Puppies For Dummies book cover

Puppies For Dummies

By: Sarah Hodgson Published: 04-16-2019

Everything you need to bring home a new puppy 

Across America and beyond, tails are wagging with anticipation. Why? Because puppies and the people who love them are eager for the update of Puppies for Dummies.   Originally released and welcomed as a positive, loving alternative to the alpha dog philosophy of a popular celebrity trainer, Puppies for Dummies is now updated and more relevant than ever.

This new edition covers the latest puppy training gadgets, tricks, and tips and offers expanded coverage on the latest training techniques, including new studies on positive reinforcement methods. This edition continues to provide readers with the trusted and proven advice that has made previous editions a success.  

  • Integrate a puppy in your life
  • Explore the latest science of dogs
  • Train a happy, healthy pup
  • Raise and nurture a loving dog

Rather than saying: "Uh oh, now what?!" new pet owners can be equipped with the best advice. 

Articles From Puppies For Dummies

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7 results
Puppies For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-09-2022

Owning a puppy is definitely fun, but it’s also a huge responsibility. You’re caring for a new four-legged member of the family. You need to keep your puppy safe and healthy, instill good manners with puppy house training and habits, and teach basic puppy commands so that other folks enjoy your puppy as much as you do.

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Your Dog's Intelligence and Emotions

Article / Updated 09-09-2019

Some people still think that dogs don't think or experience emotions. Although it's true that dogs don't have the intellectual capacity of some other mammals like dolphins, they have other strengths and intelligence that we have yet to discover. Dog cognition has become a global obsession. In the past decade alone, a scientist has figured out ways to monitor dogs’ brain activity, decode their DNA, and do comparative analysis with human and other mammalian brains. Electrodes and MRI scans track the brain centers that alert to strong scents, familiar faces, various expressions, and spoken words. Interested in reading more about dog cognition? Research the topic online or at your local library. Periodicals like Science Daily and Nature (both online) stay abreast of all the current studies. Have fun exploring the new science of your beloved puppy. Intelligence might play a factor in your selection of a new puppy as well, especially if you aspire to competing in dog shows or performing with your new best friend. Your dog's emotions Until recently, the scientific community had a hard time admitting that dogs have feelings. Why? Because in academic circles nothing is real unless there is measurable data to prove it. Since no one in academia could show that dogs were capable of feeling emotions, reasoning, and attachment, it just wasn’t so. Enter two scientists: Dr. Stanley Coren began as a psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher at the University of British Columbia, whose lifelong hobby with dogs finally realigned his professional career. In 2008, he did what at the time seemed like a simple comparative analysis showing beyond a reasonable doubt that dogs have similar cognitive abilities to 2-2-1/2-year-old children. Researching at the University of British Columbia, Coren set out to determine which breed of dog was the smartest based on a set of questions that tested their responsiveness to human direction. Although the findings caused quite the ripple in the dog world, the significant undisputable discovery was that all dogs, regardless of their breed or intelligence rating, are capable of processing information, reasoning linear outcomes involving getting something they desired (such as a bone or freedom), and deducing simple arithmetic. He also showed that dogs could learn up to 150 words. Dr. Coren’s publications opened the floodgates, and soon studies from around the world were conducted on topics including a dog’s musical preferences to similarities in the body chemicals released during petting. Fast-forward to 2012 when another human neuroscientist, named Gregory Berns, an MD/PhD who specialized in MRI analysis, did a similar experiment with dogs. By tracking their brains' responses to familiar smells, sights, and verbal directions, he discovered beyond a reasonable doubt that dogs show similar proactive and excited reactivity to everyday routines and people as we do. Further studies with Dr. Berns’ team of scientists showed that dogs and people have similar brain centers, chemical releases in response to anticipation of positive outcomes, and neurological wiring. His revelation set the scientific world on fire. proving to people everywhere that, yes, dogs Recognize familiar faces and are more attracted to cheerful expressions than angry, frustrated ones Respond positively to the smells of the people they love Are capable of problem-solving and modeling behavior (monkey-see-monkey-do-type learning). The major difference between a dog’s brain and a human’s brain? The size: “A large dog’s brain is about the size of a lemon,” says Dr. Berns. So, what’s going on in all those empty pockets of your puppy’s brain? Much of it is devoted to olfactory receptors and sensory tunnels that collect information about your puppy’s present situation: from the noises they hear to the sights and smells