion can even lower your home insurance rates!

Morris K9 Campus offers a five-week course to prepare for CGC testing, which requires mastery of 10 skills:

  1. Accepting a friendly stranger
  2. Sitting politely for petting
  3. Welcoming grooming or examination
  4. Walking on a loose leash without pulling
  5. Walking through a crowd
  6. Knowing and responding to the “sit”, “down” and “stay” commands
  7. Coming when called
  8. Reacting politely to another dog
  9. Reacting calmly to distractions
  10. Behaving politely when separated from his or her owner
With some consistent training, guidance and reinforcement, dogs can learn these skills in a few months’ time. Call us today if you would like more information about our CGC training and testing program. We would love to help your canine friend become a model dog!

Achieving the Ideal Dog-Owner Lifestyle

Welcome to the Morris K9 Campus blog, A Dog's Life! We are so glad you made it here because we have lots of helpful hints and information to make life with your dog(s) the best it can possibly be. If you aren’t familiar with us yet, we are a dog day care, training and agility facility in Randolph, NJ. Our staff and owners are highly trained in animal care and behavior, so not only do we offer high-quality care, classes and events, but we have a wealth of knowledge to share with you!

Each week, you can check in with us here to find easy solutions to common dog behavioral concerns, training tips and of course, information on raising a healthy, happy dog from puppyhood through the golden years. We welcome your feedback and are always available to discuss our programs at our facility in Randolph.

A well-adjusted, well-behaved dog awaits you!