Critical Period for Socialization

The primary socialization period of puppies is between 3 and 13 weeks. This period is critical for development of primary social relationships with humans and the outside world. Puppies that are confined during this period are significantly more likely to develop behavioral problems (primarily fear and aggression) than puppies that are provided a socialization program. Puppies isolated from other puppies until 16 weeks of age were significantly more likely to display fearful behavior and be aggressed upon by other pups. They were unable to develop a positive relationship with other dogs. Puppies raised in isolation until 16 weeks lose the capacity to exhibit playful behavior towards strangers. Previous research demonstrates that socialization is a critical step in the development of behaviorally healthy dogs.

First and foremost, we ask that you treat your foster puppies with the same love and care that you give to your own companion animals. Daily attention (at least two full hours a day) from you and other family members or friends makes them more social, people-oriented, and adoptable. This includes petting, playing, cuddling, and grooming.

By spending time with your foster puppies on a regular basis, you will not only increase their chances of being adopted quickly, but you will also be able to determine their likes and dislikes – this helps us place them in homes with families that best meet their needs. 

You should also monitor your foster puppies for behavior problems, such as inappropriate biting, food guarding, etc. If problems arise, contact the Foster Coordinator to discuss behavior modification strategies. 

Due to a sometimes unknown health background and limited vaccines, socialization in the “outside world” is not recommended, to keep your puppies and the community dog population safe. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try to bring the “real world” into your home! Here are some ways to start socializing your puppies within the home environment.

Experience many different surfaces, daily: Hardwood floors, woodchips, carpet, tile, cement, linoleum, grass, wet grass, dirt, mud, puddles, deep pea gravel, uneven surfaces, on a table, on a chair, surfaces that tilt or move, etc.

Play with different objects: Fuzzy toys, big and small balls, hard toys, funny sounding toys, wooden items, paper or cardboard items, plastic milk jugs, metal items, etc.

Meet and play with many new people (outside of family): Include children, adults (mostly men), elderly adults, people in wheelchairs, people with canes, crutches, hats, sunglasses, etc. Invite your friends over, have a dinner party.

Expose the puppies to many different noises (always keep activities positive and watch puppy’s comfort level): Garage door opening, doorbell, children playing, babies screaming, big trucks, motorcycles, cars, skateboards, washing machine, clapping, loud singing, pan dropping, vacuums, lawnmowers, birthday parties, etc.

Expose the puppies to many fast moving objects: skateboards, roller-skates, bicycles, cars, people running, cats running, scooters, children running, squirrels, cats, etc.

Experience many different challenges: Climb on, in, off and around a box, go through a cardboard tunnel, climb up and down steps, climb over obstacles, play hide and seek, go in and out of a doorway with a step up or down, umbrella, balloons, walk on a wobbly table (plank of wood with a small rock underneath), jump over a broom, climb over a log, bathtub (and bath), etc.

Learn to enjoy the security of a crate, or other small enclosed spaces on a regular basis. 

Playtime

Puppy playtime is crucial in development. When deciding which type of play to allow, ask yourself if you would tolerate this behavior in an adult dog. For instance, if your puppies jump on you as you walk in the door, you may think it’s adorable and feel like you’ve been welcomed home. But would you want your full-grown pet to do it every day, to you (even when you’re wearing your good clothes), to a child, or to your dinner guests? If not, don’t let your foster puppy do it, either.

Everyone in the family needs to know which kinds of play to discourage and which kinds to enjoy, so your puppies get a clear, consistent message about behaviors that are and are not acceptable.

Play with your foster puppies for at least 20 minutes a day, in addition to giving them 20 to 30 minutes of exercise. A bored puppy is a destructive puppy.

