Getting a New Puppy During Lockdown

Unprecedented Times

So, we find ourselves in the most strange and unprecedented times. Whilst we were all busily planning our lives and future, unaware of the terrifying virus on the horizon that was set to alter the course of life as we know it, some of you were planning puppies. Usually this is an exciting time of arranging excursions for socialisation, exploring the world through your puppy’s eyes of wonder and excitement and friends and family visiting you to see the new addition.

Obviously, not much of that will be happening now…so how on earth are you going to socialise your new puppy in this strange new world?

Temperament Formation

As we know the most critical period of temperament formation is up to around 12 to 16 weeks of age. I talk a lot about breed and individual specific socialisation; not all puppies are the same and it is most certainly not always a case of the more the merrier in that the dog needs to play with masses of dogs and touched by hundreds of people – it should be about the needs of the individual at the time and the likely predisposed behaviour of the adult dog based on the ever changing character and development of the puppy.

The positives about socialising your dog during ‘lock-down’ are huge – many puppies being raised now won’t be learning to run over to all dogs because they are simply not allowed…they won’t be learning that everyone in the street wants to cuddle them, because (even if people do want to…they can’t!), they will be more habituated to life as an adult dog who is with the owner and that the rest of the environment is not their business other than to be observed and accepted.


The obvious downsides that I can see are for some dogs who really do need a lot of dog on dog contact to develop normal engagement skills – for example the German Shepherd Dog and the Border Collie who can be very sensitive breeds with seemingly awkward engagement skills in some individuals. Equally a lot of the guarding breeds such as the Rottweiler, Spanish Water Dog and breeds like the Akita will not be used to visitors entering the home – this may not be such a problem for the more innately gregarious dogs like Labradors and Golden Retrievers, but may also affect some of the more timorous breeds like some of the Vizslas and UK bred Ridgebacks.

There is not an answer to this, because we are not in control of our environment and can only work within the confines of what we have.

Daily Exercise

So, if you have a puppy during this time, I suggest that you use your daily exercise periods to accustom the puppy to traffic, walking past people at a sensible social distance; they will see joggers and cyclists and other dogs and learn that they are to be ignored. The most important thing is to do what you can do within these limitations – for example, if you drive to the supermarket to do your shopping and as only one family member is allowed in the store, have another family member sit with the puppy in a crate in the back of the car and allow puppy to see what is happening around. The main focus should really be on obedience training which will help greatly in the future to guide the dog through new situations with confidence. As importantly, create the household routines and boundaries that will apply in the future – if you normally work for four hours a day, the puppy will need to get gradually used to time alone – a crate is of great use when raising puppies for a number of reasons, but critically the puppy needs to learn that alone time is a part of each day to avoid separation and over bonding issues in the future. Feeding a natural raw food in a Dental Kong is a great way to ensure puppy has a positive experience when alone, as well as tiring their jaws, relieving teething pain etc.

Work from Home

I’m really fortunate that, in normal circumstances, I work from home. My dogs spend a great deal of time with me typically and so little has changed for them (aside from a lack of visitors, days out in the car, walking with friends, training clubs, tracking through the open spaces and only one walk per day!) As we know exercise on a daily basis is critical for physical and psychological well-being. At present, we are still able to exercise our dogs, but depending on the area, some parks and open spaces require dogs to be on lead. This can be difficult for dogs that are used to a good couple of hours free running. There are many things that you can do to increase stimulation, but you need to be mindful of whether you need to increase what you are doing…and the likely possible maintenance when life returns to near normality. So, if as in my case, life is pretty much as normal for the dogs, you don’t need to start an hour of agility in the garden or scatter feeding their food otherwise when you no longer do these things, the dogs will be lacking.

Reduced Exercise

However, if you are on reduced exercise, you can look to increase the dogs activities each day. I am passionate about raw feeding and so my own dogs will have bones a few times a week which keep them busy for hours in the garden engaging in normal activity, fulfilling physical and mental stimulation requirements. My own dogs are also trained to detect various scents and so I could do some scent work in the garden or the house, equally they are trained to find articles with human scent on them, so hiding small items about the place and sending them to search for them is excellent for engagement and fun. If you do have to feed kibble for some reason, you can hide it about the garden. The best prevention of boredom is to work with your dog – to teach new exercises – from going to bed, to touching your hand, playing dead, going around an object, looking at you or whatever…the things that you can teach are only limited by your imagination.

