Seven Ages of Man's Best Friend: A Comprehensive Guide to Caring for Your Dog Through All the Stages of Lifeby Jan Fennell
Do our dogs experience the equivalent of infancy and puberty?
Do they go through the terrible teens or struggle with midlife crises? And what can we do to ensure they take each step in stride? In The Seven Ages of Man's Best Friend, bestselling author Jan Fennell leads us through the key phases of a dog's development by uniquely defining the seven ages of/b>
Do our dogs experience the equivalent of infancy and puberty?
Do they go through the terrible teens or struggle with midlife crises? And what can we do to ensure they take each step in stride? In The Seven Ages of Man's Best Friend, bestselling author Jan Fennell leads us through the key phases of a dog's development by uniquely defining the seven ages of our dogs: the buoyant, boundless energy of the Puppy and the Pioneer, the troublesome teens that are the ages of the Playboy and the Protégé, the difficult middle years of the Pretender and the Protector, and the twilight years of the Pensioner. The book offers advice on all the problems that crop up at particular times in a dog's development, including training and vaccinations as well as puberty and parenthood.
In The Dog Listener, Jan Fennell changed the way we think about our dogs. Now, Jan once more challenges conventional thinking and puts forward an alternative view of the dog's world.
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Read an Excerpt
The Seven Ages of Man's Best Friend
A Comprehensive Guide to Caring for Your Dog Through All the Stages of Life
In the Wild
A wolf pup spends the first part of its life, around nine months, within close proximity of the den where it is raised. During these months it passes through the initial distinct phases of its life. For the first three weeks or so, the wolf pup is utterly dependent on its mother. It remains close to her at all times, suckling to her bosom in the den. During this time, the family unit remains undisturbed by the pack. Despite being the leader of the pack, even their father, the alpha male, stays away during this time.
After three weeks or so, however, the puppies will be able to walk and make their first furtive movements away from their mother. At the same time, their father, the alpha, and the rest of the pack begin interacting with them.
A wolf pack is a well-oiled machine, a tightly knit team in which every member knows its place and its job. And from the very beginning every wolf is groomed to take its position in that chain of command. During the pups' first weeks every adult wolf has become "broody" too, producing a hormone called prolactin. They know the newcomers represent the pack's future survival. They know too that more than half of the new litter will not survive into adulthood. (Disease, starvation and predators claim 60 percent of young wolves before they reach the age of two.) So, as the pups emerge into the den, the pack begins the job of educating their new members about the day-to-day realities of surviving lupine life.
The messages the pups get during this phase arepowerful and formative ones. They see how facial expression and body language convey important signals about status. They learn how their elders also use these signals to avoid confrontations. They see that rank is determined by a combination of experience and personality, with the stronger characters rising to the top of the pack. And by watching the way the grown-up wolves interact, particularly with the alpha, the pups get their first glimpses of how the very top of that hierarchy works.
But the most immediate lessons they learn come from play. As they begin chasing, retrieving and play-fighting with their siblings, they not only develop their physical abilities but also begin to see where their strengths-- and ultimately their place in the pack --lie. This is the very beginning of their preparation for full-fledged membership of the pack. In time, the natural herders, stalkers and attackers will begin to emerge.
The domestic dog's first eight weeks echo those of its ancient ancestor.
The First Age: Overview
The first eight weeks of a puppy's life are the equivalent of two and a half human years. So it is not surprising that it spends this time wrestling with a dizzying array of questions. Who am I? What am I? What is my relationship with the dogs and humans around me? How does the world in which I find myself function? And how am I going to survive within it?
During the first days the mother will be entirely responsible for guiding it through this minefield. But, as the dog develops, its human owners will quickly come to the fore, dealing with everything from weaning it off its mother's milk, to toilet training and grooming, worming and starting its vaccination program.
Most important of all, in the absence of the pack, which would teach a dog in its natural wild habitat, humans must take on a key role in helping the newborn's mental and physical development. They must learn to communicate in a language that the puppy will understand. And to be able to do that they must first establish the dog's trust, forging a bond in which the puppy feels safe, secure and happy in their company.
The early hours -- birth and beyond
The first few moments of a dog's life are traumatic. The newborn puppy emerges from the warm, safe, dark environment that is the womb into a world filled with new smells and sensations. Often it does so with a bump. I've seen a dog give birth standing up so that its puppies fell out headfirst, landing on the floor with a plop. It is little wonder that the newborn finds it an overwhelming experience. Fortunately its mother will be there to reassure and care for it. And her maternal instincts are by now so intense that she will be fixated on its welfare for the crucial first two to three weeks to come.
The puppy is born encased in a sac filled with amniotic fluid that has been attached to the placenta. Often this is split open during the process of labor, but if not the mother will tear it open herself with her teeth. She will then stimulate the puppy to breathe by vigorously licking at the mucus that covers its face in the wake of the birth.
During these first few moments the puppy is getting used to being outside the womb. The mother will stimulate it until she hears the puppy emitting a sweet, muffled mutting sound and sees it making small movements and nodding its head. She also chews the umbilical cord with her teeth, the ripping movement acting as a stimulant to the puppy.
Unlike a herbivore baby who is up on its feet in minutes, canine puppies are helpless and have no protection at all. Their eyes are closed tight and their ears are pinned back, like little triangles. Their head at this point is disproportionately large compared with the rest of the body. Yet their instincts are already telling them what to do.
Within a very short time the puppy's little head comes up and it begins to sniff the air. It is drawn to the mother's body by her warmth and is soon attaching itself to her teats. It is a wonderful thing to witness a tiny newborn puppy work its way from . . .The Seven Ages of Man's Best Friend
A Comprehensive Guide to Caring for Your Dog Through All the Stages of Life. Copyright © by Jan Fennell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Jan Fennell's remarkable work with damaged and delinquent dogs has won her a huge admiring audience. She frequently appears on BBC television and radio programs. Jan; her partner, Glenn Miller, and their pack of show-winning Graftonbury English Springer spaniels live in rural North Lincolnshire,England.
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