In the News
By Drs. Rob Memmen and Andrea Johnston, Gehrman Animal Hospital
After a long and hot summer, we start to hear the engines of school buses pulling up in the neighborhood, and we are remind-ed that the lazy days of summer are over, and we need to redirect our family focus back to learning. This month, we thought we would follow the theme of learning and education and address the importance of training and socialization for our pets.
We all desire to have a well-trained pet. We hope for pets that play well with others and don’t scare other pets or people. To fulfill this goal, socialization is key for our pets, and it starts at a very young age. The greatest window of learning in a dog’s life starts around 3 weeks of age and closes between 16 and 20 weeks of age. This socialization period allows your pet to become com-fortable with sights, sounds, scents, people and other pets. If this period is not taken advantage of, it can lead to fearful, anxious and sometimes even aggressive behaviors. Important aspects of socialization include appropriate handling, allowing many differ-ent people to frequently pet your pet through touching the feet, ears, and muzzle. This training will also aid when your pet visits the veterinarian, allowing your vet to perform a thorough and fear-free examination.
Additionally, food bowl exercises are beneficial in preventing your pet from becoming food-aggressive. Approaching your pup-py while feeding and providing a positive environment while eat-ing will prevent your pet from guarding his food. It is also import-ant to recognize that positive reinforcement is best in training your pet. Rewarding good behavior and not acknowledging bad behavior is the key to shaping good habits and behaviors. This type of training works with jumping, play-biting, and barking.
Many pets can be trained at home with minimal professional intervention; however, there are several resources in our area to help with socialization and dog training (for any age). There are veterinary behaviorists who are trained veterinarians that can provide training recommendations as well as medication rec-ommendations if needed. Additionally, there are several veteri-nary trainers in our area who help one-on-one and in groups to teach appropriate behavior for your pet. Lastly, there are many facilities in our area that provide a plethora of training classes, ranging from puppy training to older dog training.
To keep your pet and family safe, starting out on the right foot with socialization and training will allow your pet and family to have a healthy relationship and a long and happy life!