Ask the coach -What age should you start grooming your new puppy?

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Todays ask the coach question comes from Kathy and she asks,

“At what age should I have my new Shih-tzu puppy groomed?  We just adopted an 8 week old male shih-Tzu and have been told he will need grooming. His fur is currently short and doesn’t seem to need grooming yet.  Someone also said we should wait until he has had all of his vaccinations before we have him groomed by a professional.  What is the best age to start grooming our puppy?

This is a great question and one that we not only get asked frequently but also one that creates confusion for new puppy parents. The short answer , and this is critical – “AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!”  The key is to find a groomer that is experienced in how to socialize the puppy to the grooming process in a positive, low stress way.

Regardless of the breed, all dogs need some form of grooming.  To maintain good health and coat, all dogs need at least to be brushed, bathed, and have their ears cleaned and toe nails trimmed.  Ear infections are common in dogs and are very painful, keeping your pets ears cleaned will help prevent this.  Nails that become too long may deform the feet, make it hard for the dog to walk, and will curl around and embed in the skin, causing pain and infection.

That being said, some breeds need more grooming than others and need to see a professional groomer every four to six weeks.  It is also a good idea to send short coated breeds to the groomer regularly as well, even though they do not need their fur trimmed, having a professional groomer clip the toenails, clean the ears, and bathe your dog is beneficial.   Professional groomers have professional products and equipment that will help with your pets skin and coat and even help with shedding.  Many times a groomer will identify problems that you could be unaware of, such as ear infections, fleas or ticks, lumps and skin problems.

It is a common misconception that you should wait to have your puppy professionally groomed until it is around 6 months old.   Reasons cited are that the puppy’s fur is not that long and they want to have all vaccinations before sending their dog to the grooming salon. I can attest, groomers everywhere cringe when they look at their schedule and  see a 6 month old puppy coming in for the first grooming.

Years ago, the advise to new puppy parents was to keep their puppy at home until it had its final set of vaccinations which is around 12 – 16 weeks old.  Most veterinarians, dog trainers and pet professionals have changed their view of this in the recent years.  The evidence is that the risk of your puppy developing a behavioral problem from lack of proper early socialization far out ways the risk of them contracting a fatal disease if you socialize them before the full set of vaccinations.   The key here is “proper early socialization”.  You do not want to take your new puppy to places where the health and vaccination status of other animals is questionable, like a dog park or a pet store, or where there are known sick animals, however puppies need proper socialization to become stable adults.  Lets take a look as to why this is so….

From seven to sixteen weeks of age your puppy enters the socialization stage which is a critical stage and the most important stage in his development.  This critical stage, and what happens to  your puppy during it, will determine how behaviorally sound he will be when he becomes an adult.  Puppies that are socialized properly during this stage become stable adult dogs with minimal issues of fear or aggression.  Puppies that are not socialized properly at this stage, can develop fear, anxiety, aggression and behavioral issues. Many behavioral problems in dogs are due to the lack of proper socialization during this imprinting stage of development.   During this stage of development, puppies also go through a fear imprinting phase or “fear period” which means whatever the puppy comes into contact with that causes fear or pain, can stay with him for life.  This is why it is important that everything you expose your puppy to be kept positive.

If you wait to expose your puppy to the grooming process until he is older, he will not have been exposed to all  the sights, sounds, smells, and required handling during this critical phase,  therefore will become fearful and anxious of the new experience, which often times will lead to aggression on the grooming table.   Many dogs go through a second fear period during adolescence (six to eight months) and if taken to the grooming shop for the first time during this period, may become so frightened that it will be hard to desensitize them to the grooming process later.

Sooner is better than later when it comes to exposing your puppy to the grooming process.  Many show- dog breeders start grooming their puppies at 3 weeks of age, before they are even weaned.  This early exposure leads to a dog that is extremely comfortable on the grooming table as he has done it his entire life.

Another reason waiting to groom your dog is so detrimental is because, unless you are very good at thoroughly brushing your dog, he more than likely will develop matted fur. Matted fur is painful to remove, which in turn will cause negative associations to the  grooming process, which in turn will contribute to problems on the grooming table.

When it comes to grooming your dog, the key is to find a groomer that understands and is familiar with puppy development and how to create a positive experience for your puppy.  Make sure the salon requires all adult dogs be fully vaccinated, and the puppies at least have one set of puppy vaccinations.  The first grooming, most likely, will not be to remove much fur from your puppy. Generally, the first grooming consists of a bath, nail trim, ear cleaning, blow dry and trimming around the eyes, feet and sanitary area. The key is to keep the interactions as short and as positive as possible. If the salon requires your puppy be there for the day or if your puppy will be put in a kennel during the process, it is a good idea to take a toy or chew for your puppy to play with while he waits.  You may also request that they take the puppy outside for a bathroom break or two while he is in their care.  At Super Mutts, since we are also dog trainers, we always provided these things for the puppies in our care because it is the right thing for the puppy, but many salons do not.  Always ask if the salon has a protocol for puppies, if you are not comfortable, don’t hesitate to find another salon that does.