These tips for appropriate play will help foster puppies grow up properly socialized.
  • Fetch and Seek. These two favorites are creative, stimulating ways to play with your dog. For Fetch, choose an object your puppy can pick up with his mouth, like a ball or a sticklike chew toy, and when you first start, don’t throw it too far. (Sometimes it helps to play with another person, who can show your puppy what to do!) Seek is the classic find-the-hidden-object; is it behind your back? Around the corner? You might start this game by playing it with treats, which have a strong smell.
  • Balls. Puppies may prefer a rolling ball to start and a bouncing ball later. Select one that’s soft enough for your puppy to bite, but not one so small that the entire thing fits into his mouth.
  • Chew toys. Offer your puppies a selection of chew toys. Encourage your puppies to chew on their toys instead of inappropriate objects (like your slippers or your remote control). If they do put a forbidden object in their mouth, clap your hands, say “No!” firmly, and replace the contraband with a toy. Squeaking toys are vastly appealing to pups but you must make sure that they cannot remove the squeaker and swallow it or choke.
  • Stuffed toys. Give your puppies stuffed toys to cuddle, tote around, and mouth. Keep a close eye on puppies with stuffed toys though, as they can rip them open and ingest the stuffing, possibly leading to a blockage.
  • Biting. Do not let your puppies bite any part of your body at any time. Do not permit “attack” games or use your fingers, hands, toes, or feet to “tease” your dog. If your puppy bites, discourage her with a firm “No!” If your puppy does not stop biting, confine her in her crate until she has calmed down (like “time-out” for a human 2-year-old). Never reward biting behavior by continuing to play with your puppy when she is biting; she will think biting is part of the game.
  • Jumping. Discourage your puppy from jumping or climbing on people. People tend to see this behavior as cute and friendly in a puppy. In a full-grown dog, jumping can result in human injury and damage to clothing. Train your puppy to sit when people (including you) enter your home. A puppy that sits on command deserves lavish praise.

A note about tug-of-war, chase, and wrestling

Tug-of-war: Tug-of-war is an aggressive game that confuses your puppy. If you win, you are dominant and your puppy feels timid and submissive. If you let your puppy win, he will mistakenly think that he is dominant. Another drawback to tug-of-war is that tearing action teaches the puppy that similar actions are acceptable ways to play with your clothing or household objects.

Chase: Children quickly figure out that if they race around, the puppy will follow them. The downside of Chase is that such games interfere with learning the basic command to “come.” Chasing tells a puppy, “If you come to me, I will run away,” which is not the message you want to send.

Wrestling: You should never wrestle with your puppies. Like tug-of-war, wrestling sends mixed messages about which of you is dominant, you or your foster puppy. In addition, a dog’s limbs are not built to withstand the stress of wrestling, so you could injure the puppy.

Avoid using your hands as you play with your puppies. This can be dangerous and lead to human injury, as puppies have very sharp teeth and are often still learning that biting hurts. The moving hand can become an appealing play object and attempts at correction could aggravate the situation. Although a young puppy may not inflict damage, as it ages and continues to use the owner’s body for play, serious injuries can result. Also avoid objects that are so small that they could be ingested and cause intestinal blockage.

Training

Housebreaking 

House-training puppies requires patience, commitment and lots of consistency. Accidents are part of the process, but if you follow these basic house-training guidelines, you will not only be improving their adoptability, but will give the adopters a great head start.

Establish a routine

Like babies, puppies do best on a regular schedule. The schedule teaches them that there are times to eat, times to play and times to do their business. Generally speaking, a puppy can control their bladder one hour for every month of age. So if your puppy is two months old, they can hold it for about two hours. Don’t go longer than this between bathroom breaks or they’re guaranteed to have an accident.

Take your puppies outside frequently—at least every two hours—and immediately after they wake up, during and after playing, and after eating or drinking.

Pick a bathroom spot outside, and always take your puppy to that spot (on leash or in an exercise pen). While your puppies are relieving themselves, use a specific word or phrase that you can eventually use before they go to remind them what to do. Take them out for a longer walk or some playtime only after they have eliminated.

Reward your puppies every time they eliminate outdoors. Praise or give treats—but remember to do so immediately after they’ve finished, not after they come back inside. This step is vital, because rewarding your dog for going outdoors is the only way to teach what’s expected of them. Before rewarding, be sure they’re finished. Puppies are easily distracted and if you praise too soon, they may forget to finish until they’re back in the house.

Put your puppies on a regular feeding schedule. What goes into a puppy on a schedule comes out of a puppy on a schedule. Depending on their age, puppies usually need to be fed three times a day. Feeding your puppy at the same times each day will make it more likely that they’ll eliminate at consistent times as well, making house training easier for both of you.

