The Critters

For Nice Critters

Beginning Dog Training – Puppy Socialization

Beginning Dog Training – Puppy Socialization

You have a new dog and now what?  What age can you begin  socializing your dog.  Many dog owners think they must wait until they are completely vaccinated.  You should start as early as 10 weeks of age.   Dog owners hear the word socialization all the time, but there is a proper way to do this. Let just say, if you put your puppy into a dog play group, but your puppy is not having a good time, the dog may learn to associate being with dogs as a fearful, stressful thing.

Proper socialization begins with a managed environment, meaning keep the stimulation very low.  Keep in mind that your goal is to have a well-adjusted dog that won’t react to normal things, so there’s really no limit to what you can socialize your dog with, and what you cannot. A misconception that  people have is that they should only socialize their dogs with other dogs the same size and children.  Owners need to socialize their new dog with dogs of all different ages, breed and play style and different types of people. Most importantly, they should expose their dog to everyday events and anything their dog will encounter in it’s life.  Such as, the vacuum, mirrors, umbrellas, balloons, bicycles, cars, babies in strollers, wheelchairs, and other animals. 

My best suggestion when it comes to proper socialization is focus on the dog’s basic senses (SIGHT, SMELL, SOUND, MOVEMENT).

First is to  have a plan and you can keep track of your dog’s progress with a notebook. Break down the categories, expose the dog to sight first, let the dog sees another dog from a distance, if your dog is not reacting, then praise and encourage the dog to take a step further, next is let the dog go investigate the person, animal or object with its nose (smell). He can find out a lot of information with just one sniff. Then you combine sight and smell together. After that, let him hear a person talk, a baby cry, a vacuum make noise, a balloon “pop”, a bicycle “horn” …etc., so the dog will feel comfortable knowing these things can cause noise, but it is nothing to be reactive about.

You don’t want to expose your pup to a high level of noise at the beginning, for example turn the vacuum on for just a few seconds (without moving it), then turn it off, give a dog a treat for not reacting, then add more duration next time. Last, is to add movement. Have people talk and move around or pet the dog, treat and praise for not reacting. Push the baby stroller, treat the dog for not acting scared, move the vacuum.  Turn it on, then turn it off after a few seconds.

Anything that moves, whether it make a noise, we should slowly expose our dog to it. I found that most dogs easily react toward fast moving objects. This can become a  behavioral problem later on that will be hard to correct. It is better to prevent it, then correct.

You will get the idea once you begin. It is not very difficult, always pair good things with each of the scenarios; such as giving a tasty treat to your dog as another dog approaches.  Drop a very tasty treat near the vacuum and praise your dog just by walking toward it. Put an all natural dog treat such as Zuke’s Mini Naturals inside an umbrella, open it, so it drops out, the dog associate seeing umbrella high value treats come!  Make some loud noise and treat your dog for all the calm signals (prepare your dog for thunder storms). 

Never force your new dog to go near the person, dog, or object. Let the dog do it on his own. Give him some space and have some patience. Give your dog praise and encouragement.  At the same time pay attention to his stress signals. When things don’t go right, remove the dog from the situation or walk farther away from it,  but act neutral and calm. Don’t raise your voice or baby the dog. This only teaches the dog it is okay to react or be frightened. You don’t want to nurture that state of mind. Instead, have a positive attitude, don’t stop the progress all together.  Remember socialization takes time, have a better plan and work on it next time, you will have a well-socialized dog.