surrounding them. We people swapped out sensory awareness for complex thinking skills, in the process growing the frontal lobes of our brains, or what’s called the cerebral cortex. What a dog's nose knows With all the hoopla about dogs, some naysayers still claim that dogs are just not as smart as everyone thinks. Rather than point out what dogs excel in, they point to how a dog’s intelligence can’t compare to a dolphin, chimpanzee, or person. Yes, I’ll admit that I can’t teach a dog to make me breakfast in bed or balance my checkbook, but dogs can do plenty of things people won’t try, either. Dogs have stellar hearing and response rates, fully capable of alerting to an unfamiliar noise or intruder if they’re prone to doing so. Most dogs have acute scent-detection abilities, too — far surpassing human comprehension. In her book A Dog’s Nose, Alexandra Horowitz, PhD, lays out your puppy’s most sensitive appendage for all the world to see. Sure, their brains may be smaller than our own, but they make up space by devoting 40 times the sensory surface area to interpreting a world we cannot fathom — a world full of scented rainbows. Here are some other points Horowitz makes: In a side-by-side analysis, your adult puppy will have up to 300 million olfactory cells (your puppy’s sniffing receptors) in their head, in comparison to a human’s 6 million — that’s a 50:1 ratio. If trained, a dog can identify a single teaspoon of sugar in 2 million gallons of water — that’s two Olympic-size pools of water. I can’t even smell sugar in my morning coffee. Every dog has a secondary olfactory center located in the roof of their mouth, called the vomeronasal organ, that alerts them to slight changes in body chemicals (known as pheromones) that help to distinguish the age, sex, and sexual receptivity of other dogs. Dogs can smell moods. Slight changes in our perspiration cue our dogs into reading whether we’re happy, sad, or afraid. Sure, dogs aren’t smart like people are, but it's precisely because they are not people that dogs are brilliant in their own right, and the sooner you can recognize, respect, and reward your puppy for their version of clever, the sooner you’ll be navigating your own love story. When walking your puppy, allow some time for sniffing — especially in areas where dogs congregate. Sure, the idea that your dog is sniffing other dogs’ eliminations sounds gross to you, but you’re not a dog. To your puppy, reading the morning “pee-mail” is the highlight of their day. Master emotions Now that science is up to speed on the emotional life of dogs, it’s time to tip my hat to one of the most renowned neuroscientists of all time, Jaak Panksepp, PhD. He discovered that all mammals (humans, too) are born with five master emotions that rule all their behavior, day in and day out. I’ll relate the five emotions to dogs only, but don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild — we have more in common with our dogs’ emotional landscape than you might think. Seeking Seeking is the master emotion that drives a dog’s survival: They hunt to find food, water, and companionship. As a social creature, your puppy can’t survive on their own and will form close bonds to whoever they spend time with, which often surpass their connection with other, unfamiliar dogs. Scientists have recorded 100 expressions that dogs use to communicate with people. Many of these expressions are easy to identify: I want some, play with me, pet me now, time for breakfast, let’s go for a walk! See how many expressions you can read — you know your puppy best. Playing Play is somewhat of a mystery: No one can put their finger on why it happens — it just does. Dogs play when they feel safe where they are and who they are with: It’s a good measure of your puppy’s mood. Playing and seeking are baseline emotions that you can use to measure your puppy’s mood accurately. When taking your puppy out and about or introducing a new distraction in your home, if your puppy will take a treat or engage with a toy, rest assured that they're feeling secure enough to access their positive emotions. Fear Fear is a tricky one: It’s a sign that your dog is feeling unsure and stuck. In the next section on body language, you’ll learn the telltale signs of fear, but you don’t have to imagine too deeply — fear is a universal feeling. It freezes joy and leaves dogs immobilized, not sure of what will happen next and unsure what exactly to do about it. Socialization is the best insurance that your puppy is comfortable with all the sights and sounds he’ll experience in your world: Otherwise, you’ll never know when fear-of-the-unknown might strike. Frustration Frustration hits when a puppy is caught between what they want to do and what they can’t do — or what they can’t reach. Low-level frustration often happens when a toy rolls under the couch or when a puppy whines behind a gate. Higher-level frustration mounts and may develop into more dramatic reactions in response to people passing by a window or fenced yard or to suffering from excessive isolation. Panic Panic is fear on steroids. Puppies panic when imminent death or peril seems at hand: It can happen in the early weeks of life when a puppy is separated from her litter, or later. A husky was crated during a small house fire, while the alarms blared and fire crews arrived to douse the blaze; after that experience, that pup panicked every time he was asked to go into a crate. Panic shuts down all other emotions and leaves a puppy in a state of, well, panic.

