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Socializing Your Puppy

Both dogs on the right were adopted from me :)

Importance of early socialization and continued socialization Coming from someone who works primarily with shelter dogs, I see the impact that lack of proper socialization has on adult dogs. They are usually fearful and very reactive to new stimuli and simply cannot handle the harsh environments of a shelter. Think about it this way: you have a puppy that has not been socialized much at all, and then ends up in a shelter at a year old because of unruly behaviors. Now this dog is kept in a box all day, with no outlet for it’s energy and on top of that, it’s terrified of new people. Or maybe isn’t good with dogs. The chances of this dog finding a new home are almost none. So now, the dog is euthanized because it can’t handle it’s environment. I assume no one ever thinks they are going to give up their dog, but without knowing how to train and support a dog, it can be tough to own a dog.

In my opinion hands down the most important thing you can do for your puppy is to socialize the puppy with people and appropriate dogs. This does not mean just throwing your dog in with a group of people or going to a dog park, this means THOUGHTFUL and PLANNED interactions. Just one bad experience as a puppy can set you up for a lifetime of a reactive, aggressive dog. Set your puppy up for success. Let the puppy make his own decision to initiate interactions. We get super lucky with puppies because they love to explore and don’t have much fear. In nature, it is necessary for survival that all living organisms have some suspicions at first. We have to be very careful that this does not turn into fear, as this will inhibit the dogs ability to learn. So try not to overwhelm the puppy, just let him explore at his own pace. Long lines are my favorite for this so the puppy or any dog can go create more space on their own when they need it so they don’t get overwhelmed. I would encourage owners not to just hand their puppy off to someone else but let the dog explore the new person at his own pace, not just be forced to handle the situation. We want the puppy (and any dog) to be able to LEARN that people and dogs are good, not just to be forced to deal with their potential fear. Dogs, and people, do not learn this way. For example, if you are afraid of spiders and I put you in a room with 10,000 spiders- you are not going to learn to like or limit your fear of spiders. On the other hand, if I put you in a room with one spider in a cage, you know you are safe and can take your time to get close to the spider and feel safe. You can engage and get closer to the spider, and then get further away and still be safe. Let your dog do the same thing! Flooding does not equal learning!

“Dog owners are advised to teach their puppies to accept people, dogs, and other animals as early as possible. For years there has been discussion about the stangers of socializing puppies from eight weeks of age because of the risks of infection with various diseases, such as canine hepatitis, distemper, and parvovirus. However, recent advances in veterinary science have produced vaccines which can be used very early on with satisfactory results, enabling dog owners to socialize their puppies form eight weeks of age. The possible consequences for inadequate socialization at this age are, in my opinion, far more serious than the risk of illness. Contact your veterinary surgeon for more information on this subject” (Abrantes, 86)

For shy dogs that are continuing to be socialized as adults, it’s important that we remove all possible signs of aggression from our bodies. Strangers should avoid eye contact and show the side of their body to the dog. Let the dog approach on their own time and eventually drop a treat from your hand. The dog will get accustomed to the stranger and then the stranger can get up and show normal human behavior. Repeat this with as many recruits as you can get.

“In domestic dogs, the father’s role has almost lost its function as a parent and educator, which the author believes is a mistake from a selection point of view. Male dogs are no longer required to prove their parental skills. If the genes which determine these behavior patterns also influence other behaviors, such as social disposition or social security- an ability to perceive others signals- then we are breeding inferior animals. Experiments conducted by the author at the Etologisk Institute have shown that puppies’ social behavior is influenced by the presence of the father or other adult males from an age of six to seven weeks until six to seven months” (Abrantes, 191)


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