Some people like to pinch babies' cheeks, without regard to the baby's consent. Likewise, some people greet puppies with enthusiasm and tease them relentlessly. Protect your puppy from traumatic experiences like teasing. "Dogs can develop fear of a particular person or a general type of person... noises, objects, places, or situations," says dog behaviorist Linda Brozdik. Supervise your friends' interaction with your puppy to prevent behavior problems later.
Puppies form their personalities during the first six months of life. You want to develop a stable-tempered, confident and outgoing dog, so beware of events that happen in your puppy's life that could affect him or her for a long time. Something that might annoy an adult dog might really terrify a young puppy, because both positive and negative experiences have stronger impact on a puppy than on an older dog. Rewards make great impressions on a puppy, but so do frustrations, fear-evoking experiences and pain.
Types of Teasing
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Some people just don't understand that their actions have lasting effects. A puppy's reaction to a running vacuum cleaner may be comical, but chasing him or her with a vacuum is cruel, and it leads a dog to panic. Kids who walk by your yard might greet your dog on their walk to school, but others might "bark" at the dog and get him all excited, teasing him with sticks or noises. These acts are more than random occurrences, they are significant acts that can damage a dog's confidence and affect his temperament.
Cause and Effects
Dogs who have been teased develop behavior problems. Obvious problems include dogs who become excessive barkers or fence pacers. The dogs may become anxious anticipating the arrival of teasers, such as bullies walking to and from school at predicted times. This can cause puppies to express their anxiety by self-mutilating and chewing on themselves, or by becoming diggers or escape artists. Dogs may lose their trust in people, and they may fail to respond to training methods, if they have been teased with foods. In extreme cases, dogs can become fearful or aggressive.
If you learn that your puppy has been teased, make sure you stop the actions immediately. You should consult with an animal behaviorist to reestablish your dog's confidence. As you know, an aggressive dog is a liability, and teasing a dog could cause a dog to become aggressive, as a result of defending himself or herself. A fearful dog is just as dangerous; they often growl or bite when they feel threatened. Use common sense -- never tease your puppy -- and you can enjoy his companionship for many enjoyable years.
Connie Jankowski began writing in 1987. She has published articles in "Dog Fancy" and "The Orange County Register," among others. Areas of expertise include education, health care and pets. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Pittsburgh.