February 2013

Pet Secton: Dog and Human Bonding: Start Early

Author: Abby Bird aka Alphadog

Sharing your life and home with a new puppy is not merely a matter of housebreaking and training your dog to sit. The most important things to share are your patience, guidance, trust and bonding skills. By following some simple early bonding techniques, your special family relationship will be more complete.

If you have time before you pick up your puppy, take a T-shirt that you have slept in or a small lightweight towel and have each family member rub it over the upper part of his or her body; place it in a Ziploc plastic bag and send it to the breeder. Ask the breeder to hold the dog in his lap, have the dog smell it and rub the dog’s shoulders with it. When the pup meets you, it will recognize your scent, which facilitates the early bonding process.

Additionally, when you pick up the puppy (or in advance), take or send to the breeder a small dog blanket shaped toy. Ask the breeder to rub the blanket part of the toy with the scent of the dog’s mother and siblings and send that home with the new pup. This will make the dog feel more comfortable moving off to a new home without all the familiar scents. Keep both of those items in the puppy’s crate for the first week.

If you do not have the time to do this before you get your pup or if it is not appropriate since your puppy is coming from a local rescue or shelter, then you can modify the above. Bring your scented item with you and hold the pup on the item on your lap on your ride home (assuming you are not driving!); put the item in the crate with the puppy at home. Wear a scent that you usually wear, whether it is a body spritz or after shave, and continue wearing that scent for days.

The first few days with the new four-legged family member are critical. Acquire the puppy when you have some time to spend at home since leaving it alone immediately will cause stress. You need to learn the puppy’s potty behaviors, set schedules, and let it explore its new but limited universe. If children are involved, you will also begin puppy/kids training and rules, limited and supervised time, watching the behavior of both, redirecting incorrect behaviors, guiding and teaching the correct way of touching and playing with appropriate long toys and equipment. Never leave a young child alone with a puppy. Your puppy is not malicious but comes equipped with small sharp teeth and uses them on other small beings, including puppy siblings and playmates!

There are rules if you have other dogs in the household, however, only some affect human bonding. Allow only limited and supervised time between the dogs. Instead, tether the puppy to you several times a day so that it learns to follow you around. It is critical that your new puppy sees you, the human, and not the other dog as the leader. Dogs will naturally gravitate to dogs, but this will interfere with the human bond early on. This is difficult to do, but you will see the benefits later if you adhere to this now.

The puppy imprint period begins at eight weeks, and the window for best learning ends at 20 weeks. In ideal circumstances, bring your puppy to a group training class around nine- to ten-weeks of age for obedience, behavior, and socialization with other pups.

Daily homework also facilitates the bonding process. One-on-one time and attention, praise, treats and confidence building is the best thing you can do. Training should be a family endeavor, so be sure to include everyone old enough to participate to ensure a complete bond.

Alphadog Training Academy is located in Bluffton. For more information, contact Abby Bird at ajbird@hargray.com or (843) 304-4327.

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