Pickwick's Puppy Training Program:
An important part that makes Pickwick Pug puppies pretty amazing, is our comprehensive training program which starts while the puppy is still in the womb and continues through daily, individual sessions with each puppy until they go to their new home at 12 weeks of age. Following Puppy Culture protocols, infused with important skills we've learned through our training with such important experts as Ian Dunbar, Victoria Stillwell, and others, we invest a tremendous amount of time with each puppy on a daily basis. We believe strongly that what is accomplished, and how it is accomplished, during the first critical 12 weeks of a puppy's life is paramount to their success, happiness, and health throughout their lifetime ... both physically and emotionally. We use positive, clicker training techniques and, by the time Pickwick puppies go to their new home, they've worked daily on important skills such as "attention" ("watch me"), leave it, drop it, sit, down, wait, touch (hand or target stick), paw (touch with paw, and painting!), recall ("puppy puppy come"), loose leash walking, potty training, and even some fun tricks like shake, bow, spin, and hi-five. The puppy will have worked for many weeks on crate training and the crate will be happy and comforting place as he has played "crate games" and enjoyed meals and quiet time in the crate. The puppy will also know how to use a litter box (with rolled paper litter). If it will not be possible for the new owner to provide outside potty breaks every few hours, a combination of a litter box and x-pen or baby pen is helpful to use until the puppy's bladder is mature enough to be kept in a crate for more than a few hours at a time. (This is also helpful for the humans to avoid 2 or 3 AM outside potty breaks!)
Without a doubt, the most important aspect of dog husbandry comprises raising dogs to thoroughly enjoy the company and actions of people, especially children, men and strangers, i.e., raising “bomb-proof” dogs. Confident and friendly dogs can have the time of their lives and enjoy meeting and interacting with household visitors and friends and strangers on walks, in parks and at picnics. At Pickwick Pugs, through controlled puppy parties, outings (avoiding dog parks and pet stores etc. until immunities are built up) to Home Depot, banks, restaurants, trips to the office, church, etc., we safely and gently expose each puppy to as many different environments as possible and allow them to interact with ... to meet, be hugged, handled, and trained by at least 100 people of ALL types, sizes, ages, sexes, with beards, with hats, with canes, with umbrellas, and even children of all ages. This process of socialization actually begins with important neonatal handling which desensitizes 9 of the 12 most common subliminal bite triggers.
Ian Dunbar, Vet and Behaviorist who is often called the "Grandfather of Positive Dog Training" explains: "neglecting to socialize puppies with people is probably the most abusive thing that we can do to dogs. The effects are crippling and stay with the dog for a lifetime. To paraphrase Frederick Douglas, "It's easier to build strong puppies than to repair broken dogs."
Predictable and Preventable
Having worked in animal rescue and fostering, we have seen first-hand how insufficient early socialization causes hard-to-reverse changes in brain function and anatomy, leading to temperament problems later in life, such as fear and aggression towards people. We also know, through our work and training with our rescue group, how difficult and time-consuming it is when attempting to resolve these problems in adulthood ... problems which may have been so easily prevented with ample early socialization and handling. The cost of a Pickwick puppy reflects this additional training and socialization, but prospective owners have a choice to purchase a puppy that is already well-socialized, or a pup that has grown up in relative seclusion and is highly likely to become increasingly fearful during adolescence.
Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian and dog trainer, is sometimes called the "Grandfather of Positive Dog Training." At a workshop we attended a few years ago, he was continuing his lifelong mission of persuading breeders, dog owners, and trainers of the importance of early socialization. He explains clearly what happens when a puppy is not adequately socialized before 12 weeks of age: "Many breeders, veterinarians and owners simply don’t see the point of early socialization and handling because the puppies are easy to handle and already appear to be confident and friendly. In fact, many young pups appear to be super-mega-confident and overly-friendly and so, why socialize sociable puppies? Consequently, people are predictably shocked when at about five-and-a-half to eight months of age, their friendly and socialized puppy becomes shy, aloof, wary, standoffish, protective, fearful, reactive and maybe aggressive towards people. Of course puppies are confident and friendly and easy to handle. They’re puppies! All young pups should be universally outgoing towards people. Fear and aggression do not develop until later in life. Moreover, developing anxieties and fears of the unfamiliar or scary later in life is a normal and adaptive development process. Adolescent and adult dogs will generally accept species and individuals that they played with as puppies yet they will likely shy away from species and individuals that they did not have adequate opportunity to interact with as puppies. To prevent fear and aggression, the unfamiliar and scary of adolescence must become the familiar and commonplace of puppyhood. The socialization process is deceptive because all puppies appear to be Mr. or Ms. Sociable at two, three and four months of age and so breeders, veterinarians and owners are unaware that anything is amiss. People are duped by their puppy’s confident and friendly demeanor, not realizing that the effects of insufficient socialization will not become apparent until later in life. But by then of course, it is pretty much too late for quick, easy and effective rehabilitation." Click here to learn more.
