Fear stages in puppies – Cambridge Puppy Training

fear stages in puppies

I have been asked many a time by owners why their seemingly confident little pup has suddenly become fearful. This can manifest itself as a fear of anything in the environment, from people to dogs to dustbins! Your once relaxed little pup who would stride by anything and everything with ease, suddenly seems to have a minor meltdown at the mere sight of an outstretched hand or a dustbin in front of your home. But why does this occur? What is going on?? And most importantly, what can we do about it?

Firstly, it is important to remember our pups go through quite a few developmental stages during the course of their first 2 years. It may seem quite clear cut, we get our puppy at 8 weeks, we bring them home and as long as we socialise them adequately then our job is done and we should have a confident and fulfilled dog at the end, right?? Well, maybe. There are however stages that it is important to be aware of along the way.

One of these stages is termed the ‘fear period’ or ‘fear imprint stage’. This is a stage in which your pup will seemingly out of the blue develop a fear or anxiety about something which has likely previously held no meaning. Something very normal like a person in the street, or something a bit more obvious like traffic or other dogs. This may display itself via avoidance behaviours ie. hiding behind you or pulling back away from the object, you may see a change in body posture from a relaxed tail carriage to a ‘tucked under’ tail and a ‘deer in the headlights’ expression.

Fear periods can occur twice in a pups development, the first is around 8-10 weeks old, and the second between 6-14 months (nicely coinciding with the adolescent stage which brings a whole new set of behaviours in itself!). The puppy will respond in a more fearful way to anything which it may deem ‘traumatic’. Something which is likely not traumatic, will be perceived by your pup as pretty scary and something to be avoided. It is also at this stage that events will have more of an impact than at any other time, so in short, it’s a pretty important period of time all round! The fear stage is not limited to NEW experiences or stimuli which is important to remember, it may be something that your pup has seen every day since being with you and something he has paid no attention to at all, or even enjoyed, up until now. So, to define, a fear period is a stage in which a puppy may perceive new or familiar stimuli as a threat.

We can see, biologically, why this stage may occur. A puppy at this age is just starting to ‘fly the nest’ and any wrong move or misjudgement about what is/isn’t ‘safe’ will effect survival chances. Also, the first fear stage will coincide with when a pup is leaving his mum and siblings and going off to a brand new unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people and stimuli.

So, what can we do to help our pups if we feel they are going through a fear stage??

There’s a few things to consider:

  • Bond – bond with your puppy! Via training, communication, and patience. Gain your pups trust and engage with him daily. Encourage focus behaviours ie. eye contact, practice engagement training (look back at my blog articles if you’re unsure how), and work on handling techniques to gain a solid level of trust between you both.
  • Make it FUN – use treats/favourite toy to help build positive associations with every new experience your pup has! Take things at your pups pace, don’t force interactions, let your pup make a choice as to how far he wants to engage with the environment around him. Encourage, praise progress, and keep a light-hearted tone in your voice. There is actually no evidence to suggest you can reinforce an emotion (fear is an emotional response to an event/object), however there is no need to go overboard with your ‘cuddling’ if your pup is fearful! Reassurance yes, panic-stricken cuddling, probably best not.
  • Use calming aids – I have said before that the scientific evidence behind such tools ie. Adaptil plug-ins and collars is far from conclusive, but, I can tell you some people swear by them so they are worth consideration I feel!
  • Use a set up – set up ‘pretend’ situations! Your pup is worried about people going by when walking? Ask a friend to help with gradual desensitisation. Your pup is scared of dustbins? Spend some time every day building positive associations with the dustbins! Pup is scared of the vets table? Ask your vet if you could have a ‘social visit’ with just treats/cuddles and fun! They will not mind!
  • Sleep – ensure your pup is getting enough sleep! Inadequate sleep leaves a pup unable to learn, process information and will likely be more sensitive to situations.
  • Stay calm!!! – the first thing we do when our pup is worried is worry ourselves! Stop yourself, think clearly, what can I do to improve this? How can I change my pups emotional response to this object? There will be a way, so just calmly work through it.
  • Ask for advice – if you are unsure, don’t go through it alone, ask a professional for advice!

Although it may seem like a worrying time, your once confident little pup is suddenly worrying about something entirely meaningless and inconsequential, try to stay calm. Don’t build it into more of an issue than it needs to be, stay relaxed and simply work out a plan to try and change your pups view of the ‘scary thing’. It’s perfectly do-able.

