|Dogs, Summer and Behavioral Issues|
This article first appeared in the June 2015 edition of the Downeast Dog News.
Summer, a time of year that most of us look forward to and a common time for people to get a new puppy, a new dog, to go to or host family gatherings, and to deal with the fireworks. All of these things can have positive and negative effects on our dog's behavior, depending on how we handle them. These are some tips you can use to make the most of your summer for you and your dog.
Getting A New Puppy
Summer is often a great time to add a puppy to the family. I know I find dealing with housetraining and those frequent trips outside much more enjoyable in the summer than the dead of winter. Additionally, due to vacation time and little or no school activities, a family often has more time to socialize, train and play with a new puppy in the summer.
Socializing and habituating your puppy to many different people and different types of people, different places and things is extremely important if you want a well-adjusted adult dog. This is often easier to accomplish in the summer due to better weather, increased free time and the fact that more people are out and about. A puppy’s critical socialization period goes from 8 weeks to 16 weeks of age. If you choose to get a puppy in the summer you want to make sure you will be at home and available to actively socialize your pup during this period. In other words, it would be a bad time to take a vacation.
Socialization is not difficult but should be actively planned so that you are making sure it is a positive experience for your puppy. For example, exposure to lots of new people in a controlled setting is good; taking your puppy to a parade, street festival, or large family gathering would likely be overwhelming and would not be a good idea. For more information on socialization, checkout the article entitled Socialization & Habituation at our website (greenacreskennel.com) in the articles section under the category dog behavior and training.
Another important lesson for a puppy to learn any time of the year is how to be alone. Dogs are social animals and most enjoy regular, predictable social contact. If that social contact is not available it can result in separation anxiety. This is often more likely to be a problem for puppies that join families during the summer as family members are home during more hours during the summer months than they may be at other times of the year. From day one you need to be leaving your puppy alone for some period of time every day. For tips on that, check out my article titled Alone Training at our website (greenacreskennel.com) in the articles section under the category dog behavior and training.
A puppy headstart class is one of the most important training classes for any new dog, no matter how many dogs you have had in the past. Summer time is a great time to enroll your puppy in their first class. The best time to start is when your puppy is 8 to 10 weeks of age.
Getting A New Dog
Summer can also be a good time to get a new adult dog simply because you will have more time to help your new family member to settle in to your home and your family’s routine. Just like with a puppy, you may need to do some preliminary housetraining and you will also want to make sure you teach this new dog how to be alone as well; especially if your family routine will change at the end of the summer.
All dogs benefit from training classes, even older dogs. Often dogs end up at a shelter or rescue because they have had little or no training. If you get a dog during the summer, try to schedule your vacation around their training classes so you don’t miss classes because you will be away.
Training classes are often outdoors in the summer, weather permitting, which gets you an opportunity to work more on outside types of behaviors like walking nicely on leash and coming when called.
Not all rescue dogs will be ready for a training class when you first bring them home. If you have a dog that is rather unsettled or anxious around people and/or other dogs, a group training class could be counter-productive. Two years ago when we adopted Muppy, in May, my wife and I elected to not start here in a group class until fall, after she become more acclimated to the busy hub-bub of our lives. However, if you defer starting a class until fall I would not wait until then to talk to a professional trainer to get some tips on helping your dog settle in.
Summer is a time for friends and family get togethers, whether it is for holidays like the Fourth of July, events like family reunions or weddings or just because. Depending on your pet’s temperament, these can range from good times to scary events. These simple rules will help you keep your pet safe during the festivities.
Fireworks and the Fourth of July
Fireworks, with their loud booms and bright flashes of light can be very frightening to pets. If they’re right in your backyard or your neighbor’s backyard they can be not only be frightening but can pose a danger to our pets. Keep your pets inside during any personal firework activity. If you go someplace to see the fireworks I would advise you to leave your pet at home in a safe quiet location. They’ll be glad you did.
Last year I received more phone calls and emails from people concerned about their pet’s reaction to fireworks than ever before. I suspect most would prefer the legislature repeal the law that made the sale of fireworks legal or that municipalities would take a more vigorous approach to enacting ordinances regulating their use and then aggressively enforcing those laws. If the use of fireworks is irritating you and your pets call your selectmen and complain – even if it’s midnight or 1AM.