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Raising a Puppy 101

Raising a Puppy 101Led by Tufts animal behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, experts from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine have released a new book that provides pet owners with a guide for raising happy, healthy puppies.

No. Grafton, Mass. [05.07.07] From selecting food to house-breaking a young dog, people face a variety of challenges during the early stages of puppy ownership. For those who have questions about everything from picking out a new puppy to raising a healthy dog, Tufts animal behaviorist Nicholas Dodman suggests picking up a copy of "Puppy’s First Steps: The Whole Dog Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy, Well-Behaved Puppy." The new book, written by experts from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, is a comprehensive how-to guide for puppy owners.

"We thought a lot about it," Dodman said during a recent interview on The Early Show on CBS. He added that Cummings School faculty with diverse expertise—ranging from small animal nutrition to critical care—all "weighed in on this book."

Published in April, the guide was edited by Dodman, a renowned animal behavior expert and director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Cummings School. He explained on The Early Show that the book addresses issues that crop up even before people bring a new puppy home.

"You've got to figure out …do I want a certain breed?" Dodman said. "Do I want a mixed breed? Do I want to rescue a dog from a shelter?"

According to Dodman, the book covers all of these topics, with sections on buying a dog from a breeder, picking out a puppy from a shelter and "temperament testing" for dogs. He pointed out on The Early Show that professionals can help you "choose a dog with a personality and physical factors that fit in with your lifestyle and what you're able to do." He added, "That's a terrific thing to do."

According to Dodman, it can be problematic when people don’t think ahead to how a puppy’s personality might develop or how big it is going to get. This is sometimes the case with "Christmas puppies"—a term Tufts experts use to describe dogs that are given to people as gifts.

"They look cute …and they bring them to the house, but they really haven't thought about what it entails," Dodman said on The Early Show. "They haven't thought about how big they're going to grow. They haven't thought about their exercise requirements. They haven't thought about how to keep them entertained when they're not at home."

In the preface of the book, the Tufts authors point out that of the 13 million households in the United States that adopt a dog each year, half hand their dogs over to shelters and pounds during the following year. "Clearly, there's a gap between the wanting and the doing, a hole that needs to be filled," the authors wrote.

To guide puppy owners in "the doing" portion of dog care, the experts offer information in the book about what Dodman describes as one of the most crucial aspects of raising a dog: socialization.

"We say that the most important things with getting a puppy are socialization, socialization and socialization," he told The Early Show. "Most people don't understand it. You know, they pay lip service to it. But I even have breeders who come to see me …after the gold rush when things have gone wrong."

Dodman said a common misconception is that spending a small amount of time with a puppy each day amounts to socialization. It takes more of a time commitment than that, he said, warning that even veterinarians sometimes give wrong advice when it comes to getting a puppy adjusted to the outside world.

"They say, ‘Keep your dog in before he's vaccinated,’" Dodman said on The Early Show. "You can't start walking him until he's four months."

That’s the wrong approach, according to Dodman. He explained that socialization "starts at the beginning and is an active process."

It’s never too early to begin training a puppy, Dodman added. He told The Early Show that diving in on the first day is "a good idea."

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