Laddie helps puppy Britta understand how to gently greet others.

Puppy Parenting

Although adult parent dogs know how to bring up their puppies best, there is a chance that humans can still be effective “puppy parents.”

This is our goal at Mountain Hooves & Paws!  We study the most recent science of canine behavior and apply these principles to our puppy training program.  You’ll learn how to bring up your pup in a way that fosters confidence (to minimize any chance of separation anxiety or reactivity towards others) and also foster a bond of understanding between species.

Our Puppy Program

Our puppy program at Mountain Hooves & Paws follows a combination of guidelines from Karen Pryor Academy’s Puppy Start Right as well as the research and guidance of renowned trainer, Turid Rugaas.  One key aspect of the program is to help your puppy be exposed to a series of positive experiences before they are 16 weeks old.  This is the “magic” time according to behaviorists!  We also will recommend limiting the amount of time a puppy spends meeting strangers (it’s good to be out seeing strangers from a distance but not meeting them up close at this stage).  And, of course, it’s important to protect your puppy from energetic adult dogs or dogs who display any type of reactivity.

Is Your Puppy Developing in a Normal Way?

To help understand normal development in puppies, we refer to Dr. Jen Summerfield’s blog.  She’s a behaviorist and veterinarian who has studied the development of puppies – aged 16 weeks and under – and what normal behavior is to certain stimuli versus what responses are possible yellow or red flags (because they won’t go away over time).  Here’s an excerpt from her article and for the full article, see:    Will My Puppy Grow Out of This?

GREEN = normal behavior, no need to worry. ?  May need training to work on basic manners or specific skills, but no serious concerns.
YELLOW = keep an eye on this.  May be fairly easy to improve with some basic socialization and positive training.  If not, ask for help!
RED = concerning!  Puppy kindergarten or basic obedience training will NOT fix this.  Needs referral to a professional for comprehensive treatment plan.

Trimming puppy’s nails with treats and gentle restraint

  • GREEN = wiggling, curious, friendly; or standing quietly, willing to eat treats
  • YELLOW = freezing, growling, or struggling to get away
  • RED = biting, or serious attempt to bite (NOT puppy mouthing); yelping or screaming in fear

Walking past the food bowl while puppy is eating

  • GREEN = no reaction
  • YELLOW = eating faster, freezing, or hunching over bowl
  • RED = snarling, lunging, attempting to bite

Greeting a friendly stranger on a walk

  • GREEN = approaching eagerly with loose, wiggly body language
  • YELLOW = worried at first, hanging back or hiding; but warms up quickly and is happy to greet
  • RED = hiding behind owner, shaking, cowering; or barking and lunging at stranger

Playing with another puppy (assuming similar age and energy level)

  • GREEN = friendly and happy to interact, matches intensity level to playmate, both pups having fun
  • YELLOW = gets overly aroused and bullies playmate; or acts fearful and unsure
  • RED = aggressive behavior with injuries to other pup

A caveat – these assessments aren’t set in stone!  Every situation is different, so it’s hard to give black-and-white guidelines that hold true 100% of the time.  You may be able to think of exceptions to these rules, which is fine.  If you’re unsure, have a professional evaluate your pup and help you decide whether you have reason to be concerned.

But in general, you’ll notice a running theme – young puppies, less than 16 weeks old, should be relatively fearless about the world.  They should be friendly with strangers and other dogs, and they should not show any “grown up” aggressive behavior like snarling, lunging, or serious biting.

Your pup may well become more reserved around people and less tolerant of annoyances as he reaches adolescence and adulthood, which can be perfectly normal.  But right now, he’s just a baby – if he’s not acting like one, something is wrong.

What Next?

As human parents, there is much proactive work you can do to help ensure the best life for you puppy.  We offer private lessons for puppies and their human parents at this stage of the pandemic.  We will bring a safe adult dog to the lesson for exposures and help arrange puppy play dates with other puppy parents in the area.  So, private lessons can be just as effective because meeting other dogs is just a small part of the puppy’s upbringing.  Here is the link to learn more about our private lesson package:  Private Lessons and Day Training