Pick up your puppy’s water dish about two and a half hours before bedtime to reduce the likelihood that they’ll need to relieve themselves during the night. Most puppies can sleep for approximately seven hours without needing a bathroom break. If your puppy does wake you up in the night, don’t make a big deal of it; otherwise they will think it is time to play and won’t want to go back to sleep. Turn on as few lights as possible, don’t talk to or play with your puppy, take them out and then return them to bed.

Supervise your puppy

Don’t give your puppy an opportunity to soil in the house; keep an eye on them whenever they’re indoors.

Basic Commands

The foundation of training should be based on positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is the process of giving a dog (or person!) a reward to encourage the behavior you want, like getting a paycheck for going to work. The idea is not to bribe the behavior but to train it using something your dog values.  Avoid using punishment such as leash corrections or yelling. Punishment can cause a dog to become confused and unsure about what is being asked of him.  It is important to remember that we can’t expect dogs to know what they don’t know – just like you wouldn’t expect a 2-year-old child to know how to tie his shoes. Patience will go a long way in helping your foster puppy learn how to behave.

Reinforcement can be anything your dog likes. Most people use small pieces of a “high value” food for training treats — something special — such as dried liver or even just their kibble. Lavish praise or the chance to play with a favorite toy can also be used as a reward. Dogs must be taught to like praise. If you give the dog a treat while saying “Good dog!” in a happy voice, he will learn that praise is a good thing and can be a reward. Some dogs also enjoy petting. Food is often the most convenient way to reinforce behavior.

Puppies can begin very simple training starting early in life, usually around 6 weeks old. Always keep training sessions brief — just 5 to 10 minutes —and always end on a positive note. If your puppy is having trouble learning a new behavior, end the session by reviewing something he already knows and give him plenty of praise and a big reward for his success. If your puppy gets bored or frustrated, it will ultimately be counterproductive to learning.

How To Teach A Dog To Come

You’ll want to begin training a recall (come when called) in a quiet area and indoors. Sit with your puppy and say his name or the word “come.” Each time you say “come/name,” give your puppy a treat. He doesn’t have to do anything yet! Just repeat the word and give a treat. Easy!

Next, drop a treat on the floor near you. As soon as your puppy finishes the treat on the ground, say his name again. When he looks up, give him another treat. Repeat this a couple of times until you can begin tossing the treat a little further away, and he can turn around to face you when you say his name. Avoid repeating your puppy’s name; saying it too often when he doesn’t respond makes it easier for him to ignore it. Instead, move closer to your puppy and go back to a step where he can be successful at responding to his name the first time.

Once your puppy can turn around to face you, begin adding movement and making the game more fun! Toss a treat on the ground and take a few quick steps away while calling your puppy’s name. They should run after you because chase is fun! When they catch you, give them a lot of praise, treats or play with a tug toy. Coming to you should be fun! Continue building on these games with longer distances and in other locations. When training outside (always in a safe, enclosed area), it may be helpful to keep your puppy on a long leash at first.

When your puppy comes to you, don’t reach out and grab him. This can be confusing or frightening for some dogs. If your puppy is timid, kneel and face them sideways and offer him treats as you reach for the collar. Never call your dog to punish! This will only teach him that you are unpredictable, and it is a good idea to avoid you. Always reward your dog heavily for responding to his or her name, even if they have been up to mischief!

How To Teach a Dog Loose Leash Walking

In competition obedience training, “heel” means the dog is walking on your left side with his head even with your knee while you hold the leash loosely. Puppy training can be a little more relaxed with the goal being that they walk politely on a loose leash without pulling. Some trainers prefer to say “let’s go” or “forward” instead of “heel” when they train this easy way of walking together.

Whatever cue you choose, be consistent and always use the same word. Whether your puppy walks on your left side or your right side is completely up to you. But be consistent about where you want them so they don’t get confused and learn to zig zag in front of you.

First, make sure your puppy is comfortable wearing a leash. This can feel strange at first, and some puppies may bite the leash. Give your puppy treats as you put the leash on each time. Then, stand next to your puppy with the leash in a loose loop and give him several treats in a row for standing or sitting next to your leg. Take one step forward and encourage him to follow by giving another treat as he catches up.

Continue giving treats to your puppy at the level of your knee or hip as you walk forward. When he runs in front of you, simply turn the opposite direction, call him to you, and reward him in place. Then continue. Gradually begin giving treats further apart (from every step to every other step, every third step, and so on).