Stay Safe

The most important thing is to stay safe, follow government guidelines, love and enjoy your dogs, do the best that you can do during these difficult times and should you need it in the future, members of the Canine and Feline Behaviour Association ( will be around to help.

Ross McCarthy MA

Canine Behaviour Practitioner and Trainer

A member of the British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers, The Guild of Dog Trainers, The Canine & Feline Behaviour Association. An associate of the British Police & Services Canine Association.

Table of Contents

Litter Size and Singleton by Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia

When two or more breeders gather together their conversation often centres on the number of pups born and what might have gone wrong. For years breeders have speculated on why some litters are larger than others. Since most breeders are not trained in biology or in veterinary medicine a review of these questions was addressed.

Nature has always allowed animals to adapt to their living conditions. For example, horses and cattle live in herds as herbivores and cover considerable distances each day. They tend to have a long period of gestation and produce a single offspring. Their young are born among the herd as it moves slowly, because only in the middle of the great herd can they be protected. The problem is quite different for dogs. They live in small communities and their young are born in a safe hideout; because they hunt they cannot afford a long period of gestation. The reason that carnivores usually do not have single offspring litters stems from the nature of their existence. They must be constantly hunting to struggle for existence and the casualties among their young are high. Severzov calculated that the mortality among young wolves was 45% at the end of the first year and a further 32% by the end of their second year with a total loss of about 77% for all young wolves. If their litters consisted of only a few pups, the likelihood would diminish that the survivors could contribute to maintaining the survival of the species.

There are several ways to approach the study of litter size in dogs.One perspective is to look at what can influence the size of a litter; another is to study one-puppy litters. Goldbecker and Hart reported experiences with both. For the one-puppy litters they suggested the use of foster mothers and to treat the singleton as an orphan, because they have similar problems. They believed that these pups needed siblings or other dogs to interact with in order to learn the rules of the dog world. To that end it is generally accepted that at least for dogs, litter mates provide valuable and necessary practice sessions. Interactions provide opportunities for using their teeth, developing eye contact and a wide range of other dog behaviours that become useful as adults.

Most of the small breeds, notably the toys and terriers usually produce very small litters. This is in part because of their very small size, which limits their capacity to carry large litters. However, in the larger breeds there are wide variations in litter size ranging from 1 to 21 and in some instances they have been larger. Breeders have for years unsuccessfully tired to make improvements in litter size via breeding and selection techniques with little success. While many traits have high heritability, litter size is not one of them. It has a low heritability, around 10 -15 %, which means that one cannot count on the genes to increase the number of pups born. What can be expected will largely be determined by the non-additive factors of dominance. For example, wither height has a heritability estimate of 40-65%, which is reasonably high, therefore, it is relatively easy for the breeders of the German Shepherd Dog to produce offspring with high withers. When it comes to litter size, selecting parents who come from large litters will not improve the number of pups born. However, the physical condition of the dam at the time she is bred has been shown to increase or decrease litter size. For example, obese bitches tend to have smaller litters than those that are fit and trim. Nutrition is still another factor that was suspected to affect litter size. Some thought it would vary between and within breeds.

The fact that there are large variations in litter size attracted the attention of Russ Kelly, a noted nutritionist. He set out to better understand litter size by examining what would happen if nutrition became the variable. What he found was that the diet fed to bitches during their pregnancy did influence the size of their litters. To do this he studied three colonies of bitches that were in whelp. One colony was fed only a dry ration of good quality dog food. The second was fed the same dry ration, but supplemented with cottage cheese. The third was fed the same dry ration with supplements of cottage and meat. The important point here is that two of the three colonies were fed extra protein supplements. The colony that had the largest number of pups born alive came from mothers not fed any supplements. His findings make clear that supplementing a high quality, nearly perfectly formulated dog food with rations of cottage cheese and meat would interfere with the number of pups born alive. In other words, supplements added to a good quality commercial dog food reduces the chances for larger litters. This finding is good news to dog breeders.

