1. What should I expect about raising a new puppy, particularly one of an unfamiliar or mixed breed, or just after a long lapse from owning a dog?
Bringing a new puppy into your home is exciting! You can expect enormous joy, lots of cuddles and licks, and plenty of love. There will be sleepless nights, puddles on the floor, tooth holes in your body and a few chewed up shoes. You should also expect to invest much time, effort and yes, money, in raising and training your new puppy. It’s a big responsibility and not to be taken lightly. We easily forget that puppies are a lot of work. They are so very cute, how hard can it be to raise one? We tend to remember our last dog through “rose colored glasses.” Our previous dog was pretty close to sainthood! Your new furry friend will achieve that status as well. With time, love, and a lot of patience, Fido will join the ranks of our sainted favorites!
2. So you’re thinking it’s time to get a new puppy or dog to share your life.
You need to get the “lay of the land” beforehand, to avoid headaches later. First off, be aware that there are often big differences in behavior of the various breeds of dogs. Often, owners have chosen their pup based upon the “look” of the breed or their memory of what the characteristics a dog of a certain breed were when they had one. Things may have changed since. Modern dog breeds have been heavily modified via 9,000 to 30,000 years of artificial selection by human beings. This was done to generate physical and behavioral traits, suitable for some sort of “job,” which were reproductively stable and could be passed on reliably. This should be kept in mind when selecting a dog to ensure its traits and “job” proclivities are compatible with your life style. Do thorough research early on, see good examples of the breed you are interested in and try to talk to good breeders to be fully informed about your choice. The phrase Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) certainly applies here. Be knowledgeable about hybrid puppies as well. Even if you know the composition of your mixed breed puppy, you should also consider the fact that the behaviors of mixed breed dogs are not governed by simple additions and subtractions of contributing breed characteristics. Spend time to get a good assessment of your prospective pet.
Once you’ve narrowed your search for a purebred dog, or mixed breed pup, visit many breeders or rescues to make an educated choice as to a good individual match between you and a pup. Whenever possible, see the parents as well as siblings to get a good feeling about what to expect behaviorally with your dog.
If you are looking at a mixed breed puppy, try to see at least mom and littermates. If you have some idea of what combination of breeds are in the mix, it will help you determine what characteristics to expect.
3. What is “enrichment” and what kinds of activities will provide enrichment for my dog? What is quality “play time?”
For owners, “enrichment” – especially “environmental enrichment”– is the inclusion of toys, articles for interaction, or involvement with people and environments to improve the lives of their pet animals. Enrichment is vital for the physical and mental health of our sentient animal friends, helping to retard physical disease and premature aging. The key is to provide opportunities for the animal to experience some measure of control and choice over physical, social and other aspects of their environment for a varied life.
For dogs, toys are extremely important for play, relief from boredom and permissible chewing to relieve stress. Puzzle feeders are very important as well, particularly for problem-solving dogs, to slow ingestion of food and to encourage mental focus. “Find it” exercises for locating hidden treasures of favorite treats are another means of providing enrichment for dogs with an appetite for mental challenges. Sensory stimulation entailing the use of interesting sights, sounds and smells is also very healthy for dogs
The scientifically reported benefits of enrichment include reduced stress, reduced abnormal behaviors, increased relaxation, improved cognitive abilities, reduced traumatic vocalizations and barking. Quality play time should provide all of the above, with a tired and relaxed dog at the end.
4. What is “socialization?”
“Socialization” is the careful introduction of a young animal to positive experiences which will provide a comfortable and balanced “world view” about activities with people and other animals. There are periods in the development of an animal when they are particularly sensitive to imprinting from these experiences. Dogs have sensitive periods from birth to 16 weeks of age, when mom and littermates help provide the basic social “rules of the road.” Also, exposure to socially competent dogs and the larger human environment can have major impacts. Puppies should have frequent and positive interactions with humans, especially being handled by strangers. Ian Dunbar, Ph.D., a renowned behaviorist, has stated the value of socialization: “We know that 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 toward people. We know these problems are difficult and time-consuming to attempt to resolve in adulthood, yet may be so easily prevented with ample early socialization and handling.”
A good puppy and an adolescent dog class can work wonders in this regard and the risk of infection to a dog is virtually non-existent. Socialization, however, also involves sensory experiences, such as new sights, sounds, smells, surface textures, etc., which can help to provide coping skills for when a dog is confronted by the unexpected. Fear and aggressive responses to the unknown and unfamiliar occur later in life involving people of various ethnicities, other dogs and other species can only be avoided if they were commonplace when the dogs were puppies and adolescents. The various rules of early exposure to the environment such as the puppy socialization Rule of Sevens are meant to deal with this.