Early Warning Signs Missed
And, Dr. Dunbar continues, "When puppies and young adolescents start to go off-track, the early-warning signs (evident as early as eight to 10 weeks of age) of future aggression are often subtle and easily missed and so, people simply do not respond quickly enough. For example, many owners fail to notice that the puppy is slow to approach some family members, that the pup ducks his head or backs off when reached for, or most important, the puppy does not play with and play-bite other puppies and no longer bites the owners. If the puppy is no longer biting, he cannot develop bite inhibition and when he bites as an adult, he will likely cause serious injury. Most adult dog bites may be predicted during early puppyhood and the prognosis (danger) of biting is pretty much determined by the level of bite inhibition.
Many owners think nothing of the fact that the puppy freezes or struggles when held. In fact, some owners consider struggling when restrained to be an annoyance, or a sign of a “dominant” dog that requires a heavy hand to teach him “who’s the boss” and so sadly, exacerbate the puppy’s fears. Without immediate remedial socialization, classical conditioning and progressive desensitization, puppies gradually but progressively become more fearful and eventually, reactive and aggressive. Again, this is normal development; becoming wary of unfamiliar animals, especially people, is a highly adaptive trait. Unfortunately, by the time the owner notices that their young adolescent dog has a “real” problem, the Critical Period of Socialization is long gone and now rehabilitation will take much (MUCH) longer."
You Can’t Change Genetic Heredity
"The dog profession has long harbored an enormous bias towards genetic, rather than experiential, causes of behavior and temperament. For years, the notion has been that temperament is immutable and caused entirely by genetic heredity. However, my research in the 70s proved that temperament is extremely malleable in young puppies. A number of our pups underwent speedy and dramatic changes in temperament arising from their early social experiences."
Applying principles we have learned with Dr. Dunbar, Pickwick Pugs focuses on molding puppy temperament -- building confidence in shy and fearful pups, toning down bullies, calming hyperactivity and teaching puppies to thoroughly enjoy being hugged and handled (restrained and examined) by family members and strangers, especially children and men.
The Nature/Nurture Debate
has been going on for several hundred years — essentially, whether good dogs are bred, or raised. Here is another link Personally, we don't think it's worth the time and energy to argue this issue. Instead we try to do both -- breed the best we can and give them the best upbringing possible.
Just because a JR acts like Jack Russells and Goldens act like Goldens, doesn’t necessarily mean that the process is 100% due to genetic heredity. On the contrary, many other experiential factors, especially social heredity, come into play and have enormous effects on developing behavior and temperament. Simple cross-fostering experiments provide proof. For example, what would happen if a JRT puppy were raised in a litter of Goldens and a Golden puppy in a litter of JRTs? Most likely, the Golden puppy would learn to put up or shut up and the JRT pup would spend a lot of time lounging on her back, soaking up the sunshine, with her tail lazily a wag, only to occasionally get up to obsessively retrieve a tissue, twig, or ball.
As Dunbar explains, "When we domesticated animals, we selectively bred for those that were more easily and quickly socialized and trained but we tend to forget that a domestic animal is not fully domesticated until it has been fully socialized and trained. Yes, all breeds and types of dog are different but without a doubt, regardless of breed or breeding, the single biggest variable that affects a dog’s temperament and personality and hence, its value and delight as a companion, is whether or not it was adequately socialized, handled and trained as a puppy. Pick any breed or type you like, mixed breed or Malamute, pitbull or Pomeranian, collie or Chihuahua and consider two individuals: one that was socialized and trained as a puppy and one that was not."
Socialization is Too Stressful for Young Puppies
Some breeders believe that puppies will be too stressed if socialized. While it is important to consider age appropriate challenges, it is highly unlikely for a puppy to be dangerously stressed by “too much” socialization and handling. On the contrary, it is a lack of early socialization that condemns many puppies to a miserable quality of life. Anxiety towards people is excruciatingly painful for dogs, especially when forced to confront people every day. Also, living with an anxious or fearful dog is not much fun for their owners, who cannot enjoy walking their dogs and even have to put the dog in a different room when people visit.
When over-stimulated or overwhelmed, young puppies simply fall asleep (to solidify the experiences) and then wake up raring to go again. Neonatal handling may cause short-term, slight increases in corticosteroid levels but puppies that were handled regularly as youngsters experience lesser corticosteroid spikes when handled or confronted with novel or fear-invoking stimuli later in life compared with dogs that were seldom handled as puppies. Essentially, early handling sets the “hormonostat” and enables puppies to cope better with stress during adulthood.
