Category Archives: Puppy Socializing

Proper Socializing starts with the Breeder.

I am always advocating for socializing dogs as early as two months old. I can understand that someone new to dogs might not fully understand the need to socialize or the terrible consequences of NOT socializing a puppy. But a BREEDER???This past week I had the sad and troubling experience of a person bringing a young 9-month-old puppy to a group agility class with the intention of “socializing” it. This puppy looked so scared and upset and repeatedly lunged aggressively at all the other dogs in class. He also lunged at me when I tried to approach him in a very friendly and non threatening manner! Upon questioning the owner I found out that this puppy had been kept by the breeder until two months ago when this naive person bought it! What is worse, the breeder told her all the dog needed was to practice his “social skills”.

This poor dog needs some serious and intensive behavior modification rehabilitation. What worries me even more is that the owner truly believed there was nothing wrong with this puppy and that her repeated exposure to other dogs would magically “cure” him. When the dog lunged at me she wholeheartedly reassured me: “He is fine around children! I take her to school and the kids can pet him”. Chills run down my spine… you have to be kidding me! This puppy is a time bomb and this inexperienced person is putting innocent children and dogs at risk.

This greedy breeder, who only cares about selling dogs and not the welfare of the puppies she brings into this world, is the reason why we have all this punitive breed and breeder regulations! This irresponsible breeder is the reason radical groups like PETA exist!

If you are getting a dog from a breeder please make sure it has been properly socialized and ask to meet the sire and dam. The only way to stop irresponsible breeders is let them deal with the maladjusted dogs they breed and not allow them to dump them on good people.

Don’t buy puppies from Flea market vendors, the internet or backyard breeders. You will just be promoting more suffering. There are enough dogs in shelters and  there is enough cruelty towards all the poor animals that have to be euthanized because of behavior problems.

When you get a puppy: SOCIALIZE, SOCIALIZE, SOCIALIZE the instant that puppy comes into your life!

I said “NO”

Watching my young puppies play with their mother is simply fascinating. We humans think of language mainly as a verbal communication, so we tend to oversimplify dog language as barking, whining and probably because it is so obvious, tail wagging. But if you watch closely you will start noticing so many subtle cues that are easily missed through casual observation. In this particular instance, Holly was playing with a toy, which she strategically placed close to the puppies enticing them into the game. A tug-of-war soon ensued with the puppies clamping on, and pulling harder and harder. Acting bold and cocky they even started growling as they tugged.

All of a sudden Holly stopped tugging, gave them a stern stare and moved her muzzled forward ever so slightly; the pups stopped in their tracks, let go of the toy and immediately adopted submissive postures: belly up, ears plastered back and avoiding eye contact. This whole act probably took less than 3 seconds!

This game was repeated on and on and Holly’s reaction was exactly the same every single time: subtle, fast and right to the point. I could not help but think how ineffective we humans are when trying to correct out dogs. We nag, nag, nag, beg, plead, nag a little more, beg, plead, threaten, yell…Our dogs resort to ignoring us or even escalate the negative behavior in response to our agitation. Wouldn’t it be great if we could also be subtle, fast and right to the point?

Did you know that allowing your puppy to play with his mother and siblings is very important because it allows him to practice “doggie language“? This is something we quite clearly are not capable of doing well. It will make your puppy more accepting of our clumsy human corrections and will also allow him to interact safely with other dogs. Puppies should not be separated from their dam and litter-mates until they are 7 weeks old. By practicing this dog-dog communication your puppy will be able to distinguish threatening or playful signals that the other dogs display. Once you pick your puppy and bring him home allow him to play regularly in small groups of other well socialized dogs. This is a key part of his early training and proper socializing.

Three Firsts!

Last Sunday we went to the beach. We really like Crescent Beach on the East Coast, it is about a 2 hour drive from where we live. It welcomes on-leash dogs and is a short walk from the parking to the beach, most of it through a boardwalk, which makes it relatively easy to lug all the stuff we usually carry (chairs, cooler, umbrella).

So we took Oliver and his mom Holly as she loves the water and would be a good “role model” for him. It was his First car ride, First time on leash and First beach outing! and I was truly amazed at how well he did.

This beach outing is part of Oliver’s socializing. It is very important that I expose him to a lot of places, things, noises, people and other dogs for him to grow as a confident and well adapted dog.
The ideal socializing period for a puppy is from 2 to 6 moths old and you know what? Time flies so I need to act fast because after this window of opportunity, socializing, though not impossible, will be much harder and I will really have to work very hard to help him overcome any issue he might have. So if life were perfect I should have taken the time to do each step individually; but the alternative would have been to not take him at all. I think that when it comes to socializing, “the more the merrier”, so off we went on our “Three firsts” adventure.

Probably because there was so much other stuff to sniff and look at, he did not even notice he had a collar and a leash, watching his mom play retrieve in the ocean gave him a lot of confidence as he waddled, a little worried into that water that rolled back and forth and smelled funny. We were very lucky that the ocean was pretty calm that day, so we were able to carry him to the point where the waves were not crashing and he swam quite a bit. At home he swims in our pool two to three times a week, so this helped a lot. Walking along the beach lot’s of people came to pet him which was really great for his social skills. Needless to say, he conked out the whole 2-hour drive back home!

When exposing a young dog to new things, he will cue off your attitude. So your feelings, body posture and tone of voice will determine his attitude to the new stimuli. I never for a second doubted that he would take well to the ocean, so by not cooing and pampering (“It’s OK, it’s OK”) but just encouraging to chase his leash through the turf, watch his mom retrieve a toy and sitting calmly without reacting to the waves he decided it was OK.

A hot button for me regarding my “the more the merrier” approach to socializing is the fact that we are usually scared into NOT socializing our puppies until they have completed their vaccination schedule. Well that is not going to happen until my puppy is 6 months old and by that time my window of opportunity will be closed!
I understand the reason for this: my puppy could die from contracting a disease. Now consider this: most of the dogs that end up in shelters (which have a very real chance of being killed) are there because of behavioral issues. I am convinced this could be avoided by proper socializing and training which can only be accomplished if your puppy is out and about. So take your puppy everywhere you can, let him play with other dogs, walk him where he will meet lot’s of people, everyone will want to pet him and enroll him in an obedience training class a.s.a.p!

The sooner the better and the more the merrier! And take lot’s of photos because 6 months go by FAST.