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What causes dental disease?

Just like humans, dogs and cats accumulate plaque on their teeth from bacteria left behind from residual particles of food. The buildup of plaque over time can lead to periodontal disease, resulting in multiple health issues for your pet. Any sort of oral problems can escalate over time if not properly taken care of and can be as serious as tooth loss and organ damage.

Signs of Dental Disease

  • Difficulty eating & loss of appetite
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Receding or bleeding gums
  • Nasal discharge or sneezing

Since March 2020, our world has been transformed in numerous ways. Some people reading this may have experienced profound changes in their lives due to Covid, while others less so. Regardless, everyone has been impacted by lockdowns and social distancing requirements.

Believe it or not, some of the trends stimulated by Covid have proved to be positive. As millions of people spent more time at home, pet adoptions increased. Additional adoptions are a bright spot since more pets find forever homes. According to a Washington Post article of January 2021, “Some rescues have seen pet adoptions increase 30-40% over 2019.”

Adopting pets during the pandemic has led to many questions for new pet parents. Some of the popular questions include; how does one go about socializing a dog during a pandemic and how important is socialization?

How important is socialization?

Socialization is essential for all dogs. They are social beings, and most thrive with social contact. Is it as critical for older dogs who are already comfortable with human beings to be around many people during these difficult times? No, although some contact is beneficial. The real need for socialization is with puppies, particularly those between 8-16 weeks of age. During this period, a puppy can most easily learn to be comfortable around people. Pet parents with dogs of this age need to be mindful of this and do everything they can to positively introduce their new dogs to various people and circumstances safely and reasonably.

How do you socialize your dog during a pandemic?

The answer is positively and carefully in a variety of situations. Some pet parents use the term socialization to mean that their pets feel comfortable with people, other dogs and with a variety of things they are likely to experience in their environments. In other words, to be at ease in the world they live in. Some of this can be accomplished without any additional people at all. For example, start by getting your dog used to walking on different surfaces, everything from tile, carpet, wood, gravel, cement, grass, etc. When introducing a puppy to various surfaces, be sure to praise and give super special treats to them while they are exploring. The key is positive associations. The more positive experiences your puppy has when coming into contact with new things (including people), the more confident he/she is likely to be around them. Aside from surfaces, get your dog used to hearing and making positive connections to everyday things around the house. This can include TV, radio, vacuum cleaners, garbage disposals, etc. Praising and rewarding your puppy around these noises is something I highly recommend. One word of caution. Louder and more intense isn’t better. Whenever you can control the volume of sounds the dog is exposed to, start low and gradually increase volume as the dog gets comfortable with the sounds.

Teaching your puppy to settle and to be home alone and happy is one of the most important steps in puppy training, though for many it is also the most overlooked! Dogs are naturally social animals and so being alone does not come naturally to them. Many owners find themselves frustrated as they are unable to go anywhere without company!

It is therefore our responsibility to help our puppies feel as calm and confident as possible while on their own. With some time and patience, you can have your puppy home alone and happy in no time!

Important note: Before discussing the training, it is important to note that puppy’s emotional state needs to come first. Many owners will try and get a jump start on separation training by practicing departures from the first day the puppy comes home. While this is a great idea in theory, it can lead to further distress as your puppy will feel confused and abandoned from the day they come home! Instead, when you bring a puppy home, for the first few months of your puppy’s life, you should focus on settling them in the space and ensuring they are happy and comfortable before being to leave them.

Step 1: Teaching Confidence Around Barriers

The first step of prepping your puppy for separation is getting your puppy confident around barriers. Having your puppy understand they cannot always have everything they want when they want it will help with not just separation training, but general frustration tolerance and impulse control.

Deciding where your puppy will be left is a crucial step in this process. Most puppy guardians will opt to leave their new puppy in a crate or pen when left, to prevent them from practicing destructive behaviour or toileting in the wrong place. Getting them comfortable in their crate will help to prepare them for eventual departures.

When looking to select your crate, you should opt for a crate that is big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down, but no larger. Though this may seem cruel, there is a practical reason for this! Puppies are taught by their mother at a young age not to toilet in their resting space, and so are less likely to toilet in their crate. If the crate is too large, they are likely to use half for sleeping and half as a toilet! If you want to buy a larger crate for your puppy to grow into, then using dividers to break down the space to help prevent this problem.

If you are planning to use a pen, then you can make this slightly larger. Giving your puppy a place to rest, a place to toilet and even some toys to play with are all acceptable in this space!

Encouraging your puppy to rest in their crate or pen at other times of day (with the door open if your puppy isn’t quite there yet!) will help to build positive associations that this is a place of rest. Giving them a stuffed kong to lick and chew in their pen will help accelerate process. While your puppy is resting or chewing, you can practice opening and closing the door to get them comfortable with this, while rewarding them for staying calm.

This can also be done around baby gates and doors. If your puppy is worried by you going to the bathroom, for example, you can scatter some treats outside the door while you are out. This keeps you puppy busy looking for treats while you slip in and out of the bathroom. If you are planning an activity that may take longer, such as getting changed or bathing, giving your puppy a kong or activity toy to do on the other side of the door will help to build up a positive association with you being on the other side of the door!

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