Puppies 101

Fun facts about dogs that I have learned from sitting in on the puppy obedience class and reading Stanley Coren this week:

1. Touching a puppy all over is the best way to get her to start nipping and biting. This is a good thing if you want to practice teaching her how hard not to bite.

2. Dogs track or trail by following the scent of all the skin cells ("rafts" or "scurf") that fall from our bodies during the day. So, basically, to a dog, we're all trailing Pig Pen clouds of scent.

3. The best way to discourage a dog's attention is to "be a tree": stand still, fold your fingers together, and look at your feet.

4. The critical period for puppy socialization is between four and twelve weeks of age. During this time, puppies need regular dog and human contact (and sheep contact, if they are going to be working as herd-guarding dogs) in order to learn dog language (e.g. how to wag their tails) and to be comfortable around human beings.

5. Dogs think in smells and movement, somewhat in sounds, less so in color or taste. They can, however, see in color, but only in blues and yellows.

6. Dog parks are not unequivocally a good thing, particularly if they are used as a place where the people do not interact with the dogs but just let the dogs "go play." Owners need to protect their dogs from bullies and overly-excited dogs just as parents would protect their children.

7. Growling is a good thing; it means the dog is giving a warning that it is unhappy. Better a warning than a bite.

8. Prick-eared dogs with longer, narrower faces (i.e. "wolf-like" dogs) have a larger doggie "vocabulary" than dogs that are more wolf-puppy-like (shorter faces, floppy ears, rounder heads).

9. To train your dog to walk on a leash, move only when the leash is loose. If the lease is taut because the dog is pulling on it, hold still until the leash is loose again.

10. Dogs are excited by quick, higher-pitched sounds ("Let's go!", "Walkies!') and calmed by longer duration, lower-pitched sounds ("Down," "Staaaay"). It is also better not to use the dog's name when commanding her to stop moving or stay because it makes the sound more complicated and typically quicker.

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