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Everyone loves puppies, right? They are fluffballs, they are clumsy, they have puppy breath! All too quickly they grow up into adult dogs. But not everyone is aware of the different stages of mental and emotional development these puppies go through. The behavior pups display as they go through these phases can baffle owners and the best way to deal with these behaviors can be counter intuitive to some people.

Often puppies get placed in their new home at around 2 months of age. It would be beneficial if puppies could stay with their mother and siblings a couple of weeks longer, but 2 months is very common. This time is when both the human socialization and first fear impact period start. At this stage, the puppy has a short attention span and needs plenty of rest. A lot of experiences and things the puppy learns, will have a lifelong impact. the puppy should be exposed to new situations, people, environments, but fewer quality experiences are better than plenty experiences with some possibly bad ones mixed in.

The first fear impact period begins when the pups would have started to explore the area around the den where the mother is rearing them. They could have run into something dangerous like a predator and the encounter will leave a permanent impression, something that the pups will want to avoid for the rest of their lives. Sometimes people will adopt a dog and find out the dog is afraid of men. They suspect that the dog was abused, but it could just be that a man startled the pup during the first fear impact period. Dogs can become afraid of people with sunglasses, people wearing hats, they can become afraid of certain sounds. Please realize that your pup is the judge of what is threatening and don’t force him to do something that makes him afraid. Be patient and reward incremental steps to help your pup overcoming things that make him afraid.

The next stage of development has the confusing name of the seniority classification. This is the time that the permanent teeth are growing. You will find your pup chewing on about everything. We still have to be gentle with our sensitive pup, even when it might act out and experiment with new and sometimes aggressive behaviors. Reward the behavior you want and redirect them to chewing on their own things.

Around 4 to 8 months pups are going through the flight period. The are becoming a bit more confident and want to start explore things further away. Now they will often ignore you when you call them because the world is so fascinating! While they would have stayed close to you before, they now might ignore you. Your pup is still emotionally sensitive. Never punish your pup when he takes off and then comes back to you. Always reward when your pup comes back. Be patient!

The next phase is the most baffling to owners, it is the second fear impact period. All of a sudden, things that your pup is familiar with and that he used to enjoy, seem scary. Your pup gets apprehensive, we see this a lot at the ranch and it worries the owners. Did something happen, why is my dog afraid? It is a normal part of growing up for the dog and we have to be patient, encourage the dog and reward the behavior we want. Your pup will get through this!

Dogs will experience adolescence and that is the subject of another newsletter, since so many people struggle with this and there is plenty to say about it. Dogs enter maturity between 1 to 4 years, with smaller breeds maturing faster than bigger breeds. Your dog becomes confident. This is the time to watch for resource guarding behaviors. Your dog becomes more serious and aggressive behaviors can become more serious. Aggression is a tool in our toolbox of survival skills that we all possess and so do dogs. If you are concerned about this, seek help. We are animal care providers, we study dogs and their behaviors all the time and, as the commercial says, we know a thing or two because we have seen a thing or two. We can also refer you to professionals who can help with issues that are beyond the realm of what we work with.

As we are growing and evolving, we realize that we are more and more becoming a dog life style center. We want to know the dogs in our care, we want our clients to share our philosophy and to be able to communicate with them what we see. Together we take care of your dog and set him up for success. We are not a drop off place for dogs. We feel it is not fair to the dogs to bring him to a dog care facility unprepared and we cannot give those dogs the level of care that they deserve, simply because the time and effort was not put into it. Through these newsletters I hope to explain our philosophy and let dog owners know things they might have simply not known before of thought of.

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Dirk Broersma