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How Your Puppy Communicates

Article / Updated 09-02-2019

Does your dog communicate? Yes! Here’s an overview of your dog’s body talk: Consider how learning how to listen to your puppy will improve your relationship. Puppies are like kids — they are much more eager to listen to you if you learn to listen to their side of the story, too. A great influencer who shaped modern dog thinking long before it became scientifically cool to do so was Nicholas Dodman, DVM. His books outlined dogs’ emotional lives and communication styles. When it comes to communicating, dogs and humans differ in these key aspects: People talk with language and need to listen to one another for meaning. Dogs use postures and subtle gestures to symbolize meaning: If you want to hear what your dog is saying, you need to use your eyes. It took nearly two decades for scientists to follow Dr. Dodman’s lead, but when they did, they confirmed roughly everything he’d already taught us. What your dog's posture is saying Your puppy’s posture is a funny thing: It’s easier to remember if you compare it to yourself or someone you know well. Both pups and people “shrink” when they’re confused, fearful, or anxious; they also rise with excitement. They have a resting pose when life is least stressful, and a few favorite sleeping poses. Observe your pup and note, down to the very last detail, their body language, paying special attention to tail and ear positions. Consider how your puppy will read your posture when something extraordinary happens, like a visitor's arrival. All puppies get excited when people visit: Your home is their den, and the door is the mouth of the den. If you, in your desperation to save face, start shouting and pushing your puppy as someone enters, the whole arrival scene is one big fiasco. Instead of redirecting your puppy or showing calmness by example, you’ve just taught your puppy that greetings are a wild-’n’-crazy scene. Learn to translate your puppy’s postures and to redirect or soothe them when the mood they show doesn’t reflect the scene. You’ll also learn how their ears, eyes, mouth, tail, mouth, and vocalizations can be interpreted — use the following figure and table for quick reference. Reading Your Puppy’s Body Language Body Part Fearful Undecided Relaxed Alert Defensive Eyes Squinting, darting, unfocused Focused or shifting Focused or dozing Attentive, focused Glaring, hard Body Low, arched, pulled back and down, hackles possibly up Shifting from forward to pulled back, approaching but then immediately avoiding the person Relaxed Comfortable posture, leaning toward an interest, moving from side to side, or jumping if excited Pitched forward, rigid, tense Tail Tucked under belly, wagging low Tucked low under belly, arched slightly over the back, or fluctuating between the two Tail down in a resting position Still or gently swinging in a relaxed or slightly elevated position Still above rump or above arched back in a tight, repetitive wag Mouth Pulled back, often in a tense, nervous semi-smile Tense, trembling, or nervous licking Relaxed Panting, normal, possibly parted in a vocalization Tight, unflinching, and possibly parted in a growl or vocalization Puppy eyes: blinking, social gazing Your puppy's eyes will tell you a lot about how they’re feeling, from adoration to hopefulness to outright fear. Learn how you can interpret your puppy's five key expressions to help adjust to eye situations: Relaxed eyes: Notice your puppy’s eyes when you’re enjoying a moment together. Comfortably gazing at you in calm and mutual adoration, pupils (that dark circle in the center of their eye) in proportion to the colored ring, AKA the iris? That’s their relaxed eye. Squinty, appeasing eyes: If your puppy is squinty it means one of three things — they are trying to appease you (or another person or dog), they are slightly fearful (you can tell if they’re rump is lowered), or there is something actually caught in their eye. (Not usual, but if they scratch or rub their eye, you should check.) Hard eyes: A dog who stares with hard eyes and a rigid body is feeling threatened or defensive. If pressed this dog — or puppy — will bite. Whale-eye: This happens, and is not a good thing, when a puppy is so stressed, frustrated, or anxious by a stimulus or situation that you can actually see the whites of their eyes. If this happens to your puppy, do whatever you can to calm them by removing the stimulus or taking them out of the situation. Avoids eye contact: If your puppy avoids your eye contact, they are either feeling overwhelmed by your interactions (are you staring down at them intensely?) or are just trying to ignore you altogether (not an uncommon behavior when they are in their adolescent phase). If you can’t tell right off the bat, check out their other indicators (ears and tail, in other words) to see if they are up (attitude) or down (conflicted). Puppy tails talk Like your puppy’s eyes, the tail is extremely expressive and can be used to gauge how they're feeling throughout the day. As you’ll discover, there’s more to a tail wag than what meets the eye: Its position as well as the tempo of the wag determine whether your puppy is happy or anxious or feeling more assertive. To get a read on your puppy’s tail, observe its position. First, figure out their neutral tail — where it sits in relationship to their rump when they're calm. Using that position as tail-neutral, see whether you can identify these “tell-tail” emotions: Happy: Your puppy will lift their tail slightly and wag it from side to side when they're happy. Excited: When your puppy is excited, they will raise their tail a bit more and wags more frantically; this often happens when you return home. Arched: A puppy who feels threatened (generally a behavior not seen before 7 months of age) may arch their tail stiffly over their rump. This puppy will stand their ground! Proceed with caution! Tucked: A puppy who tucks their tail beneath their body is trying to look small. Often accompanied by cowering, this one is signaling fear or anxiety. Your puppy’s tail wag doesn’t always signal joy. Learn these tempos so that you can distinguish a happy wag from an anxious or aggressive wag: Happy swing: Puppies who wag their tails so hard that their bodies wiggle are extremely happy: Discover what makes your puppy feel this good — maybe a special treat, toy, or happy voice — and use these things to train and reward your pup as often as possible. Sway: A sway is a shorter wag, and the emotion varies depending on where it’s held. A sway on a slightly elevated tail expresses interest or arousal. If the tail is swaying at rump level, your puppy is showing submissiveness. A below-rump sway on a puppy displays fear. Twitch: Twitching tails convey intense emotion. One that’s raised above the rump signals agitation. A low twitch? This puppy is panicking. Want to know just what your puppy thinks about Aunt Edna’s visit? Look at their tail — if it’s wagging on the right side, they’re happy. Tails that wag to the left communicate caution or insecurity. What your puppy's ears are telling you Your puppy will also use their ears to express emotion and will often use them in concert with their tail: Ears and tail up convey confidence and a bold curiosity; ears and tail lowered communicate caution or fear. Learn these poses and all the other ear expressions in between