Singleton pups
The singleton pup is a one-puppy litter. To better understand these pups, three general questions were used. They focused on the whelping process, behaviour during and after weaning, and the effects of the dam during their development. While many species have single births the dogs are not one of them, even though there are many breeds that only produce one or two puppy litters. Small litters can be directly related to the selective breeding practices that breeders have used over the years to fulfil the physical size requirements of their breed standards. The other explanation for variations in litter size has already been demonstrated to be nutrition and conditioning.

Since there was no body of literature on this subject several breeders and veterinarians were contacted that had reported experiences with single puppy litters. Many of the breeders said that a singleton pup could be a little dog aggressive, less sociable and a little more “abnormal” than an average pup born with litter mates. Others said that singleton puppies were not problem pups until they started to take notice of their surroundings. All of the breeders interviewed had also produced pups with large litters and thus had some basis for making the comparison. Most of the breeders assumed that a singleton would be larger than normal thus producing delivery problems, which resulted in a “C” section. Veterinarians on the other hand reported a wide range of different experiences that did not necessarily agree with those indicated by the breeders. Most veterinarians said that a singleton was not a larger, stronger or smarter pup then others of the same breed when larger litters were produced. They also noted that the singleton did not necessarily make a better companion. Only a few reported that they noticed behaviour problems even though many lacked interaction with other litter mates.

Based on the experiences of these two groups, the recommendations that can be offered suggest a number of approaches. Apart from having no litter mates to interact with, the lack of companionship could be compensated for if the dam is encouraged to provide daily stimulation and attention. Puppies learn to be a dog by being part of their “pack” in the nest. Keeping the singleton occupied was found to be important and most recommended handling by different individuals to keep them from becoming bored.  While most dams naturally encourage their pups to play, they also teach them good manners. As soon as these pups are old enough they should either go to their new home (8 weeks is early enough) or have them introduced to other dogs.

Three breeders that had a singleton pup produced by frozen semen were also contacted. All reported that the pups were of normal size for their breed (Afghan Hound, Whippets, and German Shepherd). The dams of these singleton puppies had produced average litters before and after the singleton. The cause for the singleton litter, according to these breeders, was the use of frozen semen. All of the sires had previously produced average size litters. The breeders of these frozen semen litters indicated that it was just bad luck that only one pup occurred. All of these singletons were born naturally except the one produced from 16-year-old semen. Most of the dams had had a previous litter naturally. The classic reason for singletons being born by Caesarian section does not seem to be related to the use of frozen semen.

The conclusion that one can draw from this material is that breeders of a singleton should take extra care to be sure that they are occupied and do not become bored. Since most dams can only provide a limited amount of playtime, these pups should be given more opportunities to play with others (Malcolm Willis). Playgroups were suggested as excellent ways for singletons to learn the social rules of the dog species. All agreed that supervision by humans should not be ignored, because the singleton can be injured during unintentional rough play.

The group was asked about the singleton when it had become an adult. While this study was limited to several breeders and veterinarians, they all agreed that the bitches involved were considered to be good mothers and had plentiful supplies of milk.  Most seemed to adore their one and only pup and none were overprotective or lacking in interest. Some were raised in the house as opposed to the kennel. Most of these pups received more supervision and more early human socialisation than normally would have been provided while in the nest with a litter. In order to fill the gap involving the lack of stimulation some were placed with other litters.  All grew to be normal and healthy. Most, but not all, were considered well-adjusted adults.

It is not hard to see why swimmers and runts have several things in common with the singleton. During the first few weeks after birth they all tend to be hand raised. They are given so much attention they can be categorised as being treated as a singleton.  The differences between them are that most swimmers and runts do no grow up to look like their litter mates and few ever become good show or working dogs. They are given so much attention and handling, so the human bond generally is very good and most make wonderful pets.

Based on a review of this complex subject and the answers gathered, it seems fair to use a conclusion reached by Scott and Fuller in the 1950’s. While they did not study singletons and litter size per se, they did study differences between breeds and individuals within a breed. One of their conclusions was that there are measurable differences between breeds that are both physical and behavioural. They found that although there is a great deal of overlap between breeds, the individual capacities they will have are likely to be highly variable. They also found that most pups that become great performers, able to perform extraordinary tasks, seem to have different capacities. In short, they “probably have special combinations of certain capacities which are largely the result of accidental selection”.

