Monday, September 5, 2011

Puppy Socialization

Puppy Socialization –
The Most Important Behavior to Teach Your Puppy

Author, Jan Casey

There is a saying among
dog trainers– we should get a puppy every five years. It will help us relate
more to our clients with puppies and it will keep us humble. There is truth in
this statement. With the retirement of my agility dog due to her physical
problems and her stress issues , my husband and I decided to buy a puppy and
train him for the agility world. Buzz, a golden retriever, has taken over the
house and continues to remind me what quick learners puppies can be. He was
zooming through the agility tunnel within two days of moving in with us, he
runs the uprights of the jumps without hesitation, and he happily bounces the
tippy board, an introduction to the dreaded teeter. The traditional behaviors
of sit, down, stay, and some tricks like shake, are on cue as well. While all
these behaviors are great, there is training that I consider far more important
– socialization. Having a confident, happy dog accompany me to an agility trial
is far more important than any ribbons or titles we may earn. Having a dog
comfortable in all situations that arise in daily life is priceless.

Dr. Ian Dunbar, one of
the leaders of the movement toward positive, scientifically-based training, has
a book titled “Before and After You Get Your Puppy.” He and his publisher
consider puppy socialization so important, they have teamed to present the
first part, “Before You Get Your Puppy,” free of charge online at
. Don’t let the title put you off. Even if you have already adopted a pup, it
can be of a great source of information about housebreaking, bite inhibition,
and the stages of puppy life. As they note, many dogs do not live to see their
second birthday due to behavioral problems that could have been prevented with
some early training.

For proper puppy
socialization, puppies need to be exposed to different things in a positive
way. This is especially true for pups ages eight to thirteen weeks as this is
roughly one of the “fear periods” dogs have as they mature. Puppies should have
met at least 100 different people by the time they are 13 weeks of age (men,
women, children, young, old, all races, handicapped, etc.) All the trainers
with whom I have studied have had some form of “The Puppy Seven” as part of
their curriculum. It is based on the idea that it is easier to prevent a
problem than it is to fix it. This list is by no means exhaustive. Please feel
free to add to it as the result will only be a more confident pup with fewer
problems to correct.

Please remember - these
encounters are all to be positive! Do not push the puppy into anything. Rather,
allow the pup to explore and heavily reinforce for good behavior!

Surfaces – grass, dirt, gravel, pavement,
concrete, carpet, no-wax, wood, tub or sink, grates, different types of cloth
such as cotton, fleece, and silk.

– every race, children (younger and older- be especially careful that the
children are calm around the pup), teens, adults, older folks (seek out some
with canes, wheelchairs, crutches, unstable walk), men (be sure to add hats,
facial hair, big coats), anyone with umbrellas and/or carrying something like
folding chairs.

Sources – hands, glass bowls, plastic bowls, paper plates, travel bowls,
lick-it bottles, cups, plastic ware.

– cars, motorcycles, playgrounds, dropping items (bowls, plates, cookware),
vacuums, horns, musical instruments, radio, TV, sirens, skateboards, wildlife
(NO Chasing), livestock.

– gentle touching (no pinches or pulling) by family and friends of toes,
toenails, ears, face, belly, tail (children must be calm and gentle if
participating in this exercise); carried in different positions (be sure the
pup feels secure); hand-offs between people.

– walk up and down stairs, though a hula hoop, across obstacles (boxes,
flattened tray tables); walk in and out of crate; walk, trot, run; play in and
out of box; stand on low table.

- stores (where pups are allowed), parks, friends’ homes, training classes,
farms, downtown, in the country, schools, parking lots, sidewalks.

It is important that
your pup feel secure and safe in each situation. Always provide leadership for
your pup, making sure the pup is aware that you will protect him/her. This does
not mean to coddle your pup when he becomes afraid, but rather provide calm
reassurance with soft words and a gentle touch. The time you spend now helping
your pup develop confidence will pay off greatly in the future. Adding a puppy
to your family is a commitment for the next ten to fifteen years. Starting off
with positive training in essential life skills will make that journey

Jan Casey is a positive
dog trainer and owner of Smiles and Wags Pet Services.

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

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