these two extremes. Relaxed: All puppies have different ears. Some flop, others point, and some stand part way up. Study the ears when your puppy is relaxed to determine their resting pose. Seal-like: This adorable, seal-like look is copped when your puppy draws their ears back: When it’s paired with a full swing of their tail, you no doubt have a happy and excited puppy on your hands. Antenna: This is the classic one-up, one-down expression that lets you know your puppy is focusing on two different noises at the same time. Your puppy is one of a very special species that can be tuned into different sounds simultaneously. Did you know your puppy can move their ears independently of one another? This adaptation helps them track sound coming in various directions — neat! Pitched forward: When a puppy pitches their ears forward, they're making a statement: Generally paired with a raised tail and forward body lean, this puppy is trying to make themselves look bigger. Look around you — whatever your puppy is staring at may be causing excitement or frustration. Pinned back: With ears pinned back, and body curved and lowered to the floor the puppy’s message is feeling small and powerless. Mouth: Grin or grumble, stress panting, play panting, yawning Your puppy’s mouth is similar to your own: When cracked in an open, smile-like curve, it generally conveys joy (unless the puppy is panting due to hot weather or excessive activity, like bone chewing, a stint at the dog park, or exhaustive play). A closed mouth is common when a dog is sleeping or playing independently. A tightened lip pout is seen in puppies who are concentrating or doing something unpleasant, such as meeting a new dog or smelling something foul. A growl where facial muscles are tightened and lips are curled communicates that your puppy is feeling either defensive or seriously afraid. Note your pup's mouth positions so that you become fluent in their lip language. Mouth slightly open: A relaxed jaw that’s slightly open is similar to a child’s impish or happy grin. The lips are loose and wrinkle-free. Mouth shut: Dogs generally keep their mouths shut when relaxed or sleeping, but if your puppy closes their mouth in a social situation, pay attention to what’s going on around you. If your puppy is feeling stressed, a tightly clenched mouth or puckered lip communicates growing agitation. Lip licking: Your puppy will lick their lips when they're anxious or overstressed. If you can, remove your puppy from the situation or calm them by holding them to your heart or tucking them behind or beneath you. Taut face, lips in C position: If your puppy’s face is stretched and taut, check their lips for a quick gauge of their emotional state. If your puppy feels threatened or trapped, their lips will pull back into a “c” curve. Taut face, lips in V position: If your puppy is feisty and reactive, clearly ready to take on the world, their offensive reactions can be noted in lips that pull back into a “v” curve. Yawning: Puppies yawn when they're tired, or when copying another dog or person; yawning may also be a way of releasing stress. Keep your puppy’s emotional landscape in mind when determining a mood or emotion. Panting: Your puppy will pant when they're thirsty or hot but may also pant if they're stressed or overstimulated. Keep the situation in mind when interpreting this behavior. Dog barking and other vocalizations Your puppy will have a variety of vocalizations, starting with small, pitiful whimpers when they're newborn and helpless to the ear-splitting, headache-causing yaps of a puppy feeling lonely, frustrated, or defensive. Bratty barking: These puppies want attention! They space the barks out, and the level is monotone and consistent. Stress whining: These puppies want something they can’t have or reach: It might be a toy or your attention or a completely random item — but you’ll know the instant it happens, because it will pull on your heartstrings. Beware, though — if you reward whining, you get more and more and more whining until it becomes a lifelong habit. Reactive barking: These puppies alert to any sound or stimulus. Because the sound is high-pitched and repetitive, your goal will not be to stop your puppy — reactive barkers are born, not made — but to develop an off switch so that you can curb the barking once it starts. Baying, or howling: This is generally a breed-specific sound isolated to hound-type dogs and Nordic breeds. These dogs use their voices to communicate with other dogs and to express frustration when left alone or feeling stressed. Play growl: Puppies often growl during play, especially during confrontational games like tug-of-war, physical wrestling, or face-to-face sparring. It can and should be easily calmed or diffused by redirecting the play to an object or chewing type of toy. Pleasure seeking: Many dogs growl or moan when enjoying a rub or scratch. Unless the sound is paired with a stiff posture and direct, hard-eyed stares, it’s a pleasurable sound. Throaty growl: A warning growl that’s paired with a stare and tense body posture often occurs over resources. It’s common for puppies to communicate their boundaries with other dogs; however, if they’re growling at you, get professional help. Though you can redirect your puppy if this type of aggressive stance continues, it may become a habit. And you know what they say about habits: They’re hard to break. Belly growl: A more serious growl emanates from the belly. This growl means the dog is about to bite. Often paired with raised hackles, flattened ears, and exposed teeth, this dog will lunge and snap or bite the source of its frustration. There’s a direct parallel between dogs who bark and people who yell: See if you can make the parallel. A puppy barks at seeing the neighbors walking their dog. If you yell, your puppy will interpret your raised and frustrated tones as barking. Though your puppy may stop barking for the moment, they’ll go back to barking the next time around, because your yelling was simply interpreted as backing them up. Yelling isn’t helpful. See also "Helping Your Puppy Communicate a Need to Go." Dogs communicate with their fur! Your puppy’s fur is filled with lots of scents that signal — to every dog they meet — their demographics as well as their latest poop-rolling adventure. None of it matters much to us humans, although when their fur stands up on end, take notice. When your puppy’s hair lifts along their spine (technically referred to as piloerection), your pup is trying to tell you how they're feeling at the moment — and it’s not always confident. Pay close attention to these instances On the offensive: A thin line of hair that stands up along the spine and continues down the back. Dogs with this pattern of piloerection may appear overly confident but will likely turn aggressive. Anxious: A broad patch around the shoulders. On the flip side, this pattern is spotted in dogs that are less confident and even fearful. Aroused and conflicted: Patches of hair raised at the shoulders and the base of the tail and no raised hair on the back. This pattern covers a range of reactions that a dog may be feeling, from ambivalent to conflicted. Piloerection is just another fancy word for goose bump. What's the lure of being a dog whisperer? Dogs don’t listen to whispering people. Pride yourself instead on being a dog listener, because taking the time to listen is most important.

