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Animal Behavior Counseling

Recent studies indicate the value of living with companion animals, such as lowering blood pressure and easing depression.  In return, animals thrive on the love and attention they receive from us.  Our goal is to enhance this bond by focusing on positive reinforcement rather than punishment.  Both you and your pet benefit from this approach, as the human-animal bond is strengthened.

Animals respond well to positive reinforcement, allowing us to change undesirable behaviors into desirable behaviors.  At AWC, we feel animals deserve our respect; therefore we suggest gentle treatment methods along with appropriate techniques.  This way, much can be accomplished without breaking the animal's spirit, but instead improving trust and communication.

Schedule a consultation at AWC to talk about your animal's behavior issues, and then learn how to gently correct the behaviors that are threatening the special bond between you and your pet.

Socialization is a Life Saver for Your Puppy

You just adopted your brand new puppy and you are in love already. Your parenting instincts are in high gear, you want to do everything you can to protect her and keep her healthy and happy for the rest of her life. A physical exam, vaccinations, parasite protection, lots of toys and finding the right food come to the top of your list. This is a great start, but to achieve all your dreams for this precious pet, we haven’t included the most important insurance of all: Socialization.

Do you know the number one reason puppies lose their homes and subsequently lose their lives? It is behavior problems, not infectious diseases, accidents or parasites. Unacceptable behaviors are the leading reason dogs under three years of age are relinquished to shelters where a high percentage will be destroyed. Experts in veterinary behavior around the world have studied the causes for behavior problems in young dogs, and they agree that the majority of the problem behaviors can be traced back to lack of appropriate socialization during the puppy’s sensitive period.

The Sensitive Period.  The sensitive period for your puppy is the first 3 months of life. During this time your puppy is the most open to accepting and embracing other animals, new people, new experiences, objects, sounds and handling.  Repeated, positive exposures will provide your puppy with the skills she needs to understand and interact successfully with her world. This is a brief, yet precious, period of time for your puppy. Socialization classes are an ideal opportunity to make the most of these few weeks.

On the other hand, improper or incomplete socialization can increase her risk of behavioral issues in the future including fear, avoidance, and aggression.  Frightening or painful experiences can produce life-long phobias at this age. After 16 weeks of age the puppy’s mind closes to novel experiences. Their brains are programmed to be very wary of unfamiliar individuals and experiences and the sensitive period closes.

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) has issued a formal Position Statement on Puppy Socialization. Pointing out the critical role early social learning plays in a puppy’s success, the statement reads in part, “ For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.

Of course vaccinations are critically important to your puppy’s health, but the notion that our puppies shouldn’t be exposed to each other or the world outside their home until the vaccination series is complete is outdated and indeed dangerous to your puppy’s psychological development. Most puppies can start participating in socialization classes at 7-8 weeks of age after receiving a minimum of one set of vaccinations.

Socialization and Habituation. Socialization can be described as the process whereby an animal learns how to recognize and interact with the species with which it cohabits. In the wild this is likely to be limited to the animal’s own species, but for the domestic dog it includes other species such as man and cats. By learning how to interact with these the socialized dog develops communication skills which enable it to recognize, amongst other things, whether or not it is being threatened and how to recognize and respond to the intentions of others.

The socialization process starts at birth. Gentle handling and cuddling a newborn helps them learn to accept the manipulation of their bodies and to associate human touch with a pleasant experience. During the next 12 weeks they should be exposed to people of all ages, sizes and shapes. They need to see people in hats, with facial hair, wearing different clothing, and using a cane. These experiences will help them identify and be comfortable with all the different visual manifestations of humans.

Well socialized puppies have ample opportunities to play with other dogs. Their world needs to include interactive toys, novel objects, car rides, and visits to other homes. Encourage them to explore each environment and build self confidence.  All of these experiences are healthy and necessary for the next phase of learning:  Habituation.