There is, as stated above, a second ‘fear stage’, however I am a puppy trainer and try to limit topics as much as possible to puppyhood so I will refrain from delving into it too much! If you need more information regarding this second stage just get in touch.

I do cover the developmental stages our pups go through during my 1-2-1’s so if you feel you are struggling with anything mentioned just get in touch!

Email: puppies@cceg.co.uk
Web: http://www.cambridgepuppytraining.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cambridgpuppytraining
Instagram: @cambridgepuppytraining

Jumping up in puppies! – Cambridge Puppy Training

jumping up

Jumping up is a normal and common behaviour puppies display. It certainly isn’t unusual to be greeted by a puppy with paws all over your legs. Largely, this occurs because it has been reinforced from the very beginning. The first time your pup does this, he will likely be extremely young and extremely small!! The recipient of the ‘jump’ will likely put their hands down, stroke, and say how cute your puppy is. This isn’t unusual, I think we are all guilty of a little bit of ‘over-tolerance’ when it comes to puppy jumping, however this serves to reinforce the behaviour. So, what can we do about it? And how can we teach our pups NOT to jump up?

I have briefly touched on jumping up before, but not in too much depth and if we’re honest I think most puppy owners will face this issue at some point. I do offer advice regarding jumping up, beyond what is covered here, in my 1-2-1’s so if you ARE struggling just get in touch.

Firstly, it is important to say that as mentioned above, this is not an unusual behaviour. Not only does a behaviour such as jumping up get reinforced from the beginning, it is also a natural behaviour for puppies to perform. Their first inclination is to get nearer to either our hands, our faces, or our treats!! All of which are out of reach if ‘all 4 are on the floor’. If you watch puppy play, it is largely unregulated in those early weeks and manners are often somewhat lacking! Pups will leap, jump, bundle, bat, and mouth……all in the name of play. So it is of little surprise they see fit to treat us in much the same way until shown different. As stated above, jumping up works, it results in a rewarding response (our attention), so we can see how it then develops into a behaviour which is performed whenever a person approaches.

It is important to mention not ALL dogs are ‘jumpers’, breed differences, personality, genetic predisposition and reinforcement history will all play a part. However I would hazard a guess that at some stage, most pups due to their opportunistic tendencies, will have a go at jumping up. This may seem all very sweet when we have a tiny little puppy, and indeed if you have a small breed again it may not seem like a big issue. However, if you have a larger breed of dog, or quite simply would like to instil some self control into your puppy regardless of breed, it needs to be under control from as early an age as possible. I should also add, some people don’t actually mind their dogs jumping up at people they know. As long as they are not causing distress, concern or worry in any way to the public (ie. jumping at strangers etc) then I am a firm believer in each to their own. What works for you and your dog is what is best.

So, what can we do about jumping up??

We have a few things we can do, ideally all in conjunction with one another.

Firstly, before our pup even starts to jump up or display the behaviour, we’re going to show our pups what we WANT them to do. This isn’t something we start doing AFTER our pup has started leaping at every person it passes in the street, this is something to be doing from the very beginning. If, each time your pup jumps up at you, you say ‘off’ or ‘down’, your pup may well comply and he may put all 4 feet on the floor. HOWEVER, be mindful of just how clever our pups are. They will very quickly learn that when they jump up, you say ‘off’, they then get off and get a reward. They ARE that clever. So, when you come home, or when you walk into the room etc, as your pup starts running towards you (or the second you get in the door) immediately mark (ie. YES, or clicker) and put a treat on the floor for your pup, before his feet even leave the ground. Your pup will then look up at you again as you’re walking through, immediately mark and put a treat on the floor. Keep repeating every single time you come through the door. We are not ‘asking’ our pup to do anything, but we are marking and rewarding an offered behaviour of ‘all 4 on the floor’. If you find you weren’t quick enough, and your pup has leapt at you, step to the side to get the paws off and completely ignore. Try and remember that interaction isn’t simply ‘talking’ to our pups, it’s touching, it’s eye contact, it’s verbal (even a firm voice!). If you are not quick enough with your marker and reward, walk away.

Secondly, we’re going to start working on our ‘settle’. Encouraging our pup to ‘settle’ is hugely beneficial, not only will this be incredibly useful throughout your pups life in varying situations, it will really help to improve your pups ‘self-calming’ skills.