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How to Test a Puppy’s Temperament

Article / Updated 09-02-2019

This article gives you 10 quick puppy temperament tests, which you can administer while you’re deciding whether you and a puppy are compatible. Of course, you can’t get a completely accurate snapshot of your adult dog — other factors are equally if not more important, like socialization, training, and consistency — but these tests are a good way for you to determine each candidate’s sensitivities and get a realistic view of their early conditioning. If you’re testing an 8-week-old puppy (a common age for puppies to become available), remember that their brain won’t be fully aroused or awake until they're 12 weeks old. Try to schedule your visit just before feeding or stay for a few hours to watch them during various activities. Test your puppy when they're active, not when they're tired or sleepy. If you have children, involve them. If you have other pets, ask if you can bring them. Some facility staff or breeders may balk, but it's essential that your puppy meet and make a connection to every member of your family. You want your puppy to succeed in your home environment, which means getting along with your sometimes-disgruntled resident schnauzer or your shy 6-year-old son. Finding a puppy who best suits their temperaments can be a plus because not every puppy personality will jive with them. Let children older than 5 take part in the exercises and ask whether other pets can meet your chosen candidates. A puppy’s breed influences their reaction to many of these tests and can skew the results. A retriever breed is more interactive, a terrier is squirmier when restrained (terriers like to stand firm), and smaller breeds are more hesitant when bent over (they’re so tiny and you’re so big) and more reactive to loud noises. Use the puppy scorecard Bring the form shown in the following figure with you when you’re testing puppies. Score each puppy’s response to test items with the following scale: A = Active N = Neutral P = Passive Active puppies are smart and full of fun, which means there will suddenly be a whole lot of life going on under your roof. Spirited and intelligent, active pups are adored by owners who have the time and determination needed to train and socialize them. Neutral puppies are relaxed and undemanding — sort of the regular guys of the dog world. Passive and shy puppies appreciate love and support but are fearful of change, so they do best in consistent environments and with people who have the patience and time for extra socialization. How to perform the puppy temperament tests If possible, do these gentle exercises with each prospective puppy to assess their socialization to everyday handling and sensory comfort levels (how well they adapt to sudden sounds, sights, and commotion, in other words). This will give you insight into the puppy’s personality and how they will mesh with your lifestyle: 1. Observe. You can tell a lot about a puppy before you’ve even said hello. Watch the puppy, for up to 30 minutes when possible, if they're playing with other puppies in order to observe their personality. Do they prefer jumping into group activities (A), hanging in the midst of the activity (N), or staying on the sidelines (P)? Are they stealing the bones (A) or submitting when approached (N or P)? After you’ve observed the pup for a few minutes, assign them a score in the first column. 2. Play. When you first take a puppy aside, play with them, offering both treats and toys if permitted. Do they squirm to get away from you, look anxiously for their littermates, or engage and climb on you like a long-lost friend? Rate their energy level and persistence: Are they hyper or demanding (A), easygoing (N), or just wanting to be petted (P)? Bring out some toys. Do they show interest in them? Do they share willingly, instigate tug-of-war (A), or covet the object immediately? Coveting is an early sign of possessiveness, which may lead to aggression. If being able to play a particular game with your puppy is important to you, see how the pup does with a related toy or activity. 3. Cradle. Cradle the puppy in your arms. Do they relax (P), wiggle a bit, and then relax (N) — or kick like crazy (A)? Which action matches your expectations? See how quickly the puppy recovers after being put down; recovery is measured by how quickly they return to you and willingly takes a treat or engages with a toy. Don’t choose an A type if you have children. That type is bright and engaging, which is a plus if you’re sporty or you want to be involved in obedience or sportier activities like agility or freestyle. 4. Call back. While holding out a treat or a squeak toy, call to the puppy as you back away from them. Do they race after you while jumping or nipping your ankles (A), follow happily (N), or hesitate and need coaxing (P)? 5. Tuck and pat. Kneeling on the floor or sitting in a chair, settle the puppy between your legs. Pet them in long, gentle strokes as you praise them softly. Do they wriggle free as they nip (A), wriggle and then relax (N), or simply melt in your embrace (P)? 6. Bend over. Stand up, stretch, and relax. Now go to the puppy and lean over to pet them. Your doing this may seem overwhelming to the pup because you’re so large and they're so small. Do they jump up to your face (A), cower in confusion (P), or just relax and let it happen (N)? 7. Hold the back leg. In this exercise, you’re testing the puppy’s reaction and sensitivity to discomfort. While petting the puppy, gently lift the back-right leg 2 inches off the floor and hold it for a count of 5 seconds (although either leg would do). Do they react defensively? If so, they're definitely an A type with high pain sensitivity. An N puppy may lick or place their mouth on you gently, whereas a P puppy will show concern. When choosing a puppy for a home with young children, I look for a puppy who has a very low sensitivity to touch — one who barely notices a toe squeeze and doesn’t ruffle at being petted the wrong way or restrained for a short burst of time (fewer than 5 seconds). 8. Startle with sound. When your prospective puppy least expects it, tap two metal spoons together behind their back, then drop them 3 inches from where they're standing. Gauge their reaction: Do they startle and freeze? How quickly do they recover to explore the spoons or take a treat from your hand? If the puppy shows intense spoon interest, score A; a nonchalant glance, an N; and a fear reaction noted by cowering or withdrawal, a P. 9. Do the crash test. Stand and wait until the puppy is no longer interested in you. Suddenly fall to the ground and exclaim “Ouch!” Does the puppy race over and pounce (A), come to sniff or lick your face (N), or cower and run in fear (P)? If you have a family, choose a puppy who rolls with unpredicted reactions and noise. You have enough on your hands without your puppy getting involved. 10. Uplift. Lift the puppy 4 inches off the floor by cradling their midsection. Hold them there for at least 5 seconds. Do they wriggle and bite furiously (A)? Do they relax and look around (N)? Do they look fearful and constrict their body posture (P)? When testing giant breeds, the uplift may not be physically possible. (They’re heavy even at 8 weeks.) You can modify this test by standing behind the puppy and, with two hands supporting their ribcage, gently lifting their front legs 3 inches off the ground. Rating the results After you’ve completed the tests in the preceding section, see how many of each letter (A, N, or P) the puppy scored. Don’t be surprised if you get mixed results. Here are some tips for interpreting the tallied score: All A: This interactive puppy is bright and self-assured. Raising them will take concentration, consistency, and time. Their favorite expression: “What’s next?” All N: Easygoing and contained, this puppy will be pleasant and self-assured, though perhaps not motivated to follow your agenda when it conflicts with their own. Their favorite expression: “Is this necessary?” All P: This puppy has weak self-esteem and needs your reassurance to feel safe. Without proper lessons and socialization, they’ll be shy. Their favorite expression: “It’s been three minutes — do you still love me?” Mix of A and N: This active puppy will want to be in the middle of everything but will show slightly more impulse control when stimulated. Their favorite expression: “Let’s do it again!” Mix of N and P: This puppy will be easygoing and gentle, yet with a stronger sense of self than a completely passive pup. Because they're more composed, they’ll be an ideal puppy for a calm house with or without older children. Favorite expression: “Another back-scratching, please.” If you’ve found a puppy whose score matches what you’re looking for, great! If not, keep looking. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t settle for a puppy who doesn’t quite suit you, just because you’ve been looking for a long time.