There are a number of things you can do at home that will help your puppy before he goes to the salon.  Many salons have pamphlets on things you can do to help socialize your puppy to the grooming experience.  Take your puppy to the salon ahead of time just for a meet, greet and treat!  Ask if they have any handouts for you to get started at home. A good salon will appreciate you taking initiative in your puppies grooming needs. They can also show you how to properly brush your dog at home and may have handouts on specific breeds and grooming requirements.

Our book Puppy Montessori is available on Amazon.com and is a great resource for new puppy parents. The book goes into further detail about developmental levels, socialization, and things you should do before your puppy goes to the salon.

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, and pet stylist. She is the owner of Supermutts.com and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 23 years’ experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior. 

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com

 

 

 

 

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It’s not the dog!

 

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While walking a clients dog yesterday, I heard these words coming from my neighbors garage, ” Trixie come here, come on , come on Trixie, You want to go bye bye don’t you? GET OVER HERE NOW!!”

This brought to mind the numerous times in our dog training business we have heard people say , “My dog does not listen to me.” Our response to this statement is always, “It’s not the dog.” Actually, the majority of training issues are not the dog. The real reason for many problems is lack ( of the human) teaching the dog to listen. Another reason is that people assume dogs understand the human language without ever teaching them this language. Lets break down the above scenario to better explain.

1) “Trixie come over here”

Mistake number one: The dog is not on leash.
Putting a leash on the dog gives you control and stops the dog from running away. The leash allows you to guide the dog into position.

Mistake number two: Too many words used.
“Trixie come over here” Is not a command. The dog clearly was not taught what the command “come” means. If the dog is not taught a command, she will not comply, she cannot perform what she was never taught. Even if she was taught the word, the man coupled it with a series of other words which confuses the dog.

Mistake number three: No motivation.
The man had nothing to reward the dog with and therefore no motivation for the dog to come to him. All the other fun things in the garage are much more rewarding to check out than the human who is saying words the dog doesn’t understand.

2) “Come on, come on Trixie”

Mistake number one: As stated above, coupling too many words together confuses the dog

Mistake number two: Repeating a command.
Repeating a command without motivation for the dog to comply. By repeating a command, the dog is taught to ignore your words because they mean nothing.

3) “You want to go bye, bye don’t you?”

Mistake number one: Humanizing the dog.
Assuming the dog knows what this statement means is humanizing the dog. When we speak to our dog in this fashion the dog hears, “wa, wa, wa, wa”
again, this teaches that words mean nothing.

Mistake number two: Putting a command in the form of a question.
Dog’s do not understand questions and commands should never be given in the form of a question. This statement is not a command as stated above.

4) The final and most devastating command, “GET OVER HERE NOW!” in an angry tone.

Mistake number one: Yelling at a dog.
Yelling at the dog to come to you is the most detrimental thing a person can do to the learning process. The person is teaching the dog NOT to come to him. You should never yell at, spank, slap or punish your dog in any way once he comes to you. By yelling at a dog after he comes, you are punishing him for coming to you. By yelling to get the dog to comply, you are creating a negative association with your dog coming to you. The dog will be less likely to come in the future.

Mistake number two: Again, not a command. Too many words used that the dog clearly cannot understand.

There are three stages when training a dog.

1) The learning stage
2) The reinforcing stage
3) The proofing stage

You have to complete one stage before you can move on to the next. Many training issues come from mistakes made in the learning stage of training.

The correct way for the man in the garage to handle this situation was to first properly teach the dog a solid recall and work on it daily. A dog without a solid recall should never be off leash. The man should be wearing a treat pouch, Rewards should be readily available when teaching a dog anything. If the man wants the dog to learn that the command “bye bye” means go to the car, he should teach the dog by saying the word “bye bye” and guiding the dog with a leash to the car, rewarding when he jumps in.

So you see, it is not the dog, it is the person who is failing the dog. Once you teach a dog to ignore your commands, You will have a more difficult time teaching them to listen in the future. Often times you will need a dog trainer to help. Remember the saying “Don’t blame me if you don’t train me”

By properly teaching your dog what words mean, and rewarding when the dog performs, you will have a dog that happily listens to you no matter what you say, in any situation.

