Puppy Mouthing and Handling Tips
I’ve been dog-less for quite a while now. I’ve been taking my own advice in that I believe that just because someone wants a dog doesn’t mean in many respects they’re ready for one. Because I get invited to speak at so many conferences I fly fairly frequently so I’ve been worrying about the time away. I can’t always bring a dog with me and I have no immediate family to leave a dog with when I go away so I’ve been hesitant about succumbing to my desire to have a dog in my life.
I’m fortunate though in that because I work with dogs I’ve had a decent bridge that has sustained me but in recent months I’ve found that my time with other people’s dogs has been acting less as a “fix” and more of a reminder that it’s time so I’m getting closer to taking the leap and looking for logistics solutions.
Socialization is so important to creating temperament that I’m inclined towards starting from scratch with a puppy. Outside of socialization it got me thinking about making a to-do list of important things best to acclimatize a dog while still a puppy that are often left too late and so I thought I’d share a partial list.
Socialization is a lot easier if a pup is taught to lighten up with the puppy mouthing. People think this is just teething and normal and usually let it go on far too long when it comes to contact with people. The pup is looking for a response. Trust me the response it gets from its mother is “Don’t do that again!” and the pups learn to inhibit their mouthing with her and can with us.
I’m not a fanatic about fancy obedience when they’re little but I do believe in teaching puppies to be “still” when they’re being held/handled so that’s on my list too.
Once they know how to be still I can teach them to be still while I’m simulating having their ears carefully examined, pretending to put eye drops in, simulating putting a pill down their throat, having teeth and gums examined and having their feet handled.
Speaking of which, a pup’s feet, right down to individual toenails should be handled multiple times daily, actually simulating nail clipping with real nail clippers in hand; even if you have no intention of doing it yourself. Taking it a step further, any breed requiring grooming should be exposed to hair dryers and electric clippers multiple times daily a little at a time before they are exposed to them at a groomers. They should also go for multiple cookie runs to the groomers (and the vets) long before they actually go for the real thing.
Some breeds just don’t have a natural coat for northern climates but even if they do I think getting them used to having something slipped over their heads and legs while they’re young is a good idea. For instance, my dogs enjoyed carrying their own backpacks on hikes.
I’m also going to get my next dog used to wearing boots because my dog will likely be a working dog and some of the terrains he might to work may have things that he might cut himself on or have chemicals he might lick from them.
I think that in addition to getting a dog used to these sort of things it’s important to add multiple handlers so the dog is just as relaxed whether it’s the vet, groomer or a friend performing some of these tasks.