Why It's Important to Socialize Your Puppy

The world is filled with sights, sounds, smells, and myriad other environmental factors that can be overwhelming for puppies. It's important to socialize your dog early so that she feels comfortable outside of the safety of your home when she meets other people and animals. Without proper socialization, your best buddy could become anxious, depressed, or even aggressive. 

When should socialization start?

The ideal socialization age for puppies is between three and twelve weeks old, with seven weeks being the average age to start socialization. During this time, your pup is very impressionable and more accepting of new things. He is more likely to absorb new experiences rather than shy away from them.

As puppies age, they become more cautious about the world around them. Dogs between 12 and 18 weeks may show signs of fear and aggression when introduced to new experiences. However, owners shouldn't allow the fear to dictate their dog's behavior and instead continue trying to safely and gently socialize their puppy.

Benefits of Early Socialization

Your puppy is a member of your family, and the goal is for him to feel safe, loved, and calm. By socializing early, you're helping to ensure that your dog can confidently navigate new experiences, like meeting new people or enjoying family outings. This is especially important for families with young children. Without proper exposure to kids, your dog may become fearful or aggressive with eager and easily excitable children. 

How do you socialize your puppy?

Socializing your puppy isn't easy, but the results are extremely rewarding. To start, expose your buddy to a variety of situations that she'll encounter regularly like trips to the park, neighborhood walks, visits from friends, or grooming appointments. The more experiences that you can introduce your dog to, the better he will respond as he grows into an adult. Taking time to help your puppy understand the world around her means that you can enjoy more experiences with your best buddy as an adult.

If you encounter issues or just need a little more help to get started, talk to your veterinarian and they'll be able to help you create a socialization plan. 

The Facts About Dogs and Their Paws

Are you concerned that your dog is licking or chewing her paws a little too much? 

Although licking is associated with normal grooming behavior for dogs, when it becomes excessive and includes constant chewing, this could indicate an underlying problem.

One of these conditions could be the culprit behind your dog's incessant grooming.  

  1. Allergy: Whether it's the result of seasonal allergies or a flea infestation, dogs lick their paws to relieve the itch. Keep in mind, though, that the discomfort might not be in their paws. When dogs feel itchy, they lick somewhere accessible, like their paws, to soothe the irritation located elsewhere on their body.
  2. Injury: Cuts, debris between the toes, or other skin abrasions can prompt dogs to chew or scratch their skin.
  3. Habit: Dogs who are frequently left alone for long periods of time or those who don't receive adequate exercise will lick and chew their paws out of boredom.
  4. Anxiety: A change of routine, like a new baby, or separation can trigger anxiety in some dogs. Anxious pups will often groom their paws excessively.
  5. Compulsive Disorder: Although uncommon, constant licking could be a sign of obsessive-compulsive behavior, which can be difficult to treat and control.

More than nuisance behavior, incessant licking and chewing can lead to real problems for your best pal. If left untreated, it could result in painful damaged skin, open sores, bacterial infections, and a vicious cycle of constant irritation. 

Regularly check your dog's skin for any irritations that may be causing discomfort. And, if you notice Fido grooming himself more than usual, contact your veterinarian immediately to pinpoint the issue and start a treatment plan.  

Tips to Keep Your Dog's Ears Clean

Keeping your dog's ears clean is important for maintaining their overall health. 

While some dogs' ears are naturally clean and require little maintenance, others need extra care. Dogs with long or really furry ears, like cocker spaniels, that accumulate dirt and debris more easily are often more prone to ear infections and other problems. 

The physical makeup of your dog's ears isn't the only factor that increases their risk for ear conditions. Yeast and bacteria are two of the most common irritants that can compromise the health of dogs' ears. However, allergies, hormone disorders, ear mites, moisture or wax buildup, and extra hair can also lead to issues.

Regardless of the type of ears that your dog has, checking them regularly to see if cleaning is needed should be part of your regular pet care routine.

Here are some helpful tips to clean your pup's ears safely. 

  • Check to make sure that your pup's ears actually need cleaning. Only clean them if you notice a change like a mild odor or visible debris. Excessive cleaning can lead to irritation or infections. 
  • Clean the external part of your pet's ear only. 
  • Gather your supplies. You'll need cotton balls, gauze, and a towel. Never use cotton swabs or anything with pointed tips, since they could push debris further into the ear or damage the inner structures. 
  • Choose an area of your home that's easy to wipe up---ear-cleaning can get messy. A mudroom or bathroom is a great choice. 
  • Use an ear-cleaning solution recommended by your veterinarian. DIY solutions may contain harmful irritants.
  • Add the cleaning solution to the ear canal and gently massage the base of the ear for about 30 seconds. 
  • Allow your pup to shake her ears back and forth once the solution has been added. This is where the towel comes in handy to wipe your dog's face and any excess spray that may have hit you.
  • Gently wipe out the ear canal with the gauze or cotton balls. The AKC recommends going no further than your first knuckle inside the ear.   
  • Use clean gauze to thoroughly dry the ears. Leaving behind moisture creates an environment for microbial growth that could lead to ear infections. 