Eventually your dog will walk happily at your side whenever he’s on his leash. Allow your dog plenty of time to sniff and “smell the roses” on your walks. When they’ve had their sniffing time, give the cue “Let’s Go!” in a happy voice and reward them for coming back into position and walking with you.

How To Teach a Dog To Sit

There are two different methods for showing your puppy what “sit” means.

The first method is called capturing. Stand in front of your puppy holding some of his dog food or treats. Wait for him to sit – say “yes” and give him a treat. Then step backwards or sideways to encourage him to stand and wait for him to sit. Give another treat as soon as they sit. After a few repetitions, you can begin saying “sit” right as he begins to sit.

The next option is called luring. Get down in front of your puppy, holding a treat as a lure. Put the treat right in front of the pup’s nose, then slowly lift the food above his head. He will probably sit as he lifts his head to nibble at the treat. Allow him to eat the treat when his bottom touches the ground. Repeat one or two times with the food lure, then remove the food and use just your empty hand, but continue to reward the puppy after he sits. Once he understands the hand signal to sit, you can begin saying “sit” right before you give the hand signal.

Never physically put your puppy into the sitting position; this can be confusing or upsetting to some dogs.

How To Teach a Dog To Stay

A puppy who knows the “stay” cue will remain sitting until you ask him to get up by giving another cue, called the “release word.” Staying in place is a duration behavior. The goal is to teach your dog to remain sitting until the release cue is given, then begin adding distance.

First, teach the release word. Choose which word you will use, such as “OK” or “free.” Stand with your puppy in a sit or a stand, toss a treat on the floor, and say your word as he steps forward to get the treat. Repeat this a couple of times until you can say the word first and then toss the treat AFTER he begins to move. This teaches the dog that the release cue means to move your feet.

When your dog knows the release cue and how to sit on cue, put him in a sit, turn and face him, and give him a treat. Pause, and give him another treat for staying in a sit, then release him. Gradually increase the time you wait between treats (it can help to sing the ABC’s in your head and work your way up the alphabet).  If your dog gets up before the release cue, that’s ok! It just means he isn’t ready to sit for that long so you can make it easier by going back to a shorter time.

Once your dog can stay in a sit for several seconds, you can begin adding distance. Place him in a sit and say “stay,” take one step back, then step back to the pup, give a treat, and your release word. Continue building in steps, keeping it easy enough that your dog can stay successful. Practice both facing him and walking away with your back turned (which is more realistic).

Once your dog can stay, you can gradually increase the distance. This is also true for the “sit.” The more solidly he learns it, the longer he can remain sitting. The key is to not expect too much, too soon. Training goals are achieved in increments, so you may need to slow down and focus on one thing at a time. To make sure the training “sticks,” sessions should be short and successful.

How to Teach a Dog to Lay Down

“Down” can be taught very similarly to “sit.” You can wait for your dog to lie down (beginning in a boring, small room such as a bathroom can help) and capture the behavior by reinforcing your dog with a treat when he lies down, giving him his release cue to stand back up (and encouragement with a lure if needed) and then waiting for him to lie down again. When he is quickly lying down after standing up, you can begin saying “down” right before he does so.

You can also lure a down from a sit or stand by holding a treat in your hand to the dog’s nose and slowly bringing it to the floor. Give the treat when the dog’s elbows touch the floor to start. After a few practices, begin bringing your empty hand to the floor and giving the treat AFTER he lies down. When he can reliably follow your hand signal, begin saying “down” as you move your hand.

Just like with sitting, never use force to put your dog into a down.

Crate Training

Teach your foster puppies to enjoy a dog crate from an early age! We have the ability to start getting puppies used to the crate, even enjoy being in it, if we start at a young age.

We will always send foster puppies in a plastic crate. The easiest way to start conditioning puppies to it is to simply keep it in their puppy area with a nice soft blanket inside and the door removed! An object that is seen every day isn’t a scary object!

Feeding small meals, or giving treats inside of the crate is another great way to get them used to being in the enclosed area. Keep the door open in the beginning; as your puppies get used to the crate, shut the door for short intervals.

The more your puppies learn to enjoy the crate, the easier it will be to secure your puppies for travel in the future.

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