The next time the neighbor wants his dog to go to the car it should sound like this,  “Trixie come” (dog comes) ,  “bye bye” – (dog jumps in car!)  4 simple words, no frustration.

To learn more training techniques and to keep from making common training mistakes, visit our website and purchase our book Puppy Montessori!

http://www.supermutts.com/puppy-montessori.html

Cindy Quigley is the Owner of Super Mutts Canine Retreat. She is a dog trainer, dog groomer, and author.  She has 19 years professionally working with dogs.

Puppy Montessori

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Following is an excerpt from our new book, now available on Amazon.  Puppy Montessori is a must read for any new puppy owner.  The Puppy Montessori program takes the guesswork out of the puppy raising process.

Happiness is a warm puppy. ~ Charles Schultz

Have you ever wondered how professional dog trainers have such well-behaved puppies or dogs? Many people say, “Of course, professional dog trainers know what to do.” That is true to an extent. The real reason is that professional dog trainers DO what they know. Having knowledge and following through with that knowledge are two different things. With the Puppy Montessori program, we are giving you a summary of the best tools that we, as professional dog trainers, use to train puppies. The rest is up to you. You now have in your hands the knowledge, but do you have the willingness to do it? The bottom line is, you can waste your time doing the wrong things, or you can do what works. The Puppy Montessori program is a proven puppy training system that works.

The reason for writing this book is threefold. First, as pet care professionals we see how many dogs end up in shelters across the country. Since many of these dogs have behavioral problems, we know that if they had been raised properly in their initial home, they would not be there. People often surrender dogs between six and nine months of age. Therefore, our number one goal in writing this book is to help keep dogs in their homes and out of shelters. Second, as dog trainers, we have seen dogs with behavioral problems that the owner causes unknowingly. The fact that people are human—and try to raise dogs as such—just does not work. Third, many of our clients could have avoided frustration and mistakes if only they had had a source for answers in the beginning.

Our commitment to this book is for the dog. “The dog,” an animal that we have brought into our world, has learned our language, can manipulate us in many ways, loves us unconditionally, and who by many people, is misunderstood. We also know that in helping the dog, we have to help the owner first. Humans cause most, if not all, behavioral problems in dogs; by helping one, you automatically help the other. People become more educated and dogs become more understood, creating a better dog/human bond, a lasting bond. In writing this book, we want people to realize that adopting a puppy is a very important step they need to take very seriously. Dogs are not disposable or inanimate. They are living, breathing creatures that depend on us to take care of them. They did not ask us to take them into our world. As a society, we owe it to dogs to do everything possible to understand them as what they are so we can provide them with everything necessary to grow and flourish as “dogs.” We need to remember that we are the ones with higher intelligence; with that comes great responsibility. It is our duty as caretakers. There are no excuses.

Congratulations on taking the first and most important step in your new puppy’s life, educating yourself on puppy. For most people, getting a puppy is a very exciting time and can be an extremely frustrating time. The excitement comes from having this little furry playful ball of cuteness in our presence. The frustration comes from not understanding what this ball of cuteness needs, really needs.

We have heard many complaints and frustrations from puppy owners regarding things such as potty training and destructive behaviors. In fact, all of these behaviors are not “bad” behaviors to the puppy but rather just a puppy “being” a puppy. The puppy Montessori program will give you all the tools to mitigate these so-called undesired behaviors and therefore establish “desired” behaviors with your puppy. This alone will help ease the majority of your frustration when it comes to raising a puppy.

We want to begin by saying that there is no EASY way to raise a puppy, and those who tell you they have an easy way to raise a puppy are lying. Raising a puppy takes time—lots of YOUR time and commitment. The puppy Montessori program will help make the puppy-raising process easier and less frustrating than if you do not use the program, but it will still take time and commitment on your part.

Just as you need to prepare your home and family for a new baby, you also need to prepare your home and family for a new “baby” dog. The Puppy Montessori program teaches you how to do just that. The Puppy Montessori program will give you the tools and knowledge needed to make the puppy experience an enjoyable one for both you and your new puppy. This program will enable you to set a foundation to grow your puppy into a well-adjusted, well-mannered, stable adult dog.

The Puppy Montessori program is a resource that you can go to when you have questions about leadership, feeding, potty training, socialization, vaccinations, toys, treats, obedience, destructive behaviors, leash walking, and much more. By purchasing this book, you have taken the first and most important step in building a relationship with your new best friend. By reading and utilizing the techniques described in this book, you will be able to enjoy your puppy and realize that it does not have to be such a tiresome, frustrating experience.

Purchase your copy today!