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Bringing Puppy into the Digital Age

Article / Updated 09-02-2019

Are you a tech-head? Don’t let adopting a puppy slow you down. Check out the options described in this article for products that can make your life and your puppy's life safer, organized, and more fun. Never attach anything to your puppy that delivers a shock, spray, or vibrating sensation. Marketed as training tools, these items are inhumane and have lasting effects on your puppy’s otherwise trusting and cheerful demeanor. Outlawed in many countries, using these battery-operated items is a big no-no. Two-way camera These devices allow you to watch, record, or interact with your puppy when you can’t be with them. After purchasing the camera, you’ll be instructed to download an app to your phone or tablet. The camera allows you to interact in a variety of ways, from talking to your puppy to dispensing treats, food, or water. A new one allows video chats. Though a camera is convenient and nifty, remember that nothing truly takes the place of your being home. Too much interruption from virtual you may cause anxiety — whereas, left alone, most puppies are quite able to cope with isolation by chewing from a selection of appropriate toys. I often ask my digital clients from around the world to record their puppies’ behavior and share these clips with me before sessions; I send video back (using my dogs, of course), sharing protocols that are as effective as they are fun. Automatic feeder and water fountain These devices can be programmed to allow your dog access to food and fresh water at set times throughout the day. Though fresh water can never be argued with, feeding devices should only be used in a pinch. Meals are better used as rewards for good behavior and offered during social times when you and your puppy are together. Treat dispenser I love a good treat dispenser — it has so many uses. If your dog suffers from isolation anxiety that leads to barking or destruction when left alone, consider a device that can be preprogrammed to dispense food when they settle on their mat and stop barking. These machines can also be used when you’re home to teach your puppy to stay on the mat or to settle down during greetings. App-controlled as well as personalized to release treats when barking stops, a treat dispenser is one conditioning tool that few homes should be without. Tracking collar If the thought of losing your dog keeps you up at night, purchase a tracking collar and rest easy. This device is linked to an app on your phone and allows you to trace your puppy’s whereabouts inside and out. Automatic poop-picker-upper Why stop to scoop when motorized devices or mini robots can scan your yard and clean up the poops for you. I’ve seen these in action — brilliant! Treadmill and hamster wheel Search for the term hamster wheel for dogs. You’re going to get an eyeful. If exercising your puppy inside appeals to you, you’ll have many options, whether you settle on a treadmill or a self-paced running wheel. (Yes, a running wheel looks exactly like a giant hamster wheel for dogs.) Mechanized brush, hair remover, and bathing apparatus If settling on a traditional dog brush and using your sink or shower head to bathe your puppy sound a little boring to you, modern inventions that make bath time zippier and sometimes less stressful await! From circular shower heads to full-body hair dryers and brushes that do most of the work for you, your puppy will be the best-groomed dog on the block. Just take good care to condition your puppy to the feel and sound of these devices before using them. Bluetooth music cube Your puppy won’t like silence and will sleep better with noise. New studies show that dogs respond best to calming noises versus variety in voice and sound. What better way to ensure that your puppy hears calming sounds than to purchase or download music specially created for their ears only? Light-up leash and collar The light-up leash and collar sound like just what they are: Either is a great way to keep track and provide safety in traffic when out after dark. Activity monitor Think Fitbit for dogs. Easily clipped to your puppy’s collar, this item lets you track and record your puppy’s daily activity. All these gadgets, and more, are available just about everywhere you’d normally shop for your puppy products; read reviews before making any purchase to ensure that the one you buy is reliable.

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10 (or So) Dog Games to Play