5. What is the Rule of Sevens?
Adapted from Pat Hastings article The Puppy Puzzle
By the time a dog is seven weeks old, she/he should have:
-Been in at least 7 different locations (backyard, garage, kitchen, neighbor’s yard, etc.);
-Eaten from at least 7 different containers;
-Been held and petted by at least 7 different people;
-Taken at least 7 one-mile car rides;
-Been in a crate at least 7 times;
-Played with at least 7 different kinds of toys;
-Walked on at least 7 different substrates (grass, gravel, concrete, etc.);
-Been taken somewhere alone, without mom or littermates, at least 7 times;
-Been exposed to at least 7 challenges (climbed on a box, gone through a tunnel, climbed up steps, etc.).
6. When do puppies lose their razor-sharp baby teeth?
Puppies begin losing their very sharp puppy teeth at around 12 weeks. They have usually lost all of their baby teeth and have their full complement of adult teeth by 6 months.
7. Should I crate-train my puppy?
It is recommended that you start introducing the crate to your puppy or dog as soon as you bring him home. There are many benefits to having a crate-trained dog.
Crates are a valuable tool for house-training a dog. Few dogs will soil their crates if they can help it.
Fido has a safe space where he can’t be bothered by other household pets or people.
If Fido has to be left at a boarding facility or veterinary clinic, he will be less anxious having become comfortable with a crate at home.
The list of things that your dog cannot do when crated is extensive. Many of them are behaviors that you are probably working on teaching Fido not to do. These can be controlled by a crate when you are busy with other aspects of your life. If your pup is crated while you are otherwise occupied, he’s not chasing the cat, jumping on the kids, chewing on electrical cords, stealing your shoes and having housebreaking accidents.
Having your pup happy and comfortable in his crate makes taking your dog with you when you visit friends and family a happy event.
You can bring Fido on trips and enjoy time together away from home. You are sure that Fido is safe, and your friend’s house is intact when you cannot directly supervise the animal. Taking your crate with you ensures that your friends and family still love you and your dog when the visit is over.
8. How should my dog ride in the car? Is it ok to have him ride on my lap?
It is never safe to have puppies ride on your lap in the car. Fido should always be restrained when riding in the car, even for short trips. In the same way that you wouldn’t let a child ride in the car without proper restraint, you need to consider your pup's safety in a motor vehicle. Small dogs can take advantage of car seats specifically made for dogs. These come with a proper seat belt harness and still allow our smaller pups the opportunity to view the world out the car window. Larger dogs can ride safely in a proper seat belt harness or their comfy car crate.
9. When will my puppy stop chewing on everything, including my family?
There is no magic date and time that your puppy miraculously grows out of the biting and chewing stage. Puppies explore their world with their mouths and their noses. If it smells interesting, it is liable to taste wonderful! The best cure for inappropriate chewing and biting is prevention. Make sure that Fido has easy access to appropriate chewing items. Spend time showing Fido what he can play with, and keep other items out of his reach. Crate him when he cannot be supervised to avoid him finding fun treasures to destroy. Remind him when you are playing with him that humans are fragile, and cannot take the pain of puppy teeth!
Offer alternatives, praise and reward for choosing toys over your hands! Take the time to teach Fido what to do and you will spend less time telling him what he is doing wrong.
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News & Articles
by Carol M Harris UW-AAB, Michael E. Harris UW-AAB, Ph.D.
Current research approaches for treating canine cancers
Recent progress in the treatment of Human cancers has been focused upon using the body’s own immune system to combat the disease. One reason why cancer can be so difficult to treat, let alone cure, is that it often evades the Human immune system. The Human immune system is very aggressive because of a type of killer cell called the T cell. The T cells act by triggering a “self-destruct order” in the targeted cells to remove them. T cells have a site on them to recognize the cells they were sent to destroy and a “checkpoint” site. To prevent the T cell from indiscriminately targeting and killing healthy, normal cells like those in joints (rheumatoid arthritis), or skin cells (psoriasis), etc. it’s normally “switched off”, until needed, by an inhibitory protein on a cell called PD-L1, which binds to it at a site on the T cell called PD-1. Cancer cells can often have their own PD-L1 protein to bind to and turn off the T cells sent to kill them, thereby evading destruction. New approaches of cancer treatment are using PD-L1 “check-point” inhibitors to block cancer cell ability to turn off the T cells. Keytruda™ is a prominent example of a cancer therapy currently being used to treat a variety of human cancers. This kind of approach is now also being researched in the U.S. and Japan to treat dogs for malignancies, including ones that have metastasized, such as oral melanoma.
For further reading (Warning: Science content! The semi casual reader might be interested in the Abstract and Conclusion portions of the papers) see:
Igase, M., Nemoto, Y., Itamoto, K. et al. A pilot clinical study of the therapeutic antibody against canine PD-1 for advanced spontaneous cancers in dogs. Sci Rep 10, 18311 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-75533-4
Maekawa, N., Konnai, S., Nishimura, M. et al. PD-L1 immunohistochemistry for canine cancers and clinical benefit of anti-PD-L1 antibody in dogs with pulmonary metastatic oral malignant melanoma. npj Precis. Onc. 5, 10 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41698-021-00147-6