Tag Archives: puppies

Nature VS Nurture: Puppy Socialization

When it comes to the question of “Nature VS Nurture” there’s no easy answer. The best answer is usually: BOTH. Dogs are born with an innate temperament, which is generally influenced by their breeding. We also influence how they respond to the world around them.

Quickly, let’s talk about temperament and learned behavior. Temperament is something your dog is born with. This cannot be changed, and is “the card they’re dealt.” Some dogs are naturally more outgoing, some dogs are naturally more fearful. This is normal, and important for you to be aware of, as knowing your pup and his tendencies will enable you to choose the best training and socialization path. Next, learned behavior is how we influence our dogs. This can be HUGE! Your puppy (and dog!) is constantly learning, and everything is training, whether you intend it to be, or not.

So, how can we best set our puppies up for success? Early socialization is key. Once your vet has cleared your pup to explore the world – go for it!! Get your pup to the park, take her to play dates, sign up for a training class. Learning from other dogs is super beneficial at this time. Go anywhere and everywhere with her! Thankfully, before your pup is ready for the world, there are some things you can do at home, too! Expose her to new textures – hard wood flooring, tile, carpet. Expose her to new scents – food, grass, flowers. Expose her to different chew items – tendons, pig ears, bones. This last one will be big as your pup starts teething, too! A great rule is 100 experiences in 100 days. Get creative, and have fun with it.

There’s no such thing as over socialization. Especially if you have a pup that’s less confident, you may be fighting against nature to help him out in this area. If you have a breed that has tendencies to guard, you’re going to have to work extra hard early to be sure those behaviors are kept in check. So. . .know the nature, provide the nurture, and enjoy your pup!

Have you had a behavioral problem that you don’t quite know how to resolve? We’re here and LOVE to help! Ask away, and your question may be featured in an upcoming newsletter!
Visit us online: www.muttmagic.com

Random Dog Training Thoughts (By: Amber Stacy)

Although I specifically mention Pit Bulls, I also write for all breeds.  They all need homes, leaders, guidance, socialization, training and responsible owners.

I always have wondering thoughts at the end of every day since I have become more engulfed in the dog world.  Specifically, over a certain breed that I opened my mind and home up to nine years ago.  I volunteer at a local shelter and I have a job to help people work with their dogs, which have developed behavior problems.  I teach people how to communicate and develop relationships with their own dogs.  I have seen bonds form, and I have seen bonds break when the people don’t want to change their ways.  I see the dog walking in with a crying owner, but their mind is made up even knowing there is no room for the dog, so the dog is euthanized. 

Over the weekend, a girl, was mauled by two dogs.  Now the world is in yet another upheaval and fingers are being pointed to what could be the wrong end of the leash.  While a breed ban is the answer for most people, others see it a different way.  Some see it as statistics that are far less alarming than the people victimized by drunk drivers, cancer, violence and natural disaster.  While some turn a blind eye, others are there fighting for those who don’t have voices, who can’t speak for themselves. 

Dog-fighting busts are becoming the headlines more often as well.  While some say the dogs are vicious and can’t be trusted, ex-fight dogs are now being used as therapy dogs, giving children confidence while they learn to read.

 Shelters, rescues and fosters are at their max with dogs right now no matter where you go.  Not just with Pitties, but with all breeds.  Where did we go wrong?  One is finally adopted out while two more come in.  More and more dogs are being surrendered over behavior issues.  There is no room, so the dog is euthanized, or another one that has been in the shelter for a year is euthanized because he is getting stressed and depressed, and this will make room for one more dog that could get adopted.

Even knowing about all the homeless dogs, you still want to breed or buy?  Back-yard, puppy mill, or work/show?  What’s the difference you ask?  Back-yard breeders and puppy mill breeders only care about one thing.  That’s the green.  They will continue breeding whatever is popular at the time and over produce and give these dogs to anyone.  Instead of saying what they don’t do, let’s focus on what real breeders do.  The goal is to continue a strong line of genetics for work or show.  The dogs that are chosen are stable in temperament, healthy and everything the breed is said to be.  The breeders will have you fill out paperwork, do a house check, will call for updates, will want to know if something happens and you can no longer care for the dog, what your plans will be.  They will want to make sure the breed you are looking at will fit in with your lifestyle.  They will take the dog back even to ensure it goes to another responsible owner.  They will encourage you to work or show your dog as well, as this is what they were breeding for.  The temperament and health of the next generation is more important than breeding for size, color, or quantity.  Really, not caring about temperament and health of the dog are where many genetic problems begin.

