Is there anything special I need to know about adopting a puppy with no littermates?

Although not common, litters can consist of only one puppy referred to as a “Singleton” puppy. There are several factors that can play a part, including larger breeds who tend to produce larger numbers of puppies since, from a biological standpoint, they're more capable of carrying a big number of pups than smaller dogs. Older and younger dogs tend to produce smaller litters, while those around three to four years of age generally produce larger litters. The age of the male can also have an effect, as older dogs have reduced sperm counts and poorer quality sperm. The level of inbreeding also has an effect, as the more inbred a litter is, the smaller the puppy count is likely to be. If both parents are in optimum health, this maximizes the chances of having a larger litter.

Puppies learn a lot from their littermates like how to play nice, when biting becomes too hard, how to handle conflict, how to control their impulses, etc. If you are adopting a dog from a breeder, then you’ll know that the puppy is a singleton.  However, if you are adopting a dog from a shelter or another rescue group, they may not have background on the dog’s history.  There are some common issues that single puppies can encounter. For example, a singleton may be great at forming strong bonds with other humans but struggle to interact normally with other dogs. For instance, they may play too rough, growl, whine, bark excessively, bite too hard, be unruly when they don’t get their way, and be uncomfortable being handled.   

There are some things you can do to ensure that your puppy grows into a well-behaved dog.  This is especially true if you are bringing a singleton puppy into a household with no other pets.  This was the case with one of my client’s dog who was especially nippy and played too rough.  The puppy did not know the difference between being “mouthy” and biting so hard that it would often break the skin or leave bruises.  The puppy excessively jumped on people and had difficulty not peeing when excited.  There was very little impulse control.  There were tips we used to curb nipping by using techniques like saying ‘Ow” very loudly anytime the puppy nipped to let the dog know that the biting was not acceptable, similar to what a littermate would do if their sibling bit them too hard.  Also, by spraying Bitter Apple on the owner’s hands prior to playing with their puppy helped deter the puppy from wanting to put their mouth on any area that had been sprayed with Bitter Apple.  By providing acceptable toys like Kong for the puppy to chew on, and flirt poles that allowed the owner to have play time with their dog without their hands being in close contact with the puppy allowed the dog to chew on appropriate items.

To help with impulse control, consider training when the dog is a little tired and a little hungry so that the puppy will be more motivated by training treats without being overly hyper.  It’s always good to train within a dog’s behavioral threshold.  For instance, a puppy isn’t likely to be able to stay in one spot for more than a few seconds when you’re first teaching Sit-Stay in the beginning, so start with challenges that the puppy can meet and then make the activities more challenging over time. This will set up your puppy for success and keep you from being frustrated during training sessions. Use opportunities to teach your dog impulse control through exercises like Sit-Stay before placing their food bowl on the ground.

Sign your dog up for puppy school. This will provide your puppy with play time and learn socialization skills.  If your dog is too young to attend puppy school, you could see if another litter in your area has recently been born and is the same age as your puppy and ask the owner if they are willing to let your puppy interact with their litter.  You could also get your puppy used to being handled by cleaning your puppy regularly and providing stuffed toys to mimic littermates. You will also want to teach your puppy self-control and how to deal with frustration, by ensuring that they don't always get their way. For example, don't pick your pup up and shower them with attention every time they whine.  Instead, wait until they have calmed down. Continue to socialize your dog with other canines as they grow older so that they know how to interact with other dogs.

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What’s the difference between Service dogs, Emotional Support dogs, and Therapy dogs, and how do I get my dog registered?

What’s the difference between Service dogs, Emotional Support dogs, and Therapy dogs, and how do I get my dog registered?

By now, you may have seen dogs who are wearing vests that indicate that they are some type of service or support dog at places like airports or hospitals, but what’s the difference, and is it Ok to approach those dogs?  There are three types of service/support related categories that we will discuss:  Service Dogs, Emotional Support Dog, and Therapy Dogs.  Regardless of the type of service or support animal, you should always first ask the owner if you can approach the dog.  If it is a service dog, owners will often decline because their dogs are working and not in play mode.

