Tag Archives: social

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

Separation Anxiety: Causes and Solutions

I am often asked about problems with separation anxiety, and it seems to be a problem that more owners are noticing in thier dog lately. I think, now that this problem has a name, we are quick to jump on the idea that our dog may suffer from it. So- what exactly IS separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is when a dog has a negative reaction to being left alone. These reactions may range from light stress (drooling, urinating) to full-blown destructive behaviors (chewing through walls and doors). This typically will manifest shortly after being left; dogs that exhibit negative behaviors when left for longer periods are often demonstrating boredom, or attention-seeking behavior.

Finding a solution to this problem lies in knowing the cause. It has been my experience that dogs with separation anxiety are anxious overall, at any given time, not only when left alone. What can you do when you are available to reduce your dog’s anxiety levels? Exercise is always #1 with most behavioral problems. Social and enrichment activities can also produce positive benefits for anxious dogs. These may include activities such as walks in new locations, visiting the dog park, interactive games, and even the use of food toys. Anything that is mentally and physically stimulating can reduce stress and anxiety! Further, supplements added to the diet such as flower essences and turkey can also produce a calming effect. Flower essences can also be purchased as plug-in scented oils, as well as infused collars for additional benefit- lavender and chamomile are recommended.

Now, what to do when you leave. . .IGNORE YOUR DOG!!! Do not give any goodbyes when you leave, or hellos when you arrive, for that matter. Follow the “don’t look, don’t touch, don’t talk” rule. For severe cases, changing your routine when you leave can help- if you grab your keys and then your coat, and then your wallet, change the order. If not already doing so, crating your dog can help protect your home as well as the safety of your pet. Crates are often a place of sanctuary for dogs, although in some dogs, crates also induce stress. A decision may have to be made in regard to the severity of the problem and the safety of your dog when you are not home. For dogs that are known escape artists, there are additional solutions as well.

Overall, your goal is to reduce the amount of anxiety your dog experiences on a regular basis. It is my personal opinion to stay away from behavior modifying drugs in these cases, as they can have severe adverse effects. For specific questions regarding your dog, please contact Aja, at: aja@muttmagic.com

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


It is NOT a Pit Bull problem. . .

. . .and I am not a “pit bull” person. I am a “dog” person.


. . .it's a human problem.

. . .it's a human problem.

Pit Bull News

It was noted on WJZ news on Tuesday morning/evening that there is a “pit bull problem” and that there is currently a pit bull overpopulation. A local “Pit Fix” program was also noted as a solution to overpopulation and abuse. The fact that the breed is, unfortunately, notoriously popular at the moment is true. That does not make our current situation a “pit bull” problem any more than there was a “cocker spaniel” problem in the 70’s or a “dalmatian” problem in the 80’s. The problem is people! The pit bull is just as abused and overbred as any other breed in history right now. It is probably more publicized than any other breed in history in part because of the internet- something that wasn’t in existence (or popular) when other breeds were under attack.

While spaying and neutering of pets is important and can certainly help overpopulation and homeless animals, breed specific clinics have the potential to give the wrong message. Much like this news report indicated, the message given is that pit bulls need to be spayed/neutered more than any other breed. This is simply not true. Keep in mind- spay and neuter programs are used by RESPONSIBLE dog owners. Individuals abusing dogs do not spay/neuter regardless of cost- it’s a completely different mindset. Promoting the spay/neuter of an individual breed will not prevent animal abuse any more than banning a breed will provide public safety. This is an effort that needs to be directed to individuals and it goes much deeper than spay/neuter.

We have created and bred dogs for companionship and service. It is our responsibility to care for them. Please do spay and neuter your pets, and encourage all to treat companion animals with love and respect. . .regardless of breed!

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!