By Dr. Kathleen BabbittHow far has behavioral medicine come in the past 10 years. I was probably one of the first class of veterinary students to get any type of behavioral training and education, and that it was not much. This field in the past 10 years has grown by leaps and bounds, and the research has allowed us to see how dogs and cats think. This has allowed us to come up with new training recommendations. At this point you are no longer the Alpha dog ruling by force but the benevolent leader in your house. We know now that the real key to a good dog or cat for that matter is what happens early on in their life. At a recent behavioral conference, we focused on how to make a good puppy. This is because a good puppy will be a good dog. The period in the dog's life that allows them to accept and acclimate to new ideas, people, other animals, etc., is what is termed the socialization period. For puppies it starts at about 6 weeks of age and depending on the breed is done by 12 to 14 weeks of age. This means that a puppy must be exposed to everything you want it to be accustomed to in life during these first and few several weeks. During the weeks of 6 to 8 a puppy is best off with its dam and its siblings. That is because during these two weeks they are learning how to socialize with other dogs. The best place to learn your early skills is with your mom and your siblings. Mom at this point is going to stop coddling the puppies and expect some manners. The siblings are going to be playful but are going to be able to let each other know when play gets too rough. It is best to leave a puppy with its mom and litter mates if possible at this stage. It is important, however, to go and see and interact with your puppy. This will allow you to get to know it and it to know you before you take it home. You can observe if you have the shy-wallflower dog, or the go-getter-into-everything dog. You can be prepared to take that bundle of joy home.Once you get your puppy home, you want to have it checked by your veterinarian within the first three days. This will allow your veterinarian to make sure it is healthy and on the correct vaccination schedule. After your visit you and your puppy need to get out on the town. It is recommended that you take your puppy out of the house at least five days a week. If you are doing a puppy socialization class you can back down to three other days per week. On these outings you want to expose your puppy to the pet store, other dogs, other animals, babies, babies in strollers, children, teenagers, strangers in hats, strangers in wheelchairs, strangers with umbrellas, concrete walkways, gravel walkways, hiking, etc. If you think your puppy may come in contact with something later in life get it exposed to it now.When taking your puppy out for these exposures make sure you are armed with a good leash and well-fitting collar (buckle is fine, puppies should not be on prong, pinch or choker collars), ‚??high dollar‚?Ě treats, and waste pick up bags. ‚??High dollar‚?Ě treats refers to a treat your puppy cannot resist. I have found that cheese, cooked chicken, cooked beef patties, and hot dog pieces all work well. You want to make these outings fun, and giving food and good praise does this for puppies. Have strangers stop and give your dog treats, lots of treats, give your dog treats any time it does what you want it to do. Use those treats if a puppy is scared of something. You can line treats up one right after another to get your puppy to walk forward and then have a jackpot treats at the end of trail by the ‚??scary thing.‚?Ě The use of treats makes scary things less scary because it is hard to be upset when ‚??eating ice cream.‚?Ě Good mood food sets a good mood.These basic steps to having fun, positive, early interactions for your puppy are going to help you lay the ground work for a good dog. We all want to have a dog that is friendly, easy to train, and is invited to come back often. The key to this is the socialization period. So arm yourselves, and I want to see you out with your puppies!Dr. Kathleen Babbitt owns Lima Animal Hospital. She is looking forward to the changes in behavioral medicine and treatment.