Socialization!  Puppies need to learn how to communicate with other dogs.  They need to learn how to behave around people and not be overly shy or fearful.  If they don’t learn when they are puppies, they will not learn when they are adults.  When presented with a new situation, as adults, they didn’t learn how to handle when they were puppies, the result will be a fight or flight response.  I question every news story I read and wonder if the dog was properly socialized.

Dogs are dogs!  They are prey animals, which means they will chase after anything that runs.  It’s instinct to them, and that’s something you cannot take away.  Not letting them get this energy out, not giving them an outlet for their instincts create behavior problems. 

Dogs need leaders and get stressed if they feel the need to take the leader position.  It’s our responsibility to be this leader for our dogs.  Once again, behavior problems develop if they take this role on.  Basic training is a great way to create a bond.  Hitting, screaming at and getting frustrated with your dog sends the wrong messages, and you will not be looked at as a benevolent leader.

Dogs are a lifelong commitment.  We can’t turn our backs on them or throw them away once we are bored of them, they don’t ‘obey’ you, or we realize they are more work than we can handle.  Please research before getting a dog.  Find one that fits your lifestyle.  Learn about their temperaments to both animals and people, find out how much exercise the breed requires both mentally and physically.  Open your mind when it comes to training and accept advice when it comes to crating, housebreaking, and behavior modification.

Is it too soon?

When is too soon to start a raw diet? Puppies can start to eat a raw diet as soon as they are weaned from thier mother. The natural enzymes present in raw meat help with digestion, and most will notice a smooth transition from mother’s milk to a balanced raw diet.

Caddy and Buda share a duck neck
Caddy and Buda share a duck neck
     Caddy and Buda are two foster pups that have been with me for approximately three weeks; since they were six weeks of age. They are now 9-weeks old, and enjoy raw snacks from time to time. Were they both mine, I would have them on a 100% raw diet. They are currently provided with kibble from the rescue that they belong to, which is more cost-effective for thier situation.
     Raw fed dogs typically have smaller, firmer stools, healthier coats, and overall better longevity and health than kibble fed dogs. Thier immune systems tend to be stronger, and food related allergies are minimized. My dogs have eaten a raw diet for the past 6 years now, with a preference for our local brand, USDA certified, K-9 Kraving. It is completely balanced, making feeding raw easy. My oldest, Esco, is currently 10 years old, and was the 2009 WPBTCA National Champion at 9 years of age. He is still running strong!
     In addition to the health benefits, raw diet dog foods do not suffer from recalls like many commercial kibbles. Being USDA certified, K-9 Kraving is all human grade food. They offer a full line of food, with seven different flavors, and can process special orders in most cases. They also offer a full treat line of all natural nutritionally enhanced treats that may be raw, smoked, or cooked.
     Have questions or are interested in feeding raw for the first time? Email Aja at aja@muttmagic.com for details!

The benefits of mature dogs. . .

Esco teaches the pups to relax

Esco teaches the pups to relax

As most of you know, I took in three foster pups for Mid Atlantic Bully Buddies a few weeks ago. The little boy, Dojo, wasn’t eating well, and after a short stay at the vet, is now being fostered at the vet tech’s home. Irresistable little boy! We were also notified that one of the other puppies from the litter was having some socialization troubles. Basically, she was terrorizing the other dogs/puppies! We traded the more docile of the pups for the little terror. . .Buda. That brings me to the point- older dogs with proper social behavior can really be puppy saviors!

Grandpa Esco teaches Buda how to behave!

Grandpa Esco teaches Buda how to behave!

When Buda came in, we first let all of the puppies play with Red, another puppy that is 10 months old. Buda immediately attached to his side, sunk her teeth in, shook with all her puppy might, and refused to let go! Red was patient with her- having a high pain tolerance and being a playful puppy, he didn’t take it personally. Unfortunately, he treated her like a little play toy, and this didn’t do much for her anti-social behaviors. It was time for Grandpa Esco. At 10-years-old, Esco is not tolerant of improper puppy behaviors. He would prefer to be left alone! Thankfully, he has a firm but gentle dog way of telling the pups to back off. . .as only a mature dog can do. Buda is still learning, and is doing much better in the social department.

