Been there, done that!
“The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life… For this reason, the AVSAB believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated… While puppies’ immune systems are still developing during these early months… appropriate care makes the risk of infection relatively small compared to the chance of death from a behavior problem.” - The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior *
Your puppy's adult view of the world is dependent upon the the quantity and quality of his social experiences as a puppy. From the instant you bring him home, every encounter shapes who he is to become. Continue to be conscientious in seeking out new socialization opportunities through 18 months, longer if he's a giant breed.
If you are starting out at a socialization deficit, you will need to be even more diligent in your socialization efforts. What is a socialization deficit? If your new puppy left the litter too early, was an only puppy or an orphan, or if he stayed with his litter too long in a non-enriched environment, or his early life experiences were less than optimal. You can do many things to help "catch up" but will probably never really know what he could have been had he had a healthy start. If his genetics are stable, your chances are better. If his genetic temperament is poor, lack of early experiences or bad experiences can be permanently damaging. Genetics control the potential - experience shapes the behavior.
Experience is what teaches the dog "this situation predicts good things" and "that situation predicts scary things" ... your job is to help the dog see new things as potential good things.
"Dr. Lee Harris, DVM, San Diego, along with other progressive veterinarians, tell us, "Concern has been raised about exposing puppies to infectious diseases before they are completely immunized. Some common sense needs to be exerted about exposure risks (dont take the 10 week old puppy to a dog park!), but damage done by lack of early socialization is more dangerous to the dog in the long run than the risk of encountering a serious virus in well-chosen socialization exposures. The American Veterinary Medical Association realizes this, and their official recommendation is that that socialization concerns outweigh immunization issues, and puppies should be well socialized to people, dogs, cats, vehicles, and noises early in life. Canine mental health depends on it! "
WHAT, WHERE, WHEN &
HOW TO SOCIALIZE YOUR DOG
at the "shallow end of the pool" and add new challenges as he is ready.
NEVER throw your puppy into the deep end to sink or swim. If he panics, he isn't learning anything but to avoid this thing and anything that remotely looks like it later. Fear is easily acquired and quickly becomes permanent.
Slow is fast when it comes to socializing your puppy.
Every meeting should be a positive experience. If your pup is worried, don't thrust him into the arms of strangers or allow anyone to overwhelm or mishandle him. If he's already a little cautious about children and the first one he meets drops him or steps on his tail, his worries were confirmed. If he sits quietly with a gentle child and gradually learns that his fears were unfounded, it will affect how he reacts to the next child he meets.
Know your puppy's fears. If he's cautious around men, make his first vet experience with a woman veterinarian. Your first trip to the vet should be just to say "hi" and eat treats, not for a painful procedure. Intervene and direct all people who want to meet your puppy. See the "Human Space Invaders" article and encourage people to introduce themselves using appropriate body language.
Your dog needs to meet many babies, toddlers, grade school age children, pre-adolescent kids, teenagers, college kids, disabled and elderly folks. Each group presents a wide range of movement styles and physical activities. Puppies need to meet people of both sexes and varying nationalities and skin color. The elderly are stiff and slow - stiff and slow movements are a danger sign in dog body language. Children are prone to sudden dramatic physical outbursts, whether spontaneous tap dancing or temper tantrums. Men have deep voices and children high pitched squeals. These are no big deal to the dog raised in a busy family who takes the dog to every soccer game, but troubling to the dog who rarely leaves his backyard and whose middle aged single owner has few visits from strangers.
Start with quiet body massage. Handle his feet, his ears, his mouth. Increase speed and invasiveness gradually. Pretend to be a kid, a person who is afraid of dogs and the kind who swoop in and hug. Prepare your puppy for his first visit to the vet or groomer by practicing the kinds of physical handling and restraint he will experience there. Remember your goal is not to torment, but create a positive experience. You are your puppy's advocate at all times. If a vet or groomer is overwhelming your puppy, step in.
Dogs, cats, birds, horses, cows, bunnies, guinea pigs, chickens. Encourage him to watch quietly at a distance he can handle. Be sure that the animals your puppy meets are safe and non-threatening (but one who will set limits) and that your puppy is on-leash and not a threat to the safety of the animals he is meeting.
Things that are still: fire hydrants, statues, big stuffed dogs, cardboard boxes, bags of garbage. Things that float and hover: balloons, bubbles, plastic bags. flags that flap in the wind. Things overhead: garage doors, airplanes. Things that roll: big balls, skate boards, bicycles, cars, motorcycles, buses, trucks, shopping carts, wagons. Grooming implements: hair dryers, brushes. Housekeeping appliances: the vacuum cleaner, brooms, dust mops, aerosol cans.
Crinkly sounds, popping sounds, echoes, machine noises, traffic sounds, kids playing, babies crying, animal noises, voices on loud speakers, cheering and clapping crowds. You shouldn't be so close that he becomes afraid. Sit away from the soccer game and move closer as he is ready. Pop bubble wrap at a distance. The sound may produce a mild startle, then orientation to the source followed by recovery, approach and investigation. Then the party! Allow him to approach at his own pace. Don't force him to investigate, encourage him.
Shopping malls, grocery stores, farmer's markets, yard sales. Elevators, automatic doors at the grocery store, garage doors, warehouses, hallways, places with high echoey ceilings, bustling downtown crowds, big open wheat field, soft ball game.
Grates in the sidewalk, slippery floors, carpeted floors, gravel, sand, deep grass, steep hills, wooded terrain, muddy ground, waves along a sandy beach. Stairs - wooden, metal, backless, concrete, shallow and steep, open and narrow.
Keep a socialization journal. What new experiences did your puppy have this week?
"While we teach our puppies all about life...
.......................our puppies teach us what life is all about"
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© CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF" Training for Dogs & Their People -
ditr_training @ hotmail.com - http://www.diamondsintheruff.com