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  • Richard Chan

My puppy loves it!

When you let your puppy play with another dog, it is very easy for the puppy to have some negative experience which many people are not aware of because of how subtle it looks and how quickly the puppy seemingly recovers. These seemingly minor negative experiences can have a very major impact on your puppy’s outlook and behaviour that most regular owners often overlook. I have seen many puppies who were very young yet were fearful, reactive, even aggressive, and that was not because they were not exposed to other dogs - but rather exposed excessively and improperly. When l talked to the owners, they often said things like, “l don’t know. I was socializing my puppy in (big box store)’s puppy classes and he seemed very happy. I also took him to the dog park all the time and he loved it! He was very good with other dogs then one day he growled at a dog and it just went downhill from there.” Because these negative experience are so subtle, most owners never saw it. They do not even know that it happened. They stand around and watch their puppies wrestle and they think they are doing a great thing for their puppies. Then one day, this puppy starts to act “aggressive” towards other dogs and they feel very shocked, disappointed, frustrated, and upset. I have raised many puppies without ever taking them to a dog park or a puppy class in a pet store or to a friends house to play with their dogs. These puppies knew how to play with dogs and were very good with people. Most importantly, they knew how to trust and engage in their human owner so they could stay focused and engaged under distractions. They have confidence in their owners and in themselves even under a stressful and foreign environment. The difference is guidance, and trust. A puppy who keeps experiencing these subtle negative experiences with other dogs and people in the presence of a clueless owner will lose trust in the owner. A puppy who has no guidance from the owner will learn to simply tune out and ignore the owner when he is unsure. When you have a puppy who does not trust his owner, who does not feel that he can look to his owner for guidance, who does not look at the owner as someone who knows what he is doing, how can you expect this puppy to feel safe and protected around the owner? When these negative experiences and this “l can’t trust my owner to keep me safe” mentality is deeply imprinted in a puppy, it will creat a lot of issues. I don’t allow my own dogs to interact with dogs or people l do not trust. I do not trust other dogs unless l know the dogs and the owners and have seen their behaviour with my own eyes. I socialize my dogs only with dogs that are balanced and are well under control. I do not use dog play as a means to tire out my puppy so he can sleep well and leave me alone; l use other dogs to teach a puppy proper manner, and to build engagement, confidence, impulse control, and trust. It is not all about playing wild, it is also about being content, calm, and fulfilled when not playing with each other at all. And during all the encounter, l stay very involved, and very attentive, and very hands-on so the puppy will feel advocated for and therefore will not develop any negative experience. Puppies are not easy to raise. Most people are doing it backward. Please seek professional help if you do not have a lot of experience or knowledge with canine behaviour. Taking a puppy to play with a bunch of dogs and do a lot of “meet and greet” is not always the best thing to do. Sometimes, less is more. It is quality over quantity. The puppy is learning and absorbing all the time. These subtle damages from all these “meet and greet” and negative experiences with other dogs can take a lot of time to undo. Thank you.


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