Caddy and Buda playing

Caddy and Buda playing

It is very important for puppies to learn proper dog social behaviors at a young age. Being with littermates and appropriate older dogs can provide benefits that will last a lifetime. It is a good idea to provide puppies with play dates, and puppy classes, to learn these behaviors while they’re young. Save places like the dog park and pet stores for when your dog is older. While appropriate for some adult dogs, these are uncontrolled environments and can introduce both bad behavior and disease before your puppy is mentally or physically ready. If you’re considering a puppy, find a friend with an older dog that can show your pup the ropes!

Buda at 8-weeks
Buda at 8-weeks

These pups are being fostered through Mid Atlantic Bully Buddies. You may visit them online at: http://www.midatlanticbullybuddies.org

Caddy at 8-weeks
Caddy at 8-weeks


You breed. Do you also help rescue?

As a trainer, I work with dogs that come from all places- both reputable and backyard breeders, rescues, shelters, strays, and more. I take them all, work with them all, and love them all. I accept the dogs and the owners for who they are. Working with many rescues, I encounter a lot of individuals who have very strong feelings against breeding dogs. They would prefer to be out of business, having no more homeless animals to save. Of course breeders feel justified in their actions and beliefs as well- this goes for both reputable and backyard breeders, as often the backyard breeders don’t know who they are, unfortunately. As we all know: everybody’s dog is the best dog in the world!

My question to all of you is this: Is there a middle ground?

L-R: Reese, Dojo, and Caddy. . .and in the back is Star. All rescues.

L-R: Reese, Dojo, and Caddy. . .and in the back is Star. All rescues. Puppies are available for adoption through Mid Atlantic Bully Buddies.

As a working dog person, I prefer a purebred and intact dog to work with. I have never bred my dogs, and I don’t intend to. However, when I work a dog in the sport that I choose (Schutzhund), I prefer the uninterrupted drives of an intact dog that is specifically bred for a purpose. I also prefer the muscle development of intact dogs for such an athletic sport. Yes, I’ve successfully competed with spayed/neutered rescue dogs as well. It’s my preference, and I do see a difference. I also participate in rescue. Although I only contribute to the population by adding occasional demand, I find it both important and rewarding to assist in rescue efforts. Personally,  I believe that anybody who adds to the population in any way- whether that be breeding or seeking a purebred dog, should assist in rescue as well. It really is important to see both sides!

Now, this doesn’t mean that a typical family that purchases a purebred dog for the children needs to go out and adopt a rescue as well. Anybody can help, and there are a number of ways. Volunteering at a rescue or shelter can be a great help to them, and very rewarding to you. Donations are always welcomed, too- money, bedding, collars and leashes are all helpful. Of course, if you do feel compelled to take in a rescued life, foster and forever homes are always needed!

Take time today to consider what you can do to help your local animals in need. A few local all-breed shelters are:

Maryland SPCA


Baltimore Humane

Humane Society of Harford County

The puppies in the picture above are available for adoption once they have been fully vetted and spayed/neutered. Please contact Mid Atlantic Bully Buddies for details: MABB

How do I socialize my new puppy?

Pictured above are Ace, Fin, and Red; recent graduates of Mutt Magic’s S.T.A.R. Puppy course! This course is recommended for dogs between 4-10 months of age, and is a great way to socialize your new puppy. Focusing on items such as proper dog-dog social behavior, as well as behavior management, housebreaking, and more, this is a great course to enroll your puppy in to learn the basics, and if he/she is not quite ready for the riggors of a CGC course.
How else do you socialize your new puppy? Be careful! Outside of the controlled environment of a training class, many things can either help or hinder the socialization process. As a young dog, you MUST expose him to as many things as you can, but you must do this safely, and be sure that he is not overloaded and does not become fearful. If you are new to the socialization process, always consult with a professional. Aja, Amber, and Kristen, of Mutt Magic, are all capable of helping you make the right socialization decisions. 
 Stick to small play groups or controlled training classes until your dog has been fully vaccinated. Be sure that your puppy is up to date on vaccinations before bringing her to high traffic dog areas, such as dog parks and pet stores. While learning appropriate dog behavior typically outweighs any health risks, unnecessarily exposing your dog to disease can be dangerous. 
Get your puppy out, and have fun!