I love lemon. I love it so much my boyfriend groans because when asked what I want for dinner my go to is always, and I mean ALWAYS Piccata. I love lemon bars, lemon meringue, lemon cake, lemon zest, lemon in my tea.... But there's one place I've never liked to see lemons, and that's in dogs. While not for my taste, I am an expert on dogs and a fancier of lemons, so I'm taking one for the team here.
Now, I hate those recipe blogs who make you weed through the back story of a recipe, so for you cut-to-the-chase types, here you go. Cut it out and stick it on your fridge!
Fortunately, us owners don't have to do all the leg-work on this front. Factors prior to coming home can heavily impact your chances of creating a lemon dog.
Step 1: For strongest flavor, I recommend picking your puppy knowing full well one or both of the parents are unstable in one way or another. It may not always be possible to see the product first, so you can sub out for doggy parents you've never met before. Think pet stores, online ads, or breeders who give a million reasons why you can't meet there parents etc. Often these dogs are from "oops litters" or better, puppy mills. These large scale commercial breeding operations squeak by meeting bare minimum standards for the dogs they house. Puppy Mill dogs are the cream of the crop when creating a lemon dog. Here are the bare minimums for my state of Colorado. Dreamy!
Step 2: Be sure that the mother has had a stressful pregnancy. See recommended sources above. This is because stress in utero is well known to cause behavioral issues and ain't no momma dog spending her pregnancy in a crate with grated floors surrounded by other stressed and pregnant dogs relaxed, amirite?!
Step 3: Be sure to keep your puppy inside your house until they've had their final vaccination. Simmer that lemon-ey behavioral stew throughout their socialization window. This ensures they acquire no social skills and only see the real world once that developmental period has passed. It's like those kids who are locked in a closet for their childhood, only finally being discovered long after their developmental milestones are in the rear view. Sure, they may be able to learn a word or two, but man are they stunted emotionally and behaviorally. Except now in dog form.
Follow these steps, or even part of them! Play around with the recipe! You'll find that creating a lemon of a dog is actually quite easy.
In all seriousness, we know that creating a lemon of a dog is never anybody's goal. Our careers are dedicated to preventing this and to undoing it when it occurs.
- Sometimes the internet has steered us wrong.
- Sometimes well-meaning families pick up outdated books or watch outdated information on the TV and things go wrong. And by the way, I'm not immune to it either. I wasn't always a trainer and I've made plenty of mistakes and will likely make more in my lifetime with my dogs.
- Science is ever-changing. It's easy to fall behind, but don't be discouraged. That change means progress. That progress means better relationships in the long run with these lovely animals.
- Our fear of communicable disease gets the best of us.
- Sometimes we get a puppy of unknown origin and we're working against the clock to make up but for real or possible deficits. There are a million reasons why dogs develop behavioral issues. Heck, sometimes we do everything right and we still see problems arise.
My point is, there is so much research now that enables us to tip the behavioral scales heavily in our favor. We know very well what to do and very well what creates problems. We want to avoid creating problems. The above recipe is truly a recipe for disaster. I don't recommend it and yet it's still commonplace for puppies to have the deck stacked against them from the outset.
It doesn't have to be that way. It shouldn't be that way. Puppies are a huge undertaking that starts prior to coming home with you at the breeder. A good breeder will be selecting for quality genetics, not just in body but also in mind. They work hard to keep their mama dogs comfortable and low stress throughout pregnancy and will also work their butts off to provide early socialization to those puppies under their charge until they go home with you. Puppy Culture, Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS), and Avidog are all programs designed for breeders to start puppies off right and that's important! A huge chunk of their socialization window occurs before a puppy comes home. Nowadays some really great rescue groups also implement these procedures on puppies they take in or are born with them because they understand the importance.
Once your puppy is with you, you have to leave your house to get your puppy comfortable in the world and while we don't know exactly when the socialization phase begins to taper (likely because it varies from dog to dog), we do know it becomes harder for them around 12 weeks of age and exponentially more difficult or in some cases impossible after 16 weeks of age to get them well-socialized and habituated to the world at which point we're instead looking at behavior modification. The point being, the earlier, the more thorough your efforts the better for puppy socialization. You can do this on your own or you can attend trainer-moderated socialization groups. For busy families of which there are many, Our Puppy Day School is a great option where we do it all for you while you're at work and you still get that bonding time with your dog when you're home.
Whatever your route, just always remember, fear is the enemy in socialization and you need to vet your trainer carefully to be sure it's not just a free-for-all.
Prioritize socialization above all else. You can absolutely take training classes, teach your puppy skills along the way, but if you're short on time, puppy socialization is top priority because guess what? Your puppy is short on time too. You don't get that chance again. Training can happen at any age, socialization only for a short period in early development.
Last, I'm always a fan of adopting an adult dog. For the most part, what you see is what you get after a couple years of age. Behaviors of course can always crop up as pain and environmental factors and experiences are always going to factor.
Check out our website for more information on our puppy services.