Goldbecker, W. and Hart, E., This is the German Shepherd, T.F.H. Publications Inc. Jersey City, NJ 1964, p.125.

Kelley, Russ, Recent Advances in Dog and Cat Nutrition, Vol. III, 2000 Iams Nutrition symposium proceedings; “Canine reproduction: What should we Expect?” Orange Frazer Press, Wilmington, OH 2000, p. 225-239.

Severzov, Adrian and Owen, Ray, General Genetics, W. H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco, 1957, p 503.

Scott, J.P. and Fuller, J. L., Dog Behaviour, the genetic basis. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Ill.1965, p.366-367.

Trumler, Eberhard, Understanding Your Dog, Faber and Faber, 3 Queens Square, London. 1973, P. 56.

Willis, Malcom, The German shepherd Dog: a genetic history, Howell Book House, New York, 1995, p. 289-293.

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia for the CFBA, the CIDBT, and their students of Dog Behaviour & Training

About the author
Carmen L Battaglia holds a Ph.D. and Masters Degree from Florida State University. As an AKC judge, researcher and writer, he has been a leader in promotion of breeding better dogs and has written many articles and several books.

Dr. Battaglia is also a popular TV and radio talk show speaker. His seminars on breeding dogs, selecting sires and choosing puppies have been well received by the breed clubs all over the country. Those interested in learning more about his seminars should contact him directly. Visit his website at

Puppy in the Middle by Ross McCarthy

First published in Dogs Monthly Magazine

Obviously when one works with people to alter dog behaviour problems, the human aspect is often the greater part. A high percentage of problems that I deal with in dogs would never be seen if that dog lived in another environment. I have had more than a few cases recently that present me with so many questions about people, relationships, love for our dog chums and moreover, how perhaps our irrational beliefs lead to dog behaviour problems and family arguments.

Mike and Sheila Constantine arrived at the centre with their young male Akita, Spirit. Spirit was ten months of age and quite a size. The problems that they were experiencing were plenty, but the main reason for their visit was Spirit’s unpredictable aggression towards Mike. Spirit growled at Mike on a regular basis from puppy-hood over certain triggers like food or touch. The growling recently moved on and Mike was bitten on the lower arm badly and required stitches. Mike understandably now was frightened of Spirit.

Sheila had never been growled at and I immediately detected that her view of the problem was not as solemn as Mike’s take on it. We discussed the problem in great depth along with the probable cause. I then went on to working through the problem and reiterated my concerns about the serious nature of the problem. Mike was willing to do what it took to keep the dog with them and was all ears when I began imparting my advice. Sheila however understood that Mike would be frightened, but could see no link in the problem to her behaviour and why she should become involved. The dog was not aggressive to her and so she felt this was Mike’s problem, although Spirit was frequently aggressive towards people in the street and Sheila had quite a job controlling him due to his size. I continued to impart my advice to one keen listener and to one who was looking at her watch most of the time – clearly she had more important things to tend to.

I sent out my report that same day, ensuring it was in plain English and put my advice across in a frank manner. Mike enrolled on a training course with Spirit and Sheila came along too – she obviously felt that a dog training venue was the perfect place to file her nails and send some text messages! I was somewhat disappointed that the Constantines were not progressing with Spirit as I had hoped. Mike constantly approached me at the course and asked for more help with solving the problem and getting Sheila to follow the initial advice.

Sheila was apparently still quite unconcerned about Spirit’s antagonistic behaviour towards Mike and seemed to take delight in telling friends and family about Spirit’s latest aggressive attack on Mike. I have spoken to Sheila about her attitude to the dog and the problem advising that unless we get a satisfactory result I do not believe that it would be tenable to keep the dog. Sheila then went on to blame Mike and informed me that he was not doing anything that I had suggested.

I then arranged a second meeting with the couple at the centre to discuss the problem. However, this was more like a relationship counselling session rather than a dog behaviour consultation. It was most apparent that Sheila enjoyed the power over Mike that Spirit affords her. Mike had been badly bitten by Spirit on his arm and required hospital treatment a few days before our meeting, which did alter Sheila’s attitude to the problem and the couple set about working together to alter Spirit’s aggressive behaviour.

However, two weeks after our consultation, Sheila moved out of the family home and is now living in Spain. Mike and Spirit are still living in London and are doing very well. Spirit has just passed his KC Gold Good Citizen Dog Test and Mike was exceptionally pleased – he no longer has any aggression from Spirit and the two coexist very happily.

