Fido needs more friends, new Guelph study finds

A study from researchers at the University of Guelph has found not socializing your puppy may lead to behavioural problems which can then lead to people giving up their pets.

Not socializing your puppy may lead to behavioural problems

A study from the University of Guelph has found your puppy needs more than just you, but at least half of new puppy owners aren't properly socializing their dogs. (CBC)

A dog may be man's best friend, but a new study from the University of Guelph has found a puppy needs more than just you.

The study found one-third of new pet owners failed to adequately socialize their puppies. This puts their pets at risk for developing behavioural problems, the researchers said.

"A significant proportion of pet owners are missing the small window between two and 14 weeks where socialization is such a crucial piece in the behavioural development of dogs," population medicine professor Jason Coe said in a release about the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The study surveyed 296 puppy owners. Each owner had one puppy and they were surveyed just after they got their puppy and again when the dog was 20 weeks old.

Researchers found 145 of the survey respondents attended a puppy class, although they noted in the study class structure differed greatly. The study also found higher enrolment in classes by owners who had higher incomes, who lived in cities and who did not have children.

'Significant differences'

When asked at the 20 week mark about puppy behaviour and the owners' disciplinary techniques, the two groups of owners had "significant differences."

Janet Cutler is a University of Guelph researcher and also an animal behaviour consultant in Ottawa. (Submitted photo)
Janet Cutler, a post-doc student at the university who was part of the research and who works as an animal behaviour consultant in Ottawa, said not going to puppy class meant the dogs had little chance to socialize with other dogs and humans.

Not going to puppy class meant those dogs had limited interactions with dogs outside the home — for some, it was less than five times every two weeks.

With people, interactions were fewer than 10 times every two weeks.

Cutler noted they also found puppies that didn't go to classes were more likely to be afraid of noises, including vacuum cleaners and thunder and seemed scared when they were being trained to stay in a crate. As well, they tended to chew things or show aggression to people and other pets.

"We find that development of behaviour problems is one of the leading causes of breakdown of that human-animal bond and therefore the dogs are relinquished to animal shelters or to other homes," Cutler said in an interview.

"Puppy classes are really important because they provide a lot of information to owners. So they allow a period of time usually for puppies to interact with one another and play, but they usually involved some kind of owner education and working on basic obedience skills," she said.


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