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Dogs, by nature, are social animals. In the wild they live in small family groups with each dog aware of its status within the group. Born into the group, the puppies learn from experience and observation of other family members and their behaviour towards other dogs, people and objects is formed by this.

When we take puppies into our homes they will already have formed some attitudes towards people and objects from observation of their mother and their experiences from time of birth. Research has shown that it is best for a puppy to be settled into a new home before 10 weeks old and an important age for adaptation to strange sounds and sights is prior to 16 weeks old.

From an early age the puppy must be taught to accept handling, not only by its owners but also by visitors to the household. The puppy should be placed in a sitting position before being patted. It should be conditioned to allowing the ears, teeth and feet to be handled and examined. It is important that the puppy learns to accept having food removed from its mouth and its feed bowl touched while it is eating as this reduce the chances of aggression over food. It is of utmost importance that the puppy is never teased with food.

Praise for acceptance of handling will help enforce correct behaviour in the puppy. Once the puppy has had its vaccinations it should be introduced to the wide world. For their own safety, and also to comply with the law, dogs should never be on the street unless on a lead. The dog should walk on a loose lead on the owner's left side with the dog's head level with the owner's left leg.

The young dog should be taken into busy areas where people will stop to pat it and it will be subjected to the hustle and bustle of crowds and traffic. Many dogs accompany owners on car trips, but even if it is not intended that your dog will be a regular traveller in the family car it is still necessary to familiarise it with car travel. There will be times, such as trips to the vet, when the dog will be a passenger in the car and a frightened or excited dog can be a dangerous distraction to the driver. The puppy should be encouraged to sit quietly on the rear seat and preferably be restrained by a dog seat belt.

Puppies will frequently not have completed the course of vaccinations for immunity against infectious diseases until near 16 weeks old so it is necessary to balance the puppy's need for education and socialisation against safeguarding it from disease.

Many veterinary clinics run "puppy pre-school" classes where owners can learn about pet care and also how to develop correct behaviour in their pup, and the pup can interact with people and other pups - all in a safe environment.

Petcare Information and Advisory Service Australia

Last Update: 31/05/07 11:22 Views: 3732

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