Sometimes dirty ears signal more than a need for routine cleaning. It could indicate an ear infection. Here are some signs to look for: 

  • Strong yeasty or bad smells from inside the ear
  • Redness or swelling
  • Vigorous ear scratching
  • Constant head shaking
  • Balance issues
  • Crusts, peeling, or scabs around the ear
  • Hair loss
  • Rubbing the ear against objects such as furniture and walls.
  • Hearing issues
  • Bloody, brown, or yellow discharge

If you notice any of these signs or if your dog appears to be in pain while you're cleaning their ears, contact your veterinarian immediately. Your dog could be suffering from an ear infection or another condition that needs medical attention.

Pros and Cons of Sleeping With your Do

We all dream of it – cuddling up with your pooch in bed on a cool night, reading by your nightlight and snuggling down for the evening. So, is it good or bad to co-sleeping with your dog? We weigh in on the pros and cons of sleeping with Fido in your bed. 

First, let’s start with the pros of sleeping with your dog

He's soft and snuggly, and you just adore that light snoring that he has that helps you drift off into dreamland. He's warm and there's nothing like waking up to your sweet boy in the morning. Plus, just having your dog around can help relieve stress and anxiety and sleeping with him can certainly lower any symptoms of anxiety and stress. All great benefits with keeping your pooch with you when you sleep. 

Sometimes, we have the blue and are down, and sleeping with your dog can help relieve depression. The chemical that is released when you're in close contact with your dog is called oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, that helps elevate your mood. Also, while you're sleeping, oxytocin promotes theta brain waves that occur during REM sleep – that time of sleep where you have dreams. So, not only is sleeping with your dog comfortable, it helps elevate your mood and promotes REM sleep. 

In one study, researchers found that women sleep better when they are next to their dogs. Researchers from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York found that women who sleep with their dogs actually sleep better and feel more secure than if they slept next to their human counterparts. Sounds harsh, but hey, that doesn't mean that you both can't sleep next to your dog! Improved sense of security, better sleep, and they generally had better bedtime schedules. So, cuddle up!

Here are even more ways that sleeping with a dog can help improve your sleep from decreases in loneliness, lowering blood pressure, and bond strengthening with your dog. 

OK, so when it is not a good idea to sleep with a dog?

With all of the great benefits of sleeping with a dog, how could there be anything bad? Well, a few things come into play here – allergies, non-house trained puppies, if you're a light sleeper, or if your dog has some health issues. 

We all know someone with allergies – whether it's seasonal or animal-related – we understand the misery that they can go through. Even if you have light allergies, it's better to make sure that your fur baby sleeps on the floor next to you. You'll still have the benefits of having your dog around, but the other benefit is that their dander and fur stay in their bed and not yours. 

House training is a must as we all know. Puppies take a lot of time to house train and, in general, to train. So, you want to make sure that Bella over there knows when it's time to use the potty and in the right place because your bed certainly isn't the right place. Nothing like waking up to a wet mess because Bella couldn’t hold it in. So, make sure that you have all of that training in place for a good while before you invite her into your bed. 

Speaking of house training, it also helps to improve your relationship and bond with your dog. By doing this, it also helps Bella know who's the boss around the house. By asserting yourself as the pack leader helps curb any potential aggression down the road as well as territorial concerns. Some dogs may have territorial issues, and if you introduce someone new around the house, especially at bedtimes, this could turn into a tad bit of an issue. Take care of it early and make sure that you're the boss, not Bella. 

So, make sure that you weigh your pros and cons of co-sleeping with your dog and you'll have sweet dreams, cozy nights, and furry cuddles. 

Does heartworm prevention and flea prevention need to be given year-round?

One of the most frequently asked questions that many veterinarians get is whether heartworm and flea prevention should be used year-round. The resounding answer is, "Yes." Regular flea and heartworm prevention are essential for keeping your dog healthy and happy. Read on to learn more.

Fleas Pose a Year-Round Threat

Contrary to popular belief, fleas aren't a seasonal pest. While freezing temperatures can kill fleas, it often isn't enough to eliminate the problem altogether. These perennial pests have found ways to survive in even the chilliest climates.

One of the most common ways that fleas survive in cold weather is by living on wild animals such as raccoons to stay warm. These animals unknowingly host numerous flea eggs, waiting to boom again when temperatures warm. Barns, garages, outdoor kennel bedding, nooks underneath decks and home foundations are also popular places for fleas to hide during the cold.

Heartworm Disease on the Rise

Testing positive for heartworms is a diagnosis that no pet parent wants to hear. Unfortunately, the disease is found in all 50 states and is currently on the rise. Some of the increased risks for infection can be attributed to:

  • More and more people are traveling with their dogs, particularly to and from areas with heavy mosquito populations, like the southern United States.
  • Mosquito populations are increasing with environmental shifts such as increasing temperatures.
  • Fewer dogs are receiving monthly heartworm preventive medicines.

Caused by the deadly parasites that it's named for, heartworm disease can be transmitted by a single bite from a mosquito. There are often no outward signs of the disease until it is in the advanced stages. The resulting treatment to cure heartworm disease can be costly and, in some cases, the disease proves deadly. 

Fortunately, monthly heartworm preventives combined with regular testing are easy ways to protect your dog's health.   

Talk to your veterinarian to develop a flea and heartworm prevention plan that works for you and your precious pup.