Thirdly, we are going to work on impulse control and general self control exercises. Leaving food/toys of high value when asked, offering eye contact, stay exercises, and proofing these. Practicing and proofing a solid sit/stay or down/stay will be very helpful, it can be used as an incompatible behaviour to jumping up. I would be cautious of attempting this with visitors when your pup is very small, it’s highly unlikely a young pup will have the patience or reserve to perform a stay when a guest arrives! A stay is a ‘passive’ behaviour and whilst we aim to encourage these, we need to be realistic in our training goals and possibly think of an ‘active behaviour’ for our pups early on. However, start practicing these, it will pay dividends in the long run and serve to keep arousal levels low generally. Try practicing ‘fast movements’ and click and put a treat on the floor when your pup keeps ‘all 4 on the floor’. Rush about, run up and down, jump around, WATCH your puppy, you will see when they are about to jump, get in before they take any feet off the floor, click and drop a treat down. Use a high rate of reinforcement to start off with, make slight movements at first, and build it up. Remember this isn’t something we are ‘correcting’ once it has started, it’s something we are showing prior to any jumping starting.

Fourthly, use reward stations! I wrote a blog post about reward stations the other day, have a look back! Maybe your front door would be an ideal place for a reward station?

Lastly, ask people to ignore your pup until you have done what you need to do. People WILL understand. I know I certainly would and I would be pleased someone has the good sense to ask me to wait before approaching their pup. Interestingly, nobody ever has, and I have met a LOT of puppies. Also, if somebody is keen to cuddle your pup (as most people will be!) try asking them to help you, ask them to approach slowly whilst you ‘click and drop treats’ etc. If your pup gets too excited ask them to take a step back and work up slowly again. People will like helping a little puppy in their training! I know we are all guilty of cuddling puppies when they approach but there are a few ways we can stop a pup jumping on us even if they don’t belong to us. Whilst we are saying hello we can put a finger in the collar to limit any feet coming off the floor. We can also get a treat out (if we have one!) and immediately throw it on the floor, or lastly ask for a sit when we approach a pup or they approach us. We can also completely ignore/turn our backs if any feet come off the floor. Or, quite simply, we can ask the owner if it’s OK to say hello! Something I am sure we could all do more of.

So, whilst jumping up is a normal behaviour for a puppy to display, it is one that continues because it is reinforced. Show our pups how to behave upon greeting before jumping even STARTS to become the ‘norm’ and we may set our pups up for success. Teach incompatible behaviours, teach self-calming behaviours and focus exercises and teach our pups to control their impulses!

This is a normal and common behaviour as I said, and I do cover this in my 1-2-1’s so do get in touch if you need more information.

Email: puppies@cceg.co.uk
Web: http://www.cambridgepuppytraining.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cambridgepuppytraining
Instagram: @cambridgepuppytraining

Separation anxiety in puppies – Cambridge Puppy Training

separation anxiety in puppies

Separation anxiety is a common and quite distressing problem for dogs. Many dogs develop separation anxiety largely due to them never having to face the prospect of ‘being alone’. In puppies in particular, we can see why separation anxiety may occur. They have left all they have ever known, been put into a strange and unfamiliar environment, and when the one thing they DO cling to (you) leaves, they simply do not know how to cope. So, what can we do about it? And more importantly, how can we prevent it even starting?

Firstly, let’s look at what separation anxiety is. Separation anxiety, or isolation anxiety, displays itself when a puppy is unable to cope with being left alone. I’m sure we have all at some stage felt a little anxious or uneasy at certain points, maybe your first day in a new job and it’s daunting and scary and you just want the familiarity of home, or your first day at university when you really don’t’ know if you can cope and again want to run home! Well these feelings to us are merely a normal emotional response to a new and daunting challenge, we have the ability to see these feelings for what they are and the context they are felt in. However, for our pups, it’s a bit harder. Our pups develop a very real and strong attachment to US, so when we leave, without prior preparation and conditioning for this, it can be hugely traumatic for our pups.

So, how does separation anxiety begin in the first place?

  • A puppy who has never had to cope alone, or never been left alone.
  • A puppy who has had a frightening incident at home ie. fear of the washing machine sound, fireworks have given pup an irrational fear of a certain room of the house etc.
  • Rescue dogs – not always, but a dog who has been moved about a fair amount may develop anxiety when left alone (understandably!).
  • Genetics – exactly what it says! Genetic predisposition to the behaviour.