Habituation. Habituation can be described as the process whereby an animal becomes accustomed to non-threatening environmental stimuli and learns to ignore them.  As she explores her world your puppy is being bombarded with information. She needs to learn who is a friend, does it hurt, can I eat it, is it fun, is it no big deal and can be ignored. We have all met dogs that seemed to over react to very common, non-threatening situations. They may have reacted fearfully, become over-protective, aggressive or hyperactive.  All of these behaviors result when a dog is improperly or incompletely socialized. These animals never had the chance to habituate fully to their world.

Socialization classes provide an ideal format for raising confident, well adjusted dogs.  Classes must be conducted by persons who are qualified trainers and held in a clean and safe environment. Puppies should be encouraged to explore and engage at their own pace. Teachers and puppy owners must use only positive reinforcement with praise and an abundance of treats. Most of all, you and your puppy should be having FUN!

The Animal Wellness Center is very proud to offer high quality, safe, fun and affordable socialization classes. Puppies between 7 and 16 weeks of age, having received at least one set of vaccinations and a de-worming treatment are eligible. Ideally, enroll your puppy when she is 7-8 weeks of age and then continue to attend weekly until she is ready to move into Puppy Kindergarten. This approach will maximize her learning experience during her all-important sensitive period.

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Training Classes

The Animal Wellness Center also offers classes to assist you in using positive reinforcement techniques to train your puppy, address any  behavior concerns and tighten the bond of affection and unconditional love between you and your pet.  All classes need to be paid in full at time of registration to hold spot and are non-refundable after two weeks prior to the start of class.

Early Puppy Socialization

Come join the fun!  Early Puppy Socialization is a 5 week class that will focus on socializing your new puppy to other dogs, people, and objects. Puppies will learn basic foundation skills such as:

•    Introduction to positive reinforcement training
•    Name recognition
•    The right way to introduce leash walking
•    And so much more!

We will provide a safe, controlled environment in which puppies are encouraged to explore and have fun.  This is an ongoing revolving class so there will always be new puppies and people.  Class meets once a week for one hour.  Each week will be a different series of exposures of objects, people and new behaviors designed to build their confidence.

What is Puppy Socialization?
Up until 16 weeks of age, your puppy’s brain is open to every experience they encounter. This phase of development, referred to as the sensitive period, allows the puppy to understand and accept his normal surroundings.  During this time your puppy is the most open to accepting and embracing other animals, new people, new experiences, objects, sounds and handling.  After 16 weeks of age, puppy brains are actually hardwired by nature to become wary of new things, making it much harder to shape them into a relaxed, friendly and confident adult dog.

It is extremely important to expose your puppy to as many new things as you can during their sensitive period.  

During this critical time, they should be exposed to people of all ages, sizes, and shapes.  For example, they need to see people in hats, with facial hair, wearing different clothing, using a cane or walker.  You need to provide many opportunities for your puppy to play with other dogs.  Their world needs to include interactive toys, novel objects, car rides, and visits to other homes.

When Should I Enroll My Puppy?
The class is open to puppies between 7 and 16 weeks of age, having received at least one set of vaccinations and a de-worming treatment. The goal is to get your puppy started right away and then continue into Puppy Kindergarten without missing a beat. Once you have finished the first 5 weeks you will want to continue to attend on a weekly basis until you graduate to Puppy Kindergarten.  This approach will maximize their learning experience during this critical period.  Early Puppy Socialization Classes are the perfect first step in helping your puppy become a more confident and well adjusted adult.

How Do I Get Registered?
Call us today at (763)420-7958 to learn more about the importance of early puppy socialization and our fun classes.  Cost is $80.00 for 5 weeks, then a $16.00 fee for each additional class you attend.  Want to try a class?  Cost for drop in is $19.00 per class.  Classes are held at 6:30pm on Tuesdays here at the Animal Wellness Center. Sign up today!

Puppy Kindergarten

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