Article / Updated 09-02-2019

Puppies love to play and, like children, can learn most of their life lessons by playing games and having fun. Think back to your childhood: What are some of your fondest memories? Most everyone learns their most important life lessons — like how to share, use patience, and speak respectfully — in preschool or by playing sports and games with friends and family. Your puppy can learn patience and self-control through play, starting as young as eight weeks old. In this list, you’ll find ten-plus games that are as fun to play as they are educational. Watch as your puppy’s self-control and focus develop right in front of your eyes. Using directions like Wait, Sit, Down, and Come, you’ll play/train quick responses before your puppy has even lost their baby teeth. Puppies love to play Chase, but you’ll notice a theme in the games described here: Always encourage your puppy to chase you, not the other way around. Teaching your puppy to follow you and to drop an item they’re holding for the toy or treat you’re holding is an important habit to instill in a young puppy. Consider the opposite: a puppy who runs when you need them to come or who races off with a forbidden treasure, like your cellphone or one of the kids’ toys. Embedded in the description of the games in this list is the term “Can’t catch me,” which is a fun way to alert your puppy when you need to get their attention. See also "Playing Frisbee with Your Puppy." Find It The Find It game is my dogs’ favorite activity. Anyone can play it (even strangers) to help your puppy’s mood, no matter what’s going on around them. Overall goal: To teach your puppy to look down to find a reward (treat, toy, bone) Use it: Use Find It to give your puppy some mental foraging fun with mealtimes, to distract an overstimulated puppy during greetings, play, or introductions to new people or dogs on a leash, or when spotting a squirrel, car, or bike. If you have an anxious puppy, Find It can infuse stressful situations with a fistful of fun! Directions: Pair Find It with Come, Follow, or Give to teach a quick, happy response and to reward quick responses to other directions, like Sit and On Your Mat. To play: Begin by tossing one treat or kibble on the floor by your puppy’s toes as you say “Find it!” After your puppy catches on, toss the kibble by your own toes. Got that? Now take gradually bigger steps away from your puppy as you say “Find it — Follow.” Eventually, Follow will help your puppy keep up with you and stay close by your feet. When your puppy has the gist of it, you can expand the game, by tossing kibbles on the ground for them to forage or by using this game to distract your puppy during greetings and other distractions. For more ideas, flip to the index: You’ll find Find It there, for sure. Foraging mats are now marketed for dogs, designed to hide away a puppy's entire meal in the cracks and crevices of a durable rug that your puppy can root about in yet cannot destroy. The mat is a great diversion for an active puppy, and you can build in the direction Find It, too. My kids and I love the mats: We spread out a good portion of our dogs’ meals and say “Find it” when we put down their individualized meal. Be sure to check them out. Tug Overall goal: Tug-of-war is a favorite puppy game that is simple to play, and it just happens to be the best way to teach your puppy to “Give” up an object on cue. Notice as you read how the principles of tug-of-war are used to reward puppies for playing a game they love and how treats can be used to teach your puppy the meaning of the word “Give.” Use it: Since your puppy will love to tug on anything, with anyone, teach them to Tug only on their toys and only on cue. Through this simple and fun activity, you will build up your puppy’s self-esteem (I guarantee they’ll get this one right) and you’ll have a handy new way to redirect their excitement and frustration. Remember this one rule however, especially when just starting out: Pocket and position treats strategically around your home so that each time you play “Tug” you can also teach your puppy to let go on cue. Directions: This game has two parts—the Tug and the Give. (See the next section.) Teach them the words independently of one another for 2 days, then pair them together! To play: It’s easy to pair the word “Tug” with the action. Take any of your puppy’s fabric or rope toys, wiggle it until your puppy grabs hold, then say “Tug” as you apply resistance. That’s it. Over time, put a little more umpf into your Tug. Initially, just use a second toy or high value food treat to encourage your puppy’s release. After two days of practicing the Tug and Give separately (as described below) pair them together as instructed. Give (or drop) Overall goal: You want to get an automatic “spit out” reaction whenever you say the word “Give.” The goal is to spit out whatever they’re mouthing, though not necessarily putting it in your hand. Direction: Give Use it: Aside from being a handy playing skill, “Give” has safety features that can’t be argued against. If your puppy has something you value in their mouths or an object that may endanger them, “Give” covers all bases. After you make “Give” less of a demand and more of a direction, your puppy will be eager to share their treasures. Players: “Give” can be taught to puppies early on, so puppies of all ages can play this game. To play: When your puppy is chewing something, whether appropriate or not, approach them with a treat cup or a handheld treat. Hold the treat near their nose, saying “Give” the moment they release the object. If the object is their toy, however, do not take it — let them keep it. If it’s something they (in your opinion) shouldn’t have, reward them with a jackpot of treats as you remove the object calmly. If your puppy runs off with excitement when you approach them, you can practice in a small bathroom to keep them confined. Or, leave a leash on them around the house to enable a calm catch. Rules: If your puppy is growling or clamping the object too tightly, call a professional. Aggression is no joke. Tug Tug Give Overall goal: When playing tug-of-war with your puppy remember this: it’s important to let your puppy win at least 2/3rds of the rounds to start. Some people would insist that you’re being weak, but let’s be real. Your puppy is a lot like a 2-year-old child, science says so, and kids feel happier living in a world where play is interactive not domineering. Directions: Tug and Give. Use it: Use Tug Tug Give for general play and to redirect your pup’s excitement or frustration, especially during greetings or when aggravated by passersby or out of reach animals during walks. To Play: Go into a quiet room with your puppy’s favorite toy. Initially play in the morning or evening when your puppy’s energy level is high. Tell your puppy to Tug as you offer their toy, then pull on it for 3-5 seconds. Place a high value treat or another toy by their nose and say “Give” as they release the toy. Reward them with the treat or instruct them to tug the toy. As your puppy becomes familiar with the game, begin to say “Give” moments before offering the treats, gradually increasing the time until your puppy no longer needs treats to give. Wiggle Giggle Freeze Overall goal: To teach your puppy not to nip or jump when excited and how to stop quickly and look at you when you say “Wait.” Use it: This game is a great energy release and a way to involve kids in teaching a puppy self-control. Supervision is a must. Directions: Wait. To Play: Start with two adult persons and one puppy, adding more players as your puppy learns the rules. Eventually, up to five people can play — but assign only one person the role of Leader — the one who gives the puppy and the rest of the players directions. Go into an open area with your puppy and have the leader tell the players when they can start to wiggle and dance! If your puppy begins to get excited, instruct “Wait.” Repeat “Wait” in a strong voice as you stop abruptly. Toss a toy for your puppy to reward their self-control! Two-Toy Toss Overall goal: To teach early fetching skills and remind your puppy that people are the ones to watch. Use it: Play this game anywhere, anytime, indoors or out. Directions: Fetch, Go Get It, Bring and Give To play: Gather two