How does separation anxiety display itself? What will we see?

  • A shadow – does your dog follow you around the house, everywhere, even to the bathroom?
  • Obvious signs of distress – pacing, scratching at the door/flooring, whining, barking, howling, urinating/defecating.
  • Physiological signs of distress – increased HR, increased respiration, dilated pupils, restless, unable to lay down, moving constantly.
  • Destruction – often this can be something with your scent on ie. slippers, clothing, sofa cushions etc, and leaving a little ‘den’ of destruction! We have all seen images of such destruction on Facebook I am sure, the dog chewed up cushions and the debris is all around him and he is in the middle!
  • Overly-excited greetings – an overly boisterous and over-aroused greeting when you return.

Ok, so we know why separation anxiety may develop, and we know what to look out for, but what exactly can we do about it? We can prepare our pups from early on, it’s really the only way. We need to gradually and positively habituate our pups to being on their own. This IS easily done, even if you have a pup who is already showing signs of distress when you are not there.

I cover the prevention of separation anxiety in my 1-2-1’s, however we can briefly look at some top tips to gradual acclimatisation:

  • Rest/sleep area – make sure your pup is well aware of where his sleeping area is, be it a crate, pen or simply a certain area of the kitchen.
  • Start off very gradually – do not attempt to leave your pup for 2 hours to start off with! We’re looking at simply 30 seconds out of the room in the early stages, then building up slowly, ensuring the pup is confident and comfortable all the way.
  • Make sure you leave your pup with something interesting – something which will not only take your pups mind off you leaving, but something he doesn’t normally have randomly throughout the day ie. a stuffed kong, activity ball, chew/bone.
  • No long goodbyes! – as much as we WANT to have a big drawn out ‘I love you I’ll see you soon my baby you be good mummy loves you’……it won’t help with an already slightly anxious pup. A nonchalant attitude is best, ignore your pup for 5-10 minutes before you leave.
  • No big greetings! – similar when coming HOME, don’t make a big song and dance of your return, ignore your pup for a few minutes, get yourself a drink etc and then a calm hello/cuddle etc.
  • Mental/physical exercise – make sure your pup has had an adequate amount of mental and physical exercise prior to you leaving.
  • Music/radio/tv – always have some kind of background noise left on when you are out. Classical music is said to be soothing, or the tv for the sound of voices.
  • Consistency – try to make it a routine, practice all of this daily, don’t start practicing the day before you’re going out, this needs to be built up over the course of weeks/months.

A final note of caution, if you are obtaining your puppy NOW, in the summer (well it’s supposed to be summer!) months, be mindful of when you are all back at work/school and what your routine will be. Try NOW to build up the routine that your pup will have. Do not under any circumstances spend all day every day with your pup over the summer holidays, and expect he will cope just fine when everybody disappears to school/work in September. Start routinely leaving him every day now, it will pay off come September and with the correct preparation as detailed above, your pup will see you leaving as not only a nice thing because he gets something fun he doesn’t have all the time, but a completely normal and routine procedure.

As with any behaviour, if you feel it is going beyond the realms of ‘normal puppy behaviour’ please seek your vets advice. There are indeed medications to help with severe anxiety and your vet will be able to talk to you through these and discuss the best course of action.

It is essential your pup is shown how to relax and feel fairly comfortable when being left. Separation anxiety in adult dogs is not only hugely stressful for the dog, it is a huge problem for us, the owners, too. Be sure to start setting your pup up NOW to view being left as a positive and relaxing experience.

For more information just get in touch!
Email: puppies@cceg.co.uk
Web: http://www.cambridgepuppytraining.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cambridgpuppytraining
Instagram: @cambridgepuppytraining

Car sickness in puppies – Cambridge Puppy Training

car sickness in puppies

Car sickness in puppies is relatively common, and whilst it is largely something they will ‘grow out’ of, it can be unpleasant for them, and us! Not every puppy will suffer with car sickness, however many do. But why does it happen? And what can we do about it?

Firstly, what exactly is it? Well motion sickness is the feeling of nausea, resulting in vomiting due to the motion of ie. a vehicle. It does not always present itself as actual vomiting, other symptoms may include dizziness or general feeling of nausea. Motion sickness is more prevalent in younger dogs than older, and generally it will have subsided by the time a dog is around one year old.

