WHAT IS SOCIALIZATION?
Dr. Seuss reminds us all about broadening our horizons with a little bit of humor and rhythm in his popular book, Green Eggs and Ham, written in the 1960’s using fifty words. Using his simple animated writing style is a great way to illustrate the importance of socialization!!
Some choose not to deal with socialization.
It’s sad, I know! More desensitization.
You will not find the answer in the sky;
And Mister, I will tell you why!
We live in a busy world that races;
Too busy to take puppies to new places.
Oh My! Another fearful reaction;
That leaves you in such dissatisfaction.
Hmm, socialization is indeed a need.
There you go! Going new places much proceed.
Confidence. Clarity. And Thresholds rise.
No more anxiety, fear and destructive “Whys?”
Look! A neutral reaction to a novel situation.
What a relief. Time well spent on socialization!
Almost everyone can relate to Sam-I-Am as he demonstrated his persistence and creativity while trying to help his friend to try green eggs and ham. Dr. Seuss’s fun and simple text reminds us all that meeting new people, going new places, and doing new things is only the beginning … a fun way of winning! See, socialization is a process that we have to do with our puppies - it is not an event. The outcome usually produces a well-adjusted adult dog willing to except different people, small children, new animals and unfamiliar environments … like bicycles and other things with a lot of movements! The key is NEW things. First impressions need to be GOOD impressions!
So, take your puppy new places.
Touch different surfaces and see new faces.
Try it! You might like it, so I say!
The world is simply a free buffet.
There are different periods in a puppy’s life that we all should be aware of. A good breeder will usually take care of the first period, the puppy canine socialization period. Here puppies usually learn from their mother the meaning of discipline and to regulate the strength of a bite from the other litter brothers and sisters. So it is really important for puppies to stay with their litter mates and mother until they are 7-8 weeks old. After 8 weeks, your puppy will fall into the sensitive period of life and the first fear period hits rapidly there after. Anything during this first fear period (between 8-11 weeks) that scares the puppy usually stays with him for life unless the owner recognizes the fear and is able to react properly and distracts with treats and toys — anything of high value. It goes without saying that socialization is limited by the puppy’s increasing and unpredictable fear of the unfamiliar, but we should not let that limit us. Studies have shown that the environment in which a new puppy lives will have an impact on his temperament when he reaches adulthood. Simply focus on pleasant experiences during this period and you’ll make it through with a happy puppy. Between 12-16 weeks starts the cutting period where the new teeth are cutting in and the puppies are cutting off mother’s apron strings. This puppy needs to get out and go here, there, and everywhere!
At 4 months (16 weeks) up to 20-24 weeks (5-6 months) the puppy reaches a flight … call to the wild, period and stays here until puberty sets in. What? During this period the owner’s are encouraged to play and create a valued position in the puppy’s mind.
Last but not least is the puberty period. Between 6-14 months the puppy will start to experience hormonal changes. The parents reading this know how challenging this hormone surge can be for a child. For the puppy, they can experience anything from hot spots to irrational attitude problems usually from a fear of what used to be familiar situations. There are tricks to make it through all of these periods, please consider me at WNC K9 Dog Training for help.
You will find a puppy program that helps you teach fundamentals that will take your puppy places. You are in charge of your puppies confidence. And new experiences on a daily basis will help. New things, not the same patterns and places - new things and places.
Start with an area where there are not a lot of other dogs, perhaps a playground with swings! First find one without the sounds that a child brings!
Would your puppy like the mulch? The sand? The snow?
Would your puppy like you swinging from head toe?
Could your puppy figure out how to slide?
Could your puppy find you if you were to hide?
Small things that bring about stress;
Will only strengthen your puppy’s threshold — positive progress!!
I challenge everyone to get out there. A well-socialized puppy living an adult existence is more at ease, confident, easier to train and less likely to develop behavior problems. So, to me, socialization increases the probability of dogs staying in the original homes and decrease the number of dogs placed in the adoption systems.
It is very important to bring the “here, there and EVERYWHERE!” lesson into the training process as well. I challenge everyone to help their puppy offer behaviors “here and there.” Depending on the environment, have patience and lower your expectations. Give a young dog a break - deliver grace, love and help.
Creatively motivate proper focus on you “EVERYWHERE!” Develop focus, name recognition, and a love of the learning games at home … under a dome … in the car … at the North Star! On a boat .. next to a mountain goat! In the rain … no, I’m not insane!!
If you train and socialize here, there, and EVERYWHERE, you will better your changes of having a good adult family dog.