Animal Welfare Professionals

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  • 1.  Are you seeing more challenging young dogs these days?

    Maddie's Fund Staff
    Posted 01-26-2022 08:40 PM


    Hi,

    Here's my question: Are you seeing more young dogs with challenging behaviors?  What percentage of young adult dogs in your puppy classes or shelters have challenges and how does that compare to 2 years ago?   If you're seeing it, why do you think this is happening?

    Background:
    I have a five month old puppy and i've struggled to find socialization opportunities for her. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and there are a LOT less socialization classes available.  And for some reason that does NOT make sense, many of the classes these days won't accept pups into them until after their four months old, AFTER their primary socialization phase is over.   Because i'm willing to do pretty much anything to try to raise my pup to be behaviorally healthy, i was able to find something. But it led me to think about this and talk to different colleagues about it.  

    It led to a bigger discussion around the likelihood that covid might not be the primary factor here and the fact that so many people are acquiring pups from questionable sources might be the bigger factor.  I found this data from Best Friends to support this concept. A 400% increase in purchasing dogs online!!!



    What are you experiencing?  I'd love to hear what you think!

    Sheila
    #Behavior,TrainingandEnrichment

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    Sheila Segurson, DVM
    Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
    Maddie's Fund
    9258608284
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  • 2.  RE: Are you seeing more challenging young dogs these days?

    Posted 01-26-2022 10:01 PM
    Yes seeing more challenging dogs.  I feel like I rarely see a "normal" pup any more;-(. More transports.  More dogs from other countries- street dogs.  More early trauma , transport trauma, prenatal stress and more in my professional opinion.  

    Carol Sumbry  ACDBC, CPDT-KA

    Associated Certified Behavior Consultant/Certified Dog Trainer 


  • 3.  RE: Are you seeing more challenging young dogs these days?

    Posted 01-27-2022 08:07 AM
    Coming from the follow-up side of working with dogs who are already in homes, I don't know if the numbers tell the same story, but it certainly feels that way. This data on where people acquire their new pets is fascinating! I always assumed it was a combo of the perpetual shift in our population over the years + COVID. I've also wondered if our increased distemper survivor numbers may have had any role in this shift as well, or if it's simply a matter of correlation rather than causation (e.g. increase in X population leads to increase in Y behavior in that population but not an increase in Y behavior compared to the overall population). Again, I have no numbers to say even how that population has increased (if at all) in the past 2 years, just something I've been curious about for a while.

    I know there have been discussions among behavior & foster teams exploring ways to create socialization opportunities for puppies (parvo puppies and other puppies in isolation for medical treatment especially worry me), but the minimum age may still wind up above that critical stage to mitigate/eliminate risk of spreading parvo and distemper.

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    Zan Lowell
    they/them
    Dog Behavior Follow Up Trainer
    Austin Pets Alive!
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  • 4.  RE: Are you seeing more challenging young dogs these days?

    Maddie's Fund Staff
    Posted 01-28-2022 01:26 PM
    Hey Zan!

    That data IS super interesting, isn't it? It relates to what i'm hearing about from my veterinary behaviorist colleagues. That they're seeing so many challenged young dogs, in large part because of internet sales and transport of undersocializeddogs from the south.  

    Sheila

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    Sheila Segurson, DVM
    Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
    Maddie's Fund
    9258608284
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  • 5.  RE: Are you seeing more challenging young dogs these days?

    Posted 01-28-2022 08:16 AM
    Re puppy classes for pups older than 4mos. Around here in rural/small town central valley, CA, the veterinarians advise their clients to keep dogs home until then. Some of my training clients have taken that literally and kept dogs IN the home.

    Perhaps more intra-profession discussions would help, and a reissue of the AVSAB puppy position paper.

    Are there more unsocial dogs? There are too many factors that have to be considered to answer that. 


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    Augusta Farley
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  • 6.  RE: Are you seeing more challenging young dogs these days?

    Maddie's Fund Staff
    Posted 01-28-2022 01:24 PM
    Hi,

    Re veterinarians (saying this with the caveat that i am one), yeah, in the puppy class i entered,  there was someone with a 40 lb, 4 month old GSD who brought the dog to class in a baby carriage.   4 months old and they weren't letting the dog set foot outdoors!!  And yes, the dog was an absolute mess.  It's sooooo sad.

