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Canine Behavior/Puppy behavior after going to day care

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"Dear Madeline, I have read you biography and I promise to read and rate your response within three days.  I understand that your time is valuable, that you are most likely spending at least 45 minutes of your time in response to my question, and I understand too that when questioners read and rate your responses fairly that you make random donations to animal shelters to help homeless animals.  In the interest of being appreciative of your time AND helping shelter dogs and cats, I agree that I will rate your response and give you fair feedback."

We recently took our 13 week old Boston Terrier to day care.  We took her last Friday and yesterday (Tuesday).  Since we took her in she has started sucking on her stuffed bunny and pawing it as if she is sucking at her mother's teet. She has not done this before and we don't know if it is because she is stressed out, unhappy, treated badly, etc.  Can you help us understand this behavior?

Thank you for your assistant.

Answer
Hello, Tam,

Thank you for cutting and pasting the virtual contract in my biography and taking the time to have read my bio.

It would be impossible to determine whether or not your Boston pup's "security blanket" behavior is due to events which may have occurred in doggie daycare, since I don't know what events may or may not have occurred.  As well, I don't know if other events outside of doggie daycare may have had a paw in this new behavior.

Since your pup is only three months of age, I'm inclined to think that the behavior you're describing is more related to teething than anything else.  It would be a good idea to provide chew toys for your Boston, including ones that can be frozen to provide some relief to her gums.

If the behavior turns out to be not related to teething, you are welcome to follow up with me at a later time.  For instance, you don't mention how long you've had her, and how long she's been separated from her mother and the litter.  If the separation from those was very recent, this separation could have been one of the factors in the cause of the behavior, if it continues past the teething period (the last teeth to develop are the canine long teeth, which come in by six months of age).  Pups spend a lot of time interacting with littermates, grooming, playing, licking, etc.  The behavior towards the bunny may be a substitute for behavior towards littermates and the mother, although at this age I'm strongly inclined to think that the behavior is a result of teething more than anything else.


Other reasons that may NOT be due to teething (although, at this time, I would think the behavior you're describing is strongly related to teething) is, for one, if your Boston was adopted before seven weeks of age, she may have been weaned too early.  Too-early weaning could have an effect on behavior.

There are many other factors which could cause what seems to be (since I haven't seen it and I don't know how often or when it occurs) this "security blanket" behavior.  If she's being left alone more than she's been used to, this could be a contributor to the behavior you've described.  And, I must reiterate, the behavior is most likely due to teething and new teeth coming in.

There are really too many possible factors to consider, teething and new tooth development being the strongest reasons resonating for me.  I wouldn't jump to thinking that the daycare may be mistreating her in some way, particularly if her behavior is normal the rest of the time and the behavior towards her bunny toy doesn't become excessive after the teething period.

I would keep an eye on the behavior over time to see whether it disappears after the teething period, or if it continues and becomes excessive, and to see if it starts to generalize to other objects, or even to parts of her body, when she's older and her teeth are fully developed.  Sometimes stereotypies (OCD behavior in dogs) develops from such behaviors.  But, it could be nothing but simple puppy behavior due to teething.

Make sure you give her lots of attention through positive training, play, opportunities to eliminate out of doors when she needs to, and maintain a consistent feeding and walking schedule along with a consistent training schedule, and lots of toys designed for teething pups.  Keep an eye on the behavior, and if it starts to become excessive or generalizes to other objects or to herself once her teeth are fully developed, after six months of age, see a veterinarian.  It would also be a good idea to follow up with your veterinarian now and ask some questions about teething and natural ways of reducing the discomfort for your Boston.

If you do determine that daycare is too stressful for her for any reason at any point, and that the behavior is not related to teething, remove her for a week or two, see if the behavior goes away or lessens, which might indicate that the daycare may be the wrong one for her, or that she's not a candidate for doggie daycare.  If that turns out to be the case, it might be simply that it's the wrong mix of dogs for her, and not any mistreatment on the part of the daycare.  However, that being said, daycares for dogs should be chosen as carefully as daycares for young children.  If you asked the daycare about the behavior you described to me, they should have been able to tell you as well that it's most likely due to teething at this age.

