The Star-Herald

Raising puppies

Puppies, like human children, are vulnerable. Their development and growth depends on how they are treated early on and human behaviors can influence their responses into adulthood. 

Knowing how our actions affect puppies can help support them as they grow and provide them with a nurturing and safe environment. Here are some ways you can help your puppy grow up happy and healthy.

While it is common knowledge that puppies should stay with their mothers until seven weeks, prospective pet owners may not know that negative consequences can result from removing puppies from their mothers too soon. Research suggests that this deprives puppies of important social interactions that take place within their litter and with their mothers. Common behavioral problems when puppies are separated too early are destructiveness, excessive barking, fearfulness, nipping, reactivity to noise, and resource guarding.

Socialize your puppy the right way:  Socialization is an important part of raising a well-rounded and happy puppy, especially between four and 14 weeks, which is an important time of learning and discovery. However, for the puppy to benefit, the experience itself must be positive, such as allowing them interaction with well-trained, friendly dogs and having people give them treats. Make sure the puppy is vaccinated and dewormed before allowing interaction with other dogs.  What they learn during this time will stick with them long into their dog years. 

Don’t excessively pick up or carry your puppy: Getting a new puppy is exciting. Adorable faces and tiny paws make it difficult to resist picking up and hugging young puppies. However, most young pups that spend their early months being constantly scooped up, held to the chest or face and cooed at, dislike being picked up and may find it scary, uncomfortable and even painful without us realizing it. Puppies that are picked up and forcibly cuddled can come to hate being touched. If too many of their interactions with people involve physical contact that they don’t enjoy, they may try to avoid it. As a result, they may react with aggression or attempt to run away or hide when people come near them or reach for them.  Less commonly, some puppies may like being picked up and seek it out. These may solicit being picked up but hesitate to explore or adventure out on their own. Being picked up too much can cause problems in dogs of any size, but it is more likely the smallest ones who face a relentless series of pick-ups on a daily basis. 

Train your puppy in a positive, loving way:  During your puppy’s sensitive period (four and 14 weeks), your puppy is learning about the world around it so it is essential it is a positive time. It is important that like socializing, all training is done in a loving way. Avoid yelling at your puppy or using its name as a punishment. Instead, practice positive reinforcement training with your puppy using treats and make sure to give it lots of affection to reward good behavior. 

Puppies look to their owners to provide a safe and loving environment for them to learn and grow. Make sure you give your puppy everything you have, as the things it experiences during this time will have a strong impact on it for the rest of its life. This shouldn’t be difficult for pet owners – who wouldn’t want the best for their tail-wagging, belly-scratch loving, head-tilting fur baby? More great tips can be found at  Please be responsible, spay and neuter your pets.

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the board of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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