or more toys or balls. Toss one toy, saying “Fetch” or “Go Get It!” and cheering your puppy on as they race towards their toy. If they turn to you with the ball, say “Good puppy,” but then produce and play with another similar or identical toy as you race away in the opposite direction, saying “Can’t catch me.” If your puppy chases you with the toy, say “Bring,” but don’t demand that they drop the toy at your feet. Puppies, like kids, have to learn to share. If your puppy ends up at your feet with the toy in their mouth, just ignore them as you play with your object. When and if they spit out their toy, say “Give,” requiring that your puppy hold still on all four paws before you toss the toy you’re holding. Now pick up the first toy and start the game over from the top. Play three to five times, and then quit before your puppy loses interest. Avoid chasing your puppy for the toy (or any object, for that matter), because they will see your insistence as confrontational play and prize envy. If you don’t have two toys, use a treat to encourage them to share, but the same rules apply: Four on the floor and calm before you reward your puppy or toss a toy. Your puppy’s ability to track motion and focus doesn’t kick in until about 16 weeks of age, so use short tosses to build their success rate — and don’t lose hope if your puppy loses interest. The chasing impulse develops later. Fishing for Fido Overall goal: Here’s another great predatory and impulse-control game! The goal here is to redirect predatory impulses and encourage following fun! Use it: This game is a great way to teach your puppy important leash skills while having fun and burning off some energy. Directions: Go Get Your Toy, Give. Follow To play: Buy a commercial puppy play pole or make one yourself by tying your puppy’s favorite toy to a pole or stick. Bounce the toy along as you say to your puppy, “Go get your toy!” If your puppy loves to tug, teach them to release on the word Give by periodically waving a smelly treat in front of their nose and rewarding them as they release the toy. If your puppy wants to keep playing even when you don’t, find a strong object or tree to attach the pole to so that they can play when the mood strikes. When using this game on walks, pair the play with “Follow” to encourage your puppy’s cooperation. Swing toss — Can’t Catch Me Overall goal: To release energy and to teach your puppy to run with kids and people without physically jumping or grabbing at them Directions: Can't Catch Me, Follow, Wait To play: Tie a favorite toy or an empty soda bottle (cap and label removed) or non-destructible plastic toy (something your puppy cannot easily clamp down on) to a 10-foot rope; if there is an opening, such as with a bottle, spice up the game by slathering some peanut butter around the mouth of the bottle. In a yard or field, say “Can’t catch me” and run off in an unpredictable direction. As you come to a stop, say “Wait” and let your puppy play or lick the opening. If the yard or field has tall grass, use it as cover to spice up the game. Toy Along, Tag Along (also known as the squeak-toy shuffle) Overall goal: To release energy and teach your puppy to follow along without jumping or nipping at anyone’s ankles. Use it: Toy Along, Tag Along encourages following skills and can be played indoors or out. This game is a great diversion for ankle-happy nippers. To play: Tie a squeak or rope toy to a 4-foot leash or line and attach the other end of the line to your shoelace or ankle. Walk around, doing whatever you do. Puppies love to wrestle moving objects: Better the toy than your ankle. Don’t move too quickly or snap the object out of your puppy’s mouth. If they start to tug assertively, either ignore it or remove the toy from your ankle and clip it to an immovable piece of furniture. Hide-and-seek Overall goal: Hide-and-Seek can be played with people and objects. With people, it teaches your puppy to listen and find you even when they can’t see you; with toys, Hide-and-Seek works on impulse control and nose tracking skills. Directions: Stay, Come, Find <a toy or person by name> To play with toys: Until your puppy learns a strong Stay have one person hold the puppy as you wave and say, for example, “Here’s Piggy.” (The choice of toy is up to you.) At first, just hide Piggy behind your back for three to five seconds, and then bring Piggy back into view as you say, “Where’s Piggy?” and reward your puppy the moment they nose the toy. Soon your puppy will note Piggy’s whereabouts — now you’re ready to play the game. Have someone hold your puppy, or leave them in a short Stay. Stand back ten feet, again hide Piggy behind your back, and say, “Where’s Piggy?” Reward your puppy the moment they find Piggy. Now hide Piggy somewhere else nearby, and when your puppy runs over, point to wherever Piggy is hiding out. Gradually hide Piggy in more challenging places and show your puppy how to sniff for the toy if they ever get confused by getting down to their level and pretending to sniff about. To play with people: If you’re alone, you can hide from your puppy and call them by name. Make the hiding spots easy at first, around a nearby tree or piece of furniture so that your puppy wins every time. If your puppy is playing with multiple people, use treat cups to encourage a positive association with leaving one person and racing to another. The player whose name is spoken should kneel down and shake the treat cup as they call out the puppy’s name and say “Come”; other players should stand silently and ignore the puppy. As your puppy gets better at seeking, increase your distance, eventually hiding in increasingly more concealed spots. When they catch on, you can play outdoors on a long line or in a fenced enclosure. Avoid correcting your puppy if they lose interest—limiting game time ensures fun. Don’t forget to call to your puppy as you shake the cup; doing so helps them find you. Superball soccer Overall goal: To release energy and teach puppy to chase toys instead of people. Use it: Play indoors or out, using similar balls or durable plastic bottles. Directions: Go Get It Players: Any number can play. Play with one more ball or plastic recyclable bottle than there are people playing so that no one challenges or accidentally kicks the puppy in the face. To play: Go into an open room or field with your puppy, placing multiple balls or bottles on the ground. After your puppy sniffs the objects, nudge one with your toe. Once your puppy engages with that object, move on to another, gradually increasing the engagement until your puppy is fully into the game. Now’s the time to add other people to the play field. Just make sure everyone knows the rules — always kick a different ball than the one your puppy is playing with. Soccer involves only your feet. Keep your hands out this game and remind your kids, too — lest the puppy think that jumping on them is more fun.

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Teaching Commands for Puppy Obedience

Article / Updated 03-30-2019

To train your puppy, pair the following basic puppy command words with each specific action and use them consistently. Give positive reinforcement with treats and attention, and start early: The younger your puppy is when you start, the more attentive she will be to directions and ideas. “Follow”: This command says, “I’m the leader, so follow me!” Say it whenever you’re leading your puppy on leash. “Sit”: This direction is the human equivalent of “Say please.” Direct your puppy to sit before giving her anything positive, from meals and treats to toys, or when greeting strangers or friends. “Down”: Directing “Down” helps your puppy calm down whenever you’re going to be stationary for a while. “Stay”: This direction instills good impulse control. Direct your puppy to stay whenever you want her to be still. “Wait”: Use this direction for sudden stops or at curbs. It says, “Stop and focus on me before proceeding.” “No”: This direction is the human equivalent of “That’s a bad idea” instead of “You’re bad.” Use it if you catch your puppy thinking about misbehaving. Everyday instructions: Assign a command to everyday actions like going upstairs, going outside, coming inside, getting in the car, and so on.

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