Page 220 - WSAVA2017
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An Urban Experience
K. Martin1
1TEAM Education in Animal Behavior, Behavior, Spicewood, USA
Getting Puppy Started Off Right: Preventing Puppy Behavior Problems
Kenneth M. Martin, DVM, DACVB
Veterinary Behavior Consultations, LLC,& TEAM Education in Animal Behavior, LLC, Spicewood, Texas, USA
Early experience has been recognized by professionals as the first big step in the prevention of dog behavior problems. Inadequate exposure (to various environments and to novelty) and/or negative experiences during their first 3 to 4 months of life can promote the development of life threatening behavior problems and disorders, including fear and aggression. The good news is that measures can be taken to help prevent some behavior problems, decrease relinquishment, and help dogs develop into confident, easy-going patients.
Socialization is not just about exposure to novel stimuli, but about providing positive emotional experiences for the puppy beginning at an early age. The socialization period can be defined as a sensitive period of development whereby a dog learns to communicate and relate to conspecifics, humans, and the environment.1
It is the most influential learning period of a dog’s life. Socialization can be divided into primary socialization (3-5 weeks) and secondary socialization (6-12 weeks). Lack of experience during the first 3-4 months of life
will prevent the puppy from reaching its full potential. By 8 weeks of age, a puppy’s learning ability is adult-like, based on electroencephalogram findings and the results of multiple behavior studies.2 Consequently, 8 week old puppies can maintain long-term memories. During the socialization period, a lack of positive exposure to various environments and to novelty can be as detrimental as bad experiences.
Veterinarians play a pivotal role in making appropriate recommendations for positive social and environmental experiences. Providing outdated or inappropriate recommendations such as don’t take the puppy out
in public until it is fully vaccinated (at 12-16 weeks of
age) can result the development of behavior problems, damage to the human-animal bond, relinquishment and/ or euthanasia. Positive proactive exposure is not without risk, yet the risk of losing a pet due to a behavior problem is far greater than that of infectious diseases. Behavior
problems are the number-one cause of relinquishment to shelters and the number-one cause of euthanasia in healthy animals.3,4
Positive proactive exposure can minimize disease risk while preventing many behavior problems, such as fears, phobias, anxiety disorders, and even aggression. The focus on this presentation will be to provide attendees with the knowledge and skills needed to help prevent behavior problems through proper socialization and to solve normal training issues of puppies.
Incorporating Behavioral Medicine
The first step in the prevention of behavioral problems is the incorporation of behavioral medicine into routine veterinary wellness visits. Simply asking questions at each visit about dog behavior and/or training problems will result in interactive discussion.
Understanding that there is a difference between a training problem and a behavior disorder is crucial to providing appropriate guidance. A training problem can be defined as a normal behavior of the dog that humans find undesirable. In contrast, a behavior disorder occurs when the dog suffers from an underlying emotional disorder, manifesting as fear, phobia, anxiety, or aggression. Behavioral problems are not issues which are related directly to training. Behavior disorders, as well as training problems, can be either addressed during
the routine veterinary visit or with a special behavior visit pending the presenting problem. In more serious cases of behavior problems, the case may be referred to a qualified animal behavior professional such as a veterinary behaviorist or a positive reinforcement trainer.
Addressing Behavior Concerns
This lecture will review a step by step process to prevent and address problem behaviors of puppies. Problem prevention and solving methods will address some common normal canine behaviors.
Most undesirable behaviors of puppies are normal behaviors related to a lack of training. Common puppy problems include a lack of leash manners, jumping
on people, chewing objects, excessively vocalizing, playful mouthing and biting and a lack of house training. Puppies must learn to wear a collar and leash and walk calmly without excessive pulling. Jumping on people usually consists of standing with the forelegs on a person and rear legs on the ground, yet occasionally the dog jumps up without making human contact. The behavior may accompany normal greeting behavior of dogs. Chewing objects often results in physical damage to the item which may or may not be consumed. Vocalizing
in puppies may consist of excessive whimpering, whining, barking, or howling. Mouthing and biting is

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