    Sheila

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    Sheila Segurson, DVM
    Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
    Maddie's Fund
    9258608284
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  • 7.  RE: Are you seeing more challenging young dogs these days?

    Posted 02-02-2022 11:42 AM

    Hi Sheila,

    This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart and I'm so glad you asked. I am a foster and do not work at a shelter so I do not have any firsthand knowledge about changes in behavior problems but I have been studying early socialization for over a decade. I believe it is the key to preventing behavior problems and, ultimately, to reducing the number of adoptable pets that are euthanized each year.

    The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior states that behavior problems are the #1 cause of damage to the human-animal bond, surrenders to shelters and euthansias.  I don't think shelters like to highlight this fact because it gives the impression that shelter dogs are 'broken' which, to some degree, can be true. However, with an appropriate dog-family match and a little guidance and training, most shelter dogs still make wonderful pets. But why not prevent these problems in the first place by socializing them? I don't think we can stress this fact enough: Behavior problems are the #1 cause of death in dogs under 3 years old in the US, not infectious disease.

    I attended a seminar by Dr. Ian Dunbar in 2009 where I learned about early socialization (0-12 weeks old) for the first time. This was after a lifetime of interest in animals which included volunteering for animal shelters, participating in 4H, attending horseback riding camp, owning a dog walking business and earning a BS in zoology. Almost no one talks about early socialization. Puppy Culture and Avidog are the only two resources that I have found and these programs are both geared towards breeders. The idea that, with a little extra effort in the beginning, we can provide lifelong, positive impacts AND reduce the number of animals surrendered and euthanized has changed my outlook on animal sheltering and fostering.

    I think the source of insufficient puppy socialization stems from a combination of ignorance and fear. (I just want to note that ignorance is not the same as stupidity. We are all ignorant of 99.9% of what is knowable.) Most puppy owners, breeders and animal rescues have almost no understanding of early socialization. I knew nothing about it and I have a degree in zoology! We are also afraid of puppies getting sick and, fair enough, the death of a puppy is heartbreaking. But do you know what is also heartbreaking? A pet being surrendered to a shelter. It devastates the pet, the family, the shelter staff who have to look that sad, scared, confused pet in the face and the person whose job it is to euthanize them due to overpopulation.

    Socializing a puppy before 16 weeks old is an act of courage - we are bearing the burden of the possibility that a puppy will die to prevent the near certainty that they will develop behavior problems. I think, as a society, we have been lulled into the misconception that if we just play it safe, nothing bad will happen. The problem is that 'safe' is an illusion. There is a cost to every action we take (or don't take) and we all have to play the never-ending balancing act of costs vs benefits.

     When covid first hit and we started to lock down and socially isolate, I became concerned about the effect this would have on puppies and young children. I have no data on dogs but we are discovering that children ages 0-5 are experiencing an average of a 20 point drop in IQ as a result of isolation and masking (not being able to see expressions or peoples' mouths when they speak). Since dogs are social creatures, I would assume they are affected similarly but it is quite unpopular to point out these inevitable consequences.

    Dr. Dunbar recommends that puppies meet at least 100 people before 8 weeks and another 100 before 12 weeks. To do this we have to either invite people to our homes or take puppies into public. Yes, by taking puppies into public before they have their final vaccination at 16 weeks we are putting them at some risk. BUT, with some very basic precautions (don't let the puppy touch the ground in areas that are frequented by other dogs, for example), that risk pales in comparison to the risk of a puppy losing its home and, potentially, its life.

    Dr. Dunbar's seminar actually changed the direction of my career and caused me to start World Ready Pets. My goal is to create a video training series that makes it easier for more people (fosters, breeders and pet owners) to raise a well socialized litter of puppies by taking advantage of the first half of the early socialization period (0 - 8 weeks). There is very little information available on how to raise puppies because, well, it's not easy. They require a lot of work and space but, with this video training series I will try to break it down so that the puppies get what they need in terms of behavior and socialization. I also hope to encourage more people to foster puppies.

    Just thought I'd share some thoughts since it seems that you see value in early socialization and are concerned about the effects of isolating puppies. It's a topic worth discussing.



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    Diane Zahorodny
    World Ready Pets
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  • 8.  RE: Are you seeing more challenging young dogs these days?

    Posted 02-02-2022 01:30 PM
    There is also the possibility that people are more tolerant of certain behaviors compared to earlier generations so tend to keep rather than relinquish or euthanize.

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    Augusta Farley
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