I always find it extraordinary that some people prioritise their dog over their partners and family members. I understand, maybe better than most, the close attachment that people form with their pets, but to place them above your partner’s safety and well-being seems odd. However, it does seem rather more odd that one would accept their partner prioritising the dog over them!
We all may jest on occasion that a dog is easier to live with than our other half’ they make less demands, never argue, always pleased to see us, etc., but they are jokes, right? Perhaps not always!

Sally came to see me last week with a similar problem to Mike and Sheila. Her Belgian shepherd, Malik was biting her husband on a regular basis also. Clearly from our initial discussions, Sally wore the trousers in her household and took no messing from Roger or the kids – the dog ran her a merry dance, but no one else would get away with it!

Roger was a sweet, innocuous man who looked tired and rather apathetic, whilst his bullish wife went on about how Roger must have done something to create this problem and how he is not very good with dogs and how that is probably the crux of this whole biting thing. Roger sat gazing tentatively out of the window, whilst his wife went about his character assassination. The more we spoke, the more the insults directed at Roger flew out. He did not respond, but again looked at the same tree through the window each time Sally informed me of another defect in his personality.

I spoke to Roger and asked Sally to be quiet until I informed her that she could join in the conversation again – Roger smiled at me half-halfheartedly – he was pleased that I had put my foot down, but knew that he would face the consequences of my actions later. Roger was frightened of the dog, felt that he was dangerous and was concerned about the safety of their children.

When Sally was asked to rejoin the conversation, she blurted out that this dog would not be put down, end of story. We were not discussing anything to do with euthanasia, but obviously she had a little time to think whilst she was not dominating the conversation. I informed her that although this was not a part of my advice today, if we do not obtain a very satisfactory result in a short time, then for the safety of Roger and moreover the children, it may be a realistic outcome later. Sally’s retort was that Roger would go long before the dog. I smiled and made a joke along the same lines, but Sally’s face remained serious and Roger looked at that tree again. Sally was sure that Malik was staying, whether Roger went was not an issue.

I am aware that in domestic disputes, people often unfairly use the children as ammunition to hurt and to get one over on their partner, but it would seem that the dog does just fine as a substitute. Of course, the added psychological power of a dog’s aggression over a male partner is not a new phenomenon – but a recurring one. Humans are as manipulative as ever and the dogs are just the piggy or puppy in the middle.

Ross McCarthy This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Ross McCarthy originally published in Dogs Monthly for the CFBA, the CIDBT, and their students of Dog Behaviour & Training

Why Do Puppies Bark and What Can We Do About It


Dogs are pack animals and geared for close socialisation with their own kind and we are and become the replacement pack.

Barking is a natural form of communication for puppies, a dog would hardly be a dog if it didn’t bark sometimes. Dogs bark for many and varied reasons; from a greeting to an alarm call and to do so is perfectly normal. Barks will differ from one dog to another and from one situation to another, you will probably come to recognise different barks (vocalisations) in your puppy.

However, barking can be prolonged or excessive, and then it can become a problem and causation needs to be identified.

Many owners give their puppy attention when they bark in an effort to calm them down but this can be interpreted as a connecting reward and make the problem worse called associative learning – so do make sure you not reacting and thereby re-enforcing the behaviour.

Some puppies bark because they are stressed at being separated from their owner and may be suffering from separation anxiety. In serious cases a canine behaviourist should be consulted from the

Others bark and howl because they don’t have enough stimuli to occupy their day. If owners routines change so they can’t spend as much time with their puppy, it may become frustrated or anxious, and as a result they may bark excessively.

Puppy’s can be left for short periods on their own and that is normal, provide interesting toys, maybe a Kong Toy stuffed with tit bits that forces the puppy to spend time extricating the juicy tit bits to deal with its temporary isolation and associated pleasure.

If your puppy starts to cry, howl or bark excessively, wait for silence then go into the room and make a mild fuss, but not too much, or you might encourage further barking.

Remember, its best to make sure your puppy understand basic rules from day one.

In an extreme case of barking it may be best to contact a member of the Canine & feline Behaviour Association.

Colin C. Tennant M.A. FCFBA.