By: Dr. Kristen Archambault, Veterinarian
In the last several weeks, we’ve been seeing lots and lots of new puppies come in for their first visits. We LOVE puppies (who doesn’t ?!?!?) and are so excited to meet your new family members. As veterinarians, it’s our job to partner with you in your pet’s health. Behavioral health is just as important as physical health in animals. Pets with anxiety and aggression issues are significantly more likely to end up in shelters or to be euthanized. The first few months of a puppy’s life set the stage for their behavior for the rest of their life. In the current climate of social distancing and quarantine, it will take extra effort on the part of new puppy owners to make sure that their puppy receives appropriate socialization and independence training during this phase of their puppy’s development so that they grow to be happy, well adjusted pets. Below, I’ll make some recommendations for things to work on at home during this time
- Independence training. The beautiful thing about having a puppy during this time is that everyone is home to bond with the puppy. However, we all hope that at some point in the not so distant future that life will go back to normal. We’ll go to school and work and the zoo. Netflix wont have to ask if we’re still watching. While this will be a great relief to us humans, imagine how hard this transition will be on young dogs who have literally NEVER been left alone. Separation anxiety will become a huge issue if we don’t intervene early and practice “social distancing” from our puppies so they learn that it’s ok and normal to be alone. I’ve posted a link below to a PDF document that discusses ways to work on independence training. Once you have started working on things, consider taking a drive or going for a walk without your new puppy so they can get used to being alone. This article was intended for dogs who have separation anxiety, but teaching dogs without anxiety to be calm during departures will only help us once we do (finally) depart our homes again
2. Crate training. With few exceptions, every puppy should be kennel trained. Aside from saving you a lot of money in home repairs and foreign body surgery, almost every dog will, at some point in their life, require confinement. Dogs who hurt themselves, have surgery, or even just travel with their owners will likely need to be able to be crated. Training your puppy now will save your sanity when confinement is needed at some point down the road. The trick is patience and making the crate a “happy place”. A dog should NEVER be punished in their crate. The two main things I’ve found that help are 1) making sure your puppy is tired when you put them in their kennel and 2) having extra special treats/ toys that they only receive in their kennel in order to make the kennel a fun place to be. Kongs stuffed with various things and puzzle toys work well for this.
3. Socialization. This one is really hard right now. How do you introduce your puppy to lots of different people and things when you aren’t supposed to be leaving the house? We are lucky that we have a wonderful veterinary behaviorist in our area who is helping people with this problem. Dr. Pike has set up some online puppy classes and socialization classes which are really wonderful and probably our best option. I’ve included the link below.
One day this will all be over, but we want to make sure our new pups are as ready for that transition as we are when it happens. As always, remember that the staff and doctors at Huffard Animal Hospital are here for you during this time. If you are struggling with behavioral issues in your pet (of any age) please call or text us at 410.768.3620 for an appointment.