We haven’t blogged in a while, so why now? Because ’tis the time of year for puppies, for both individuals and for rescues. Whether you are a foster or a forever with puppies in your care, these socialization tips will help you give your pups the best possible chance to grow into well-socialized dogs.
By Victoria Rose, Canine Training Solutions
This is the most-important thing people need to know about dogs!
Socialization is vital to puppies because it sets the foundation for the rest of their lives. It’s the single most-important need pups have. Their key socialization period is from three to 16 weeks. (This is also the time when the puppy learns more quickly than at any other time in his life. In addition, what he learns during this period will stay with him for life.)
Responsible breeders start the process, then send their puppies to new homes at the optimal age of 7½ weeks. The new owners then have 8½ weeks to accustom the pups to various types of people, animals, situations, environments and experiences.
Work hard that two months – it pays off big-time!
Whoever said you can’t buy happiness forgot about little puppies!
– Gene Hill
Early socialization, done correctly, builds confidence. Confident puppies usually become stable adults. If not socialized, as a rule, they become fearful. Timid dogs are often miserable, and much more likely to bite. About 4.5 million people are bitten each year in the United States, with more than 800,000 of those bites requiring medical attention. Most of the victims who receive medical attention are children, half of whom are bitten in the face.
Make thorough socialization of your youngster your top priority so you don’t suffer the hazards (from his running away terrified on the 4th of July to disfiguring a child) inherent in owning an under-confident dog.
The best way to get a puppy is to ask for a baby brother –
and they’ll settle for a puppy every time.
– Winston Pendelton
You, friends and strangers should handle, hold and hug him regularly, as well as look into his eyes, ears and mouth, examine his genitals and fiddle with his teeth, paws and nails (all of which your veterinarian and groomer will thank you for later) before he’s 4 months old. In addition, also have him:
Encounter dozens of children, babies and toddlers and adults of all shapes, sizes and mannerisms. Meet people with floppy hats, umbrellas, canes, crutches and wheelchairs. Greet the letter carrier, meter reader and UPS driver. Hang out with kids on skate boards and bikes. Play with lots of dogs (don’t let them dominate or bully him). Watch cats, birds, mice, rabbits, cows, goats, horses and chickens. Visit duck ponds. Ride elevators and go through car washes and tunnels. Walk on an assortment of surfaces, tables and stairs.
Buy a pup and you will buy love unflinching.
– Rudyard Kipling
Introduce him to vehicles, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, fly swatters, kites, noisy pans, rolling barrels, shopping carts, crowds, traffic, construction zones and fireworks.
These events must not threaten him. Work in short sessions, at a distance from the stimulus where the puppy is not intimidated or stressed. Use food, toys and praise to reward him when he is calm and confident. This is critical. Just as you attempt to “imprint” him with enduring positive experiences, so can you also, if you err, imprint him permanently with negative experiences. It’s imperative he not be frightened. If so, you may have gone too close, too quickly. Back up and slow down. Socialize in a way that he never becomes scared. It may be helpful to join a well-run puppy class.
A dog may be man’s best friend, but a child’s best friend is a puppy.
Also, just a word of caution from a training standpoint: You want your kid to be friendly, calm and secure in the presence of strangers, but if you “over-socialize,” that is… let so many people pet and feed him that he starts to look to others for rewards, you may be disappointed to find that in public, he makes a pest of himself to others and you no longer have his attention (which you need to control and train him). Always strive for balance. You want him comfortable with people touching and interacting with him, but you don’t want him to crave it to the point that it becomes his primary objective (over you). Keep his attention on you with praise and yummy (not routine) treats.
That said, there is another serious caution: Diseases are real threats to puppies. Until his vaccinations are in effect (usually at about age 4-4½ months), do not allow him within sneezing distance of dogs with whose health you are unfamiliar, or on the ground in areas where infected dogs may have defecated. Don’t walk him in parks, or even your front yard if it’s accessible to strays. Carry him or keep him in a pen or on a mat. Ask people to use hand disinfectant before they pet him and don’t let him sniff their shoes as these are methods of transmission. (Everyone should take off their shoes before entering your home and wash their hands before meeting your puppy.)
There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.
– Ben Williams
Do not let these threats keep you from socializing your puppy, as more dogs die from the effects of lack of socialization than from disease. Proper socialization will help him become a happy, confident, life-long member of your family.
‘Til next time, kiss the kids!
Get more tips and tricks on loving and living with dogs by subscribing to the free “Doggie Parenting” e-Newsletter. Victoria offers dog training/behavior modification in-home in Oregon and by phone or via her “Baby Steps” training manual throughout the US. All services are guaranteed; payments accepted. For more information, visit www.CanineTrainingSolutions.info