But why does it occur in puppies? Well there could be a few reasons:

1. Ear development – there is a possibility the parts of the inner ear relating to balance aren’t fully developed, resulting in a feeling of nausea
2. Anxiety – our pups have spent the first weeks of their little lives in a stationary, home environment with their mum and siblings, without prior conditioning it may feel hugely overwhelming to travel in a car/van
3. Conditioned emotional response – if the journey home involved vomiting etc, the likelihood is the pup now associates the car with something quite distressing, thereby heightening the anxiety level
4. Ear problems – there could be a slight infection within the ear, or some kind of medical problem relating to the auditory senses causing sickness when in motion

These are just a few ideas. Motion sickness is something us humans suffer with too, and largely it is seen more in children and ‘grown out’ of just as with puppies. With humans, motion sickness can occur when there’s a vast difference between what is being seen through the eyes , and what is being heard by the auditory senses. In simple terms (because I am no doctor!) the conflict between sight and sound is confusing the brain and the result is a feeling of sickness. For your puppy, the trauma of leaving all it has ever known, his littermates and mum, may well be associated with a car journey when you left the breeder. If the stress of this causes sickness during the journey too, we now have a puppy who not only found the car distressing due to the loss of his family but also a place which made him feel quite poorly! We can see why cars may become a bit of a ‘scary place’ to our pups.

Gradual habituation to travel is essential. As stated above not ALL puppies will suffer with car sickness, however if we at least condition our pup to travel in a calm and relaxed way, we minimise the possibility of any stress when travelling. Once your pup is home, you can really start to work on introducing your pup to the car in a positive and gradual manner, showing your pup that the car does not always move, good things happen in the car, and if we get in the car it certainly doesn’t always mean we are going to the vets (something which is so often the case when we have a pup!).

So, what measures can we take to ensure a smooth and positive exposure to travel?

  • Know the signs – motion sickness is not purely about vomiting, there are other signs to look out for such as whining, drooling, licking lips and panting. Watch out for these, if you feel your pup may be about to vomit, just pull over and give your pup some air.
  • Gradual exposure – don’t attempt 30 minute drives to start off with, start with very short journeys in the car, a few minutes at a time preferably. Start by simply putting your pup in the car without even switching the engine on, reward for calmness and any settling behaviours offered, repeat a few times. The next day maybe switch the engine on but don’t travel anywhere, the next day possibly drive to the end of the road and back etc etc. Ensure your pup is RELAXED throughout the process.
  • Use a secure crate/carrier – not only to provide a stable and calm environment for your pup, but also for safety, an anxious pup will likely move about a lot more!
  • Stillness – keeping as still as possible is advised for us humans when we have motion sickness, so ensuring your pup has more of a chance of keeping ‘still’ is a good idea!
  • No food prior – try not to feed your pup for a couple of hours before journeys.
  • Keep windows open – fresh air and a breeze may help.
  • Toilet! – make sure your pup has had adequate opportunity to go to the loo before journeys.
  • Have a special ‘car toy’ – try to have a special toy which your pup only has on car journeys, really showing him that the car is a fun place to be after all!
  • Anxiety aids – there are such items ie. Adaptil collars for helping to calm anxiety in dogs, the scientific evidence showing the efficacy of such products is varied and certainly not conclusive, however there are people who swear by them so worth a go I feel!
  • Water – ensure you have water readily available for your pup.
  • Drive well! – ensure you take corners and roundabouts gently and be mindful of sudden stopping or accelerating too harshly!
  • Not ALWAYS the vets – ensure we don’t get into the habit of only taking our pups out in the car to go somewhere ‘bad’! It’s easily done, but be sure to go to places your pup takes pleasure from in the car too,

If you feel your pup suffers with severe motion sickness, I would advise seeking veterinary advice. There are medications which can help if you feel your pup is struggling beyond the ‘normal’ realms of a bit of car sickness. Your vet will be able to guide you through the medications, and indeed advise as to whether or not it is needed.

Most pups do, as I said, grow out of car sickness. It is not pleasant, but by following the above guidelines hopefully your little pup will start to not only build up more of a positive association with the car, but even learn to enjoy car rides due to the added fun of his ‘car toy’.

For more information, just get in touch!
Email: puppies@cceg.co.uk
Web: http://www.cambridgepuppytraining.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cambridgepuppytraining
Instagram: @cambridgepuppytraining