Genes, which many people think of as written in stone, can switch on and off or express themselves very differently depending on environmental influences. Thus, the same gene can express itself as a negative trait or a positive trait, depending on environmental input, especially very early in life. Take, for example, the aggressive variant of the human MAO-A gene, otherwise known as the “Warrior Gene.” At its base, this gene causes people to respond aggressively and have less fear, and also create less empathy for others. Given a supportive, nurturing childhood environment people with this variant grow up to be our presidents and community leaders, make energetic and wonderful spouses and parents, and tend to be financially successful because they have the competitiveness and focus to rise to the top. If, however, an individual with this variant of the MAO-A gene is exposed to a severely traumatic event very early in life, he has a high risk of becoming a sociopath or even a serial killer.
Now, your dog may never grow up to be president or a mass murderer, but it's possible that early environmental influence can determine the difference between the dog that shows like he owns the ground he stands on and the dog that’s such a sonofabitch that you need to take Xanax and a good insurance policy into the ring to show him.
The study of environmental influence on genetic expression is still in it’s infancy, but there’s overwhelming evidence that early experiences and input can effect the way genes play out. But that’s not even the beginning of the story.
Risk of Parvovirus Infection
There is no need to expose a young puppy to any risk of parvovirus infection when socializing puppies with people. Prior to three months of age, puppies may be safely socialized in the breeding kennel, or in their new homes, provided that outdoor shoes remain outside. Rather than taking puppies to the people, bring the people to the puppies. Have puppy parties four nights a week, wherein all guests, especially children, men and strangers, gently handle and train the puppy. (When you have a young puppy, your social life will improve as well.)
We must triage the various aspects of socialization — socialization with people, socialization with dogs, and exposure to different physical aspects of the environment. Socializing puppies with people is extremely urgent, beyond important and completely safe, whereas socializing puppies with other puppies/dogs is less urgent, less important and may carry a minimally greater risk of parvovirus infection. Nonetheless, there is simply no scientific evidence that puppy classes cause an increased incidence of parvovirus. The real risk of parvovirus infection comes from puppies, with little or no immunity, sniffing the ground in contaminated areas, such as low-income (low-vaccination) public spaces and of course, veterinary clinic car parks. Even so, parvovirus infection is seldom fatal with appropriate treatment.
We Can Adequately Socialize Our Puppy in Puppy Class
Puppy classes are truly wonderful but they offer too little too late. Puppy classes are not a place to socialize barely socialized puppies. Instead puppy classes provide a safe forum for socialized puppies to continue socialization under the watchful eye of a trainer on the look out for warning signs of incipient temperament problems, especially fearfulness and aggression towards people, so that they may take immediately remedial action. If we wait to let the new puppy owners do all the training, it's too late. The puppy has missed a window of opportunity that he or she will never be able to have again.
Some owners notice warning signs but ignore them, or they euphemistically excuse the puppy’s behavior, thinking that it’s no big deal.
Ian Dunbar describes a Springer Spaniel that gave him the light-bulb moment for the notion of subliminal bite stimuli was described to
him by the owners as:
“She takes a while to warm to strangers”, “She’s not overly fond of children”, “She’s a bit hand-shy”, “She’s a bit tricky around her food bowl” and “We thought she would grow out of it.” Absolute denial!
As Dr. Dunbar explains, "No she won’t grow out of it unless you help her. She is anxious and she’s crippled inside! She hurts!!! And so, pleeeeeease do something to resolve her fears and anxieties right away. If you do nothing, she will not get better; she’ll get worse. Behavior and temperament never stay the same. Behavior and temperament are in a state of constant flux and are always changing from day to day depending on experiences. I feel so sad when I think of the number of times that I just wished I could turn the clock back for owners of fearful and aggressive adolescent and adult dogs and give them advice so that they could produce a dog as lovely and as bombproof as our American Bulldog, Dune. Yes, he was well-bred but also, he benefited from a social upbringing that was second to none. He was happily friendly and accepting to babies and toddlers, men and boys, strangers and street people, kittens, puppies, chickens, goats, horses, deer, squirrels, little dogs, big dogs, overly friendly dogs and unfriendly dogs. And the fun we had with him and the moments and memories he left."
Prevention is the only way — early handling, oodles of classical conditioning and lots of puppy parties with lots of people, especially children, strangers and men. Socialize your puppy to the max. And if you have a breed that has been described as being sensitive, aloof, standoffish, or protective etc., your puppy requires more socialization, not less.
Pickwick Pugs LOVE outings to all sorts of places. Here they are at 71 days old at Home Depot!
Here they are meeting some guests when they are 36 days old:
Here they are meeting church choir members on their outing to church!
Drive-throughs are always fun! We drive there secured in crate then get in owner's lap just before the drive-up window!
Once titers showed their immunization levels to be high enough we ventured out to many more places …. especially dog stores! Here's Stella working her magic on the cashier at checkout … she scored LOTS of awesome treats and held out for the best! lolz