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Benefits of professional animal massage vs. petting your dog or horse

Benefits of professional animal massage vs. petting your dog or horse

When I tell people that I am a certified animal masseuse, the first question I inevitably get is "So, does that mean you pet animals for a living?"  While petting, patting and scratching your pet has benefits for both people, and pets, animal massage involves so much more than a certified animal masseuse can provide including knowledge of anatomy, kinesiology, massage techniques and benefits, conformation, safety, breed characteristics, basic medical health, and issues, etc.  Just think about the difference you feel when someone gives you a quick squeeze on the shoulder versus the benefits received from a professional massage.

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Things to know when going to an off-leash dog park

Things to know when going to an off-leash dog park

Outdoor off-leash dog areas, (often known as dog parks), provide a community setting for humans to hang out and socialize while their canine companions run around sniffing and fetching and engaging in other typical dog behaviors. Usually enclosed by a 4 to 6 foot high fence with double-gated entry and exit points, dog parks provide an ideal environment for exercise, play, and doggy interaction, all of which takes place under the watchful eye of the dogs’ owners. Ideally, such places will be well-maintained and routinely cleaned as well as provide shady areas for escaping the heat, an available water source, adequate drainage to prevent pooling and flooding after heavy rains, tools for picking up and disposing of animal waste in covered trash cans, and benches or other seating for humans.

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Fun Facts about Dogs

Fun Facts about Dogs

· There are an estimated 400 million dogs in the world. · Dogs have lived with humans for over 14,000 years. Cats have lived with people for only 7,000 years. · Dogs have three eyelids. The third lid, called a nictitating membrane or “haw,” keeps the eye lubricated and protected. · Ancient Egyptians revered their dogs. When a pet dog would die, the owners shaved off their eyebrows, smeared mud in their hair, and mourned aloud for days. · A dog’s shoulder blades are unattached to the rest of the skeleton to allow greater flexibility for running.

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The Real Cost of Owning a Dog

The Real Cost of Owning a Dog

I volunteer at a local humane society which regularly holds special adoption events. At some of these events, adoption fees are waived, allowing one to adopt a dog for free. Whenever this occurs, I can’t help but wonder if those individuals who have purposefully waited for this chance to save the $85-$100 adoption fee truly recognize the long-term costs associated with dog ownership.

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Answers to questions you’ve always wondered about dogs

Answers to questions you’ve always wondered about dogs

Do you ever wonder why your dog walks round and round before settling down in his doggy bed or favorite sleeping spot? There are several theories about why this occurs. One of the most common theories asserts that this behavior dates back to prehistoric times when dogs had to make their own beds. 

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Why is Nutrition so Important for my Dog?

Why is Nutrition so Important for my Dog?

In addition to veterinarians asking dog owners what type of food and treats their dogs consume to help evaluate the dog’s health, almost all certified dog trainers ask this, as well. But, why would a dog trainer care what your dog eats? It’s because nutrition affects a dog’s behavior. Poor nutrition can contribute to a number of behavioral issues in dogs.

For instance, food that provides excess sugar and unhealthy chemicals, can cause dogs who are already aggressive, anxious, hyper, or fearful, to be even more so.

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How do I find the right dog trainer for me?

How do I find the right dog trainer for me?

So, you have a new dog who has never received training, or you have a dog who is not exhibiting the behaviors you would like to see.  You’ve tried everything you can do yourself, but nothing has resulted in the desired behavior.  The next step is to consider hiring a professional dog trainer.  But, what kind of dog trainer should you hire, and what type of training should you use?  There are many factors to consider to make sure you have the right dog trainer.

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What Makes Some Dog Owners More Successful Than Others?

What Makes Some Dog Owners More Successful Than Others?

Have you ever wondered why some dogs listen to their owners while others ignore them?  Most of the time it’s not because of the dogs - it’s because of the owners who have taken the time to research breeds and temperaments in order to find one that fits them and their lifestyles the best.  In addition, the owners have been 100% consistent in their training and enforcing of rules, and they have provided their dogs with an adequate amount of physical and mental stimulation.  Here are some additional tips on how to create the relationship you would like to have with your dog.

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Are Your Kids Asking for a Dog? Here’s What You Should Know.

Are Your Kids Asking for a Dog?  Here’s What You Should Know.

You may have kids who have been begging for a dog.  If so, this article contains some things to consider before adding a four-legged member to your family.  I interviewed a friend of mine, Tracy Ridings, who has five kids, a husband, a cat, and a dog for her advice.  With full houses, like Tracy’s, there are many things to consider before agreeing to add another furry member to your family.

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