I appreciate your question and am delighted at your attention to changes in your pup's behavior.  You sould like a concerned and attentive puppy parent!

Best regards,
Madeline Friedman, M.A.
Volunteer at Allexperts since 2006
Dog Trainer and Behavior Expert at Innovative Reality Dog Training since 2002

Canine Behavior

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Madeline S. Friedman, M.A.

Expertise

I respond to public questions only. I'm not a veterinarian & do not respond to medical questions.Suggestions: Submit a question in one area of priority, as what I am able to address in this venue is limited. Provide as much detail re: the behavior & issue as you can. Tell me how & if behavior is a change from previous behavior & when the changes occurred. Let me know what you think may have triggered such changes & what you have tried so far to resolve it, & what the results were. Let me know what you want help with & what are your concerns & questions about the behavior. I have set up a payment/donation to myself for responding to questions. I donate most of it to animal shelters & rescues. I keep a small portion for my time. The minimum donation is $25.00 on PayPal. When I see that a donation has been made, I will respond to your question. You will be prompted to make the donation before submitting your question. When you have read & rated my response fairly, which must be at the time you read it, I will refund $5.00 back to you IF YOU REQUEST that I do so in your rating comments. If I ask for more details, please respond as a "follow-up" & not as a new question. If I don't respond to your question, I will refund your donation less $5.00. DO rate me fairly at the end of our exchange. I will be pleased if you DO nominate me for volunteer of the month - why not, if I was generous in my response? I may suggest something you were not necessarily ready to hear, but I am honest in the interest of helping your dog, & that is my goal. Please keep that in mind. Please do NOT contact me privately about Allexperts questions through my e-mail or website unless I have invited you to do so. That is an invasion of my privacy - thank you for respecting it. If you would like to contact me for actual dog training & behavior consulting, you may contact me through my Web site.

Experience

Own & operate dog training & behavior consulting businesses, Hoboken Dog Trainer, and ny-njDogTrainer, in the NYC & NYC Metro areas since 2002. Work with thousands of dog owners & their dogs, & shelter & rescue dogs. Active volunteer in dog shelters and rescues (rescues being "no kill" and shelters being municipality-run urban shelters that can and do euthanize dogs). AllExperts volunteer in "Dogs, Category 701" and "Dog Training" and "Canine Behavior" since 2006. When you submit a question, please make sure it's being submitted in the appropriate category as I volunteer in two different categories. Make sure you agree to the Virtual Contract (the instructions I outline for question submissions) and agree to read and rate my response when I answer in the body of your question. I make donations to various animal non-profits based on YOUR ratings. If you don't rate my response, or rate it unfairly, you have just denied a dog rescue org or shelter a donation. Keep that in mind.

Organizations
Professional Member of APDT for five years Founding Member of Animal Behavior Associates Behavior Education Network Former Board Member of IAABC, appointed by Founder Former Member of IPDTA in Canada Founding member of Behavior Education Network

Publications
Chronicle of the Dog (APDT, peer publication, numerous articles) Popular Dog Series magazine, numerous entries AOL in Everydayhealth.com Tonowanda News Morris County News Vermont News Boston NOW New York A.M. Polo Trace Newsletter The Dodo AOL

Education/Credentials
Counseling Psychology, Caldwell College Animal Science, Rutgers University Master of Arts Degree Permanent New Jersey State Teaching Certification (teach public school and university level) Numerous workshops, lectures, and seminars on dog training and behavior Ongoing self-motivated study in my area of expertise

Awards and Honors
Best Canine Coach Award, 2006, Rondout Valley Instructor's Training Course Society of Illustrators, second place international competition Jellybean Photographics, second place international competition Fashion Institute of Technology "Commitment to Illustration" award

Past/Present Clients
Testimonials from a number of clients appear on my Web site at www.ny-njDogTrainer.com under "Reviews." My customers include: Puppy owners wanting to get their puppies off to the best start; owners of mature dogs who want their dogs to have more obedience skills; fosters and owners of rescue dogs or shelter dogs; customers with special needs who need to train or retrain their dogs; housetraining and housebreaking; owners who have behavioral issues with their dogs such as house accidents, aggression towards humans, aggression towards other animals, inattentive dogs, unmotivated dogs, overly-exuberant dogs; and, more.

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