Tuesday Training Tip: Socialization!!

Mama Sally:  This is a subject that is near and dear to this dog trainer’s heart, because many times I deal with very serious behavior disorders including aggression that have their roots in improper socialization.  I’m always talking about this to my clients with young puppies, because the window of time to make the most of socialization is open from three to about sixteen weeks after a puppy’s birth.  That means that most effective socialization MUST occur when the puppy is younger than five months!!!

This is NOT something that you can always do “later.”  When the ship sails….and you’re not on board….it’s a rough swim through life with that puppy, I’m just here to tell you!  Having a very, very well bred puppy will help the process, but there’s a good amount of work that MUST be done when a puppy comes to live with his new family.  This is not something that the breeder does for you.  A good breeder starts things for you, but every dog owner must carry the torch forward to help shape their dog’s behavior.

When you have a special needs dog, traditional socialization can be challenging….especially because many special needs dogs didn’t get the appropriate socialization at appropriate ages, and so you’re trying to play catch up.  I’m sure that many of my readers have rescued dogs, and these little guys are often riding the struggle bus through life through no fault of their own.

When I mention socialization to clients with puppies, the first thing they tell me is that their vet doesn’t want them to be around other dogs until they’ve had their permanent shots.  What most vets prefer, is that you not take young puppies to open areas that are frequented by dogs…ie parks, dog parks, etc.  Socialization with dog friendly dogs that you know who are healthy and up to date on their shots shouldn’t pose a risk to your puppy.  This is definitely something to run past your veterinarian, and get his input.  It’s critical to get puppies socialized!

Having said that, most everyone I meet thinks that socialization means taking your dog to a dog park.  I’m not a dog park fan at all!  In theory, I think it’s a great idea, but that’s only in theory.  If everyone trained their dogs, and if all of those dogs were healthy and under the control of their owners, I might be convinced to give them a try.

lake-animals-dogs-petsI much prefer play dates for dogs with known dogs who are healthy and dog friendly.  I encourage my clients to work out play dates with other dog owners in providing dog play.  It gives both dogs fun and exercise, and it gives another dog owner a break.  Trading off yards gives your dogs an outing that is safe and fun!

Doggie Daycares provide supervised dog play at commercial facilities.  The advantage here, is that all dogs are screened for health and temperament, so you have fewer surprises with ugly incidents.  Keep in mind that dogs in play can get rough, and even with supervision, accidents can still happen.  There’s no guarantee….even at a doggie daycare….that your dog can’t or won’t become injured.  They do the best that they can, but dogs are dogs!

pexels-photo-10517If you have a dog who isn’t sure about play with others, a great alternative can be simply going on walks with other humans or dogs.  You can get together with a neighbor or friend…simply to walk your dogs together!  Everything is more fun when you have someone else along!  It can also help provide accountability to be sure you are getting out and walking your dog!

If you don’t know anyone who can be your walking buddy, try a dog walk meet up group.  In my local city, there are dog walk meet ups at different places in the city.  A group of people meet to simply walk their dogs together.  It’s a great way for your dog to get socialization, exercise and have the safety of a leash!  Who knows?  You might both make some new friends in the process!

Rugby James:  Well, Uprights just gotsa remember that doggers grow up really quick.  Puppies turn into adults in 1-3 years, so the timeline for how we develop goes really quick!  Upright babies get lots more time for social stuff, so dogger parents just gotsa remember that they doesn’t get lots of time when they gotsa lil puppy.

Relaxed...
Relaxed…

To make the most of socializing puppies, just take them wif you wherever you go, if you can safely bring them.  Let them just sit and watch stuff.  That way, they get used to seeing the stuff that you do, and you can help them make sense of it, if they are scared when they see somefing new.  You don’t hasta take them for all day, but fink of sumping new that you can do wif your lil pupper every single day…even if it’s just for 15 minutes at a time.  All those lil bits will add up over 1-3 years of time!

Puppers what come from shelters or puppy mills didn’t get the right kinda help from their breeders, so you’ll hasta be even more patient wif them to help them understand stuff.  Uprights gotsa remember that you can’t push a puppy into stuff.  Let them explore and figure stuff out on their own, but make sure they work frew the fings what is scary so that they doesn’t learn to be afraid of stuff.  Don’t leave unfinished business if you can.

When you gots older puppers or full grown doggers what hasn’t been properly socialized, it’s a bigger problem.  You probly can’t fix stuff as good as you would if they was handled properly when they was lil puppers.  I’m gonna say that from a dogger’s point of view, getting a professional what can help you is the best fing to do.  Waiting usually never makes serious fings get better.  Find a great trainer what can help you frew the process, and then you’ll know what to do!

And remember, even though the holidays can be super busy and Winter means cold and yucky weathers, your dogger still needsa be socialized….every day if you can!  It really will make a wonderful difference for your dogger, and then they’ll getsa have a big, big world open up to them….wif all kindsa wonderful fings available.

 

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Comments

  1. Mike says

    You wouldn't keep your human child under lock and key for the first several months of life - why would you your pet?

    We've seen a lot of movement in the past several years about the importance of baby vaccinations and that kids shouldn't be around people who aren't vaccinated against things such as whopping cough in early life and this basically applies to your animals as well.

    Take them around animals that you trust, know and have fun with them.

    I also loved the bit about the doggie daycares. Again, just the same, kids will be kids and nothing is guaranteed.

    I learned a lot from this post about how important it is to socialize your dog. It makes total sense when you think about it from just nurturing a small life standpoint. I also learned that the window is smaller with dogs versus say human kids. They do grow up so fast that it makes sense the period of major development would be a shorter window.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    • Sally says

      Thanks so much for reading and taking time to post such a thoughtful and encouraging response, Mike! I can't tell you the number of clients I have who just don't get it. Months or even years later, I get phone calls telling me that their dog is starting to show signs of aggression, and I promise you that it can often be traced back to lack of socialization in many, many cases. I hear the same sad comment, "I really wish I had taken time to socialize my dog when he was a puppy, but I just didn't think it was that important. I thought he'd be okay because he plays with our neighbor's dog." It breaks my heart!! Aggression is a learned behavior in many, many cases....and the root cause is often fear or anxiety. If a puppy isn't exposed to something, there's a much greater likelihood that he's going to feel anxious or afraid when he does encounter it. When people have puppies, they really need to think about socializing and training that dog up until the dog is a well established adult. At that point, behaviors have become habits, and the good stuff will be well established. That means many, many years of living with a terrific dog who can go anywhere with you!!

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      • Mike says

        Well, this post certainly has encouraged me that when I get my next dog I will be making sure he or she has plenty of socialization in the early stages and through out life!

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        • Sally says

          Bravo!! If you provide proper socialization, you'll have a dog who will love everyone....canine and human, and be able to go anywhere with ease through life. So glad I was able to help you understand just how very important this is in a dog's life! Thanks for reading! 😀

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