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Monday, September 5, 2011

Puppy Socialization Part 2


Bailey, a then well socialized & happy 3 month old pyr-golden mix.  Bailey is 1 of my 4 pyr/pyr-mixes.  Sheila, blog admin.


The Most Important Puppy Lessons

Author, Jan Casey

Not long ago the question was raised on one of my professional lists – “What is the first and most important thing to teach a new puppy?” There were as many different answers as there were trainers responding to the question. I could not personally think of just one lesson I would teach above all others. Raising a well-behaved, social canine is so much more than just teaching a pup the basic behaviors of sit and down. It involves helping him develop the skills to exist in a world where owner expectations usually don’t include normal canine behavior. Since most studies show behavior issues are the main reason dogs end up in the shelter, it is vital for training to begin immediately upon the puppy’s arrival to his new home.

Many years ago, veterinarians recommended owners keep their puppies at home for at least six months in order to avoid exposure to diseases that immature immune systems may not be able to handle. Today, however, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has recognized the dangers involved in waiting to train the dog and they now recommend puppies as young as seven weeks begin socialization and positive training as long as the pup has received its first set of shots at least seven days prior to the first class, is parasite free, continues to receive its vaccinations on schedule, and attends classes in an environment that is clean and disinfected (http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/images/stories/Position_Statements/puppy%20socialization.pdf). This change came about due to the recognition of the short window of time critical to developing proper social skills for dogs. Up until sixteen weeks of age, normal puppies will be interested in socializing, overriding their fear of new people and situations. To take advantage of this, owners should begin immediately to introduce the puppy to new people in a way that will not overly stress the dog. Dr. Ian Dunbar, in his book Before and After Getting Your Puppy, suggests puppies should have met at least 100 different people by the time they are three months old. This includes males and females, all races, heights, weights, and ages, men with facial hair, people wearing hats, uniforms, scarves, or gloves, and those carrying umbrellas or canes. Allow calm children to play gently with the puppy while you supervise. The least stressful introductions will consist of allowing the puppy to approach the strangers rather than passing the puppy from person to person. As the puppy becomes comfortable, strangers should be encouraged to gently handle the puppy. Nothing is quite as wonderful as a dog who loves people!

As with socialization, bite inhibition has to rank as one of the top lessons you must teach your dog. The fact is ALL dogs can bite. Even dogs who have displayed wonderful personalities and who have been trustworthy companions may bite if they are afraid and/or in pain. Should that be a choice your dog makes, the severity of the bite may be limited if you have taught the dog to have a “soft mouth” early in his development. When your pup bites, remove yourself from his area so he no longer has the opportunity to interact with you, then return to play gently again. Giving him a 30 second time out in this manner will help him learn that biting makes the good thing (you) go away. You may see suggestions to say “Ouch!” before leaving, but for some dogs, this just makes the game more exciting and they bite more and harder. It may be better to say “Too bad!” in a normal voice just as you turn to walk away or just say nothing at all. Dogs, like people, are individuals, so you may have to experiment with your pup to find which technique works best. Once the puppy has learned that hard bites result in the fun ending and he no longer treats you like a piece of rawhide, it will be time to teach him not to bite at all.

There is so much more for a puppy to learn. Recall, give and take, and leave it are just a few examples of the many behaviors which should be taught so the dog can stay in his home for a lifetime. Puppies are fun, that is a given. It’s easy to skip the training and just play, but the game that was fun when the puppy was small becomes an obnoxious - and possibly dangerous - behavior when the dog is full grown with adult canine teeth. Take advantage of eagerness of the puppy to learn and spend several short (5 – 10 minutes) training sessions daily, teaching him how to behave appropriately around people, always rewarding the behavior you want. Every interaction between you and your puppy is an opportunity to create a well-behaved companion who will be a welcome addition to your family for a lifetime.

Jan Casey is a reward-based trainer in Florida and owner of Smiles and Wags Pet Services  http://www.smilesandwags.com/ . Mrs. Casey is a member of the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals.  Mrs. Casey is a columnist for the Cookeville, Tennessee Herald-Citizen Pet Pages and Kid's Korner  . This column was originally written for the Herald-Citizen  http://www.herald-citizen.com/ .                                                                    

Posted by blog admin, Sheila



6 comments:

  1. This is so very important and I myself know how important this is. We, my dog and I, came across another puppy who has not been socialized very much and it was obvious. We had to remove them from one another for that time and are working slowly to reintroduce them. The other puppy is a family dog so we see each other from time to time. It can be hard and a bit fustrating at times when you have a great dog at home but not so great in a social setting. I do agree that because of the lack of socialization that is why rescue/shelters are so packed. Thanks for the article - I will be passing this along.

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