SOCIALISING YOUR PUPPY
To grow up happy and confident, a puppy needs exposure to as many different people, places and objects as possible.
Socializing your puppy means getting him used to people, places and things. Every time your puppy does something he’s never done, goes somewhere he’s never been, encounters a new object, or meets a new person or a friendly dog, he’s being socialized.
Between three and fourteen weeks of age is a critical time in a dogs life. A dog will never forget what he’s learned in those few weeks. His experiences both good and bad, will leave a permanent mark on his personality, making him outgoing or shy, happy go lucky or cautious, curious or fearful, eager to learn or resentful of authority.
Your puppy needs to be exposed to the world outside so he can learn how to live happily with all that goes on around him. He will decide for himself what’s safe and what isn’t, but he needs your steady guidance. With you there to help him, he will be introduced to a non-threatening world and will grow up confident and outgoing.
Socialisation doesn’t end at Puppy Pre-School. Socialization through outings as well as weekly sessions at a local dog training club should continue at least up till twelve months of age, longer for undersexed males or more dominant minded dogs.
OUT AND ABOUT
Taking your puppy with you when you visit a friend socializes him. So does meeting strangers at home or while on a walk, playing with another animal or examining a soccer ball. Your puppy needs to meet senior citizens, toddlers, bearded men, women in sun hats, teenagers with skateboards, and people pushing prams. He needs to learn to climb stairs, and to ride contentedly in the car.
COPING WITH HIS FEARS
There are two cardinal rules for socializing a puppy. Never pat him when he’s afraid, and always praise him for being brave.
When your puppy seems fearful, do not reassure him with petting and soothing words because he will interpret your actions as praise. He will repeat what he is praised for over and over, so a hesitant stance could be become his learned reaction to anything new. On the other hand never jerk him toward the object he fears. Treatment like that could turn a little trepidation into total terror.
Encourage your puppy by setting an example. If he is afraid to go near something, leave him where he is and go yourself. Handle the object as if it were a winning lottery ticket, talk about it excitedly and invite your puppy to join you. Sitting down beside the feared object works well. Your puppy will probably start creeping over, but hold your praise until he at least touches the thing with his nose. If the object isn’t breakable or too large, roll it away from you, never toward your puppy. This might awaken his chasing instinct and entice him to play with the object himself.
AFRAID OF PEOPLE
If your puppy is afraid of people have a friend toss a treat his way. Your friend should then ignore the pup, and chat with you. When your pup comes nearer, your friend should kneel down and make themself seem friendly and non-threatening. When the puppy comes up for an exploratory sniff, your friend should hold their hand done low, reach under the puppies chin, and tickle him on the chest. Reaching over head could make him back up in fright. If your puppy doesn’t approach, don’t force him, but give him a lot more socialization and exposure to similar set-ups. Get other friends in on the act, people at your local obedience club, set up positive, non-threatening situations where your puppy will be enticed into approaching.
SENSITIVE TO NOISE
If loud noises send your pup scurrying, try announcing his favourite things with sound. If he loves to eat, mix his meal in a metal pan with a metal spoon before giving it to him. There’s no need to make a racket; keep the volume realistic. Eventually, he’ll learn that loud noises can mean pleasant things and will be less likely to jump out of his skin.
Excerpt taken from the Dog Lovers Companion:
The special bond between you and your dog can be one of life’s most enduring pleasures. This volume offers practical advice on all aspects of dog ownership, from training, feeding, exercise and breeding, to solving health and behavioural problems. Whether your dog is young or old, purebred or mutt, the dog lovers companion will help you provide a lifetime of health and happiness.