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Diamonds in the Ruff

Resources for New Puppy Owners

We understand how critically important it is to get your puppy off to a good start.  Here are some resources to help you bridge the gap between now and the first week of puppy class!

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"Hello, new person.  You don't look or smell like the people I live with."
Watson the Bloodhound puppy is curious, but his body language says he doesn't feel entirely safe.  Head low, hind feet in a cat stretch, tail tucked.  He hopes she's safe.  The friendly person is remaining neutral, not sticking her hand out or leaning toward him, but giving him all the time and space he needs to check her out.  

Early positive experiences shape the great dog they will become.

“The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life… For this reason, the AVSAB believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated… While puppies’ immune systems are still developing during these early months… appropriate care makes the risk of infection relatively small compared to the chance of death from a behavior problem.” - The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior"


Get your puppy out and about early and often.  Just don't put them on the ground where the germs are!

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Riding in a grocery box, in a shopping cart, seeing all the sights and smells and sounds and people at the garden store, safe from germs.

What IS Socialization?

Everyone says my puppy needs lots of  "SOCIALIZATION"!   
What is "Socialization"?  It's way more than meeting other dogs!

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The tiniest percentage of your puppy's socialization requirements is actually meeting other dogs.  Choose their friends wisely.  If you have friends with easy going, well-socialized and vaccinated dogs that you could go hang out with, that would be perfect exposure.  Good mentors who set boundaries if needed, and are well-mannered, good examples.  Not someone to roughhouse with. 

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How do you socialize a puppy when your vet says to keep them home until they've had all their shots?

Socialization starts at the breeder's before you get your puppy, and continues the minute you walk out of their door holding your new puppy.


Here are some resources to help you:  

How can I take them out safely?


You CAN take your pup out before they've had all their shots. 

Take them for a walk.  Just don't put them on the ground! 


A small pup can be tucked inside your jacket or a baby sling and a too-heavy-to-carry pup can be pushed in a stroller.  Introduce both modes of transportation at home where they feel safe before you set out for a walk around the neighborhood or go into a garden center or hardware store. 

Seek out positive experiences:

  • Seeing new things

  • Hearing new things

  • Smelling new things

  • Watching people and animals


Start slow.  Avoid overwhelming situations. 

If your puppy is cautious, choose quiet places.  If your puppy seems uncomfortable, increase your distance from scary things.  Take your time.  The goal of socialization is building confidence and resiliency.

Visit this page for a list of pet-friendly stores in Spokane

Introducing People and New Dog Friends.


Invite calm, friendly friends to visit.  Your puppy needs to experience visitors to your home.  Winter puppies suffer most because the days are shorter and we don't have backyard BBQ's with friends.  Take him out and sit on the porch to wait for the mail carrier or watch the kids walk home from school.


While we shouldn't be taking our not-fully-vaccinated puppies to public places, it doesn't mean our puppies can't go safe places!  Aunt Martha is probably lonely and would love to puppy sit while you go shopping!  The home and fenced backyard of someone with no pets or healthy, vaccinated, pets is safe.  Visits and sleepovers are really about being in a new environment with all the unfamiliar smells and sounds and becoming confident and relaxed wherever they go.  Walking on new floors and stairs and meeting new people.  This will set them up for success when you leave them behind to go on vacation later in their life.


Play dates.  Do you have friends who have vaccinated, healthy, social and friendly dogs who are good with puppies?  There is nothing better than a good mentor.  Of course, you will choose your puppy's friends wisely and be sure that they are safe from bad experiences and bad examples!  The best play dates are hanging out together, sniffing around the yard, interspersed with fun romps, not constant revved up knock-down wrestling matches.  He's not there to play, he's there to feel safe, practice good manners, boundaries, and learn to share. 


Passive socialization rather than direct puppy-to-dog / puppy-to-human interaction. The ultimate goal of all socialization is that the puppy remains neutral, focused on their owner, not over-excited wanting to jump on everyone and everything.  Your puppy is learning to be calm instead of over-stimulated in new situations and around new people and animals.  There is a benefit to not allowing your puppy to rush up to every dog and human squealing, "Can I pet your puppy?"  Of course, pups DO need to see and sniff and say 'hello' to a wide variety of humans, big and small, but in a SAFE and polite way.

The best thing about passive interaction is the cautious puppy gets more time to observe and acclimate without being swarmed or overwhelmed.  He has the choice to say 'hello' or not and leave when he's done.  Appropriate social distance is the length of a 4-foot leash, plus your extended arm.  Direct people who want to meet your puppy to sit so the pup can come to them.  Give him time.  Allow your pup to venture to the end of his leash to go see someone if he'd like and congratulate him when he retreats back to his own comfort zone, without being followed.  If he doesn't want to right now, that's fine, too.


Practice CALMNESS. 
It's ridiculously easy to teach your puppy to
act like a loon. 


People will say "I don't mind" and they will pet and fuss over your puppy while he is jumping all over them and mouthing their clothes.  It's cute now, but it won't be in another month.  Teaching polite greetings will require vast amounts of dedication to help your visitors get it right.


