Puppies are Cool & Complicated


First in a series

Adopting a baby dog isn’t the only way to bring a member of this excellent species into your life but if you decide to take this path you’ll need to be prepared. Raising youngsters, canine or human, is not for the faint of heart.

We dog leaders (call us dog owners or pet parents if you prefer) have a whole lot of influence on how our puppies develop and who they turn out to be. They are not, however, a blank slate on the day they ride home with us. Just like the color of their coats, their brains are programmed with genetic coding. Epigenetic influences are also significant. I’ll explain.

Mothers are important. What happens to them from 3 weeks prior to the birth of their litter and until 3 weeks after can have an indelible impact on the genetic wiring of their babies’ brains. How mama is treated by people and other dogs, plus perceived threats, hardships like malnutrition, and all the wonderful interactions she enjoyed during that time all feed into how her offspring will behave. Coming from a good home matters. That’s epigenetics. It occurs in people too.

A very young developing puppy brain is quite impressionable. Mine was, my children’s were, and so were the puppies I have raised. Not to lay a heavy trip on you but if you get at least part of this challenge right, you can take credit for the wonderful life your shiny new pupster shares with you for a long time. I’m not bragging about my dogs, past and present, but they’ve been wonderful.

I’ll share some excellent ways of getting a puppy off to a great start but I know you’ll make mistakes. Everybody does. Try not to sweat it. Dogs are good at forgiveness. If you screw something up just say you’re sorry, adjust your management and life will go on. Nearly all dogs possess beautiful qualities that are less often found in humans. I love people too but for somewhat different reasons. Next week: Puppy picking.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet behavioral or physical questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.