The overly-friendly excitable puppy needs space in order to learn to pass calmly and not jump on everyone he sees. Learning to be calm is really hard.  He needs LOADS of practice NOT saying hello right away.  Behavior that is practiced gets stronger.  

Can I pet your puppy?  Wait a minute!  If yours is an excitable puppy, keep your distance to keep him from jumping all over the person.  Allow him more time to acclimate and his emotions to settle down before letting him say hello.  You can take this time to explain how you would like them to greet your pup so he will be more successful when you do let him say 'hello' to that person in the park.  Keep meetings short, at a polite distance, and move on.  

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Your dog gets better at whatever he practices.  What is your dog practicing?
 Jumping up?  Or sitting for petting?  Dragging you down the street? Or walking nicely on a slack leash?
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He's finally had all his shots and the vet says now he can go for walks.  What now?

Choose safe routes that are free of stray dogs.  Avoid streets with aggressive dogs barking behind fences.  Let him set the pace.

Out for a walk - start by not going anywhere. 

Once the vet says it's safe to go to the park, drive there and just get out and sit on a park bench and let him take it all in, from your lap if that's where he feels safest.  If he seems curious, set him down, keep your leash slack, and just let him explore as much as he wants, or not.  If he needs to sit between your feet, fine. 


Remember, he can't explore or play if he doesn't feel safe.  Praise him for bravery.  If he wants to follow the scents, cool.   If he wants to pick up a stick and drag it around and chase leaves, even better.  These are signs that he feels safe enough to have a good time.  This is your goal!  Tomorrow, go find a new park.  Stick to quiet places at first and gradually work up to places where there are people and traffic.  


At this point in his life, it's less about how well he walks on leash, but how comfortable and safe he feels.

It's not about how far you go, but how often he simply gets out of the house to sniff around new environments.  Leaving the safety of home is hard.  If he needs to stop and take it all in to be sure it's safe or decides it's just too much and he'd like to head back the way he came, that's fine, too.  Keep the leash slack - it should only become taught if you need to use it as a brake pedal to keep him safe or stop him from going where he doesn't belong, like into the street. 


Passing other dogs and people.
Don't let him rush into the space of another dog - even if the owner says it's friendly.  You don't know if that dog is healthy or safe.  If every dog he meets corrects him, what he may learn is that dogs on walks aren't very nice.  The MOST important lesson your puppy needs to learn, is that we remain neutral and pass other dogs and people politely.  We don't jump on people or dogs.  We keep our paws to ourselves and respect their personal space.  We don't need to stop and talk to everyone, unless it's a new friend we plan to meet again.

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When your maturing dog has been to many, many places and felt safe around vast numbers of new people, sights, sounds, smells and things, they will reach a point where nothing surprises them anymore. 


They have accumulated such a rich history of positive experiences that this "flailing air noodle" is just one more weird thing in the world that is probably okay.

This is what it means to have a

"well-socialized dog."

- Carol A. Byrnes, www.

PRIVATE LESSONS for your family & your puppy:

My veterinarian can't sign my permission slip yet   -or-

I just need a little one-on-one help with my tiny alligator before class begins!  


Contact Travis Byrnes for private lessons in your home or at the studio

509-710-7697 or email to schedule a one-on-one in-home consult.

What concerns do you have?

  • mouthing and biting

  • building a good relationship with the kids

  • house training

  • crate training

  • learning to be alone

  • games and toys and healthy play

  • helping your current pets and new puppy establish a healthy relationship

  • basic skills to get you started before your group puppy class begins

Travis will answer all your new puppy questions and help you get off to a good start!

Suggested reading
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The Year of the Puppy - Alexandra Horowitz


"Horowitz follows Quid's first weeks with her mother and ten roly-poly littermates, and then each week after the puppy joins her household of three humans, two large dogs, and a wary cat. She documents the social and cognitive milestones that so many of us miss in our puppies' lives, when caught up in the housetraining and behavioral training that easily overwhelms the first months of a dog's life with a new family. In focusing on training a dog to behave, we mostly miss the radical development of a puppy into themselves—through the equivalent of infancy, childhood, young adolescence, and teenager-hood.


By slowing down to observe Quid from week to week, The Year of the Puppy makes new sense of a dog's behavior in a way that is missed when the focus is only on training. Horowitz keeps a lens on the puppy's point of view—how they (begin to) see and smell the world, make meaning of it, and become an individual personality. She's there when the puppies first open their eyes, first start to recognize one another and learn about cats, sheep, and people; she sees them from their first play bows to puberty. Horowitz also draws from the ample research in the fields of dog and human development to draw analogies between a dog's first year and the growing child—and to note where they diverge. The Year of the Puppy is indispensable for anyone navigating their way through the frustrating, amusing, and ultimately delightful first year of a puppy’s life."

Great Resources:

Great books for parents:

Visit DOGWISE publishing for an amazing collection of books on everything dog related! 

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FREE downloads: Ian Dunbar's books:"Before You Get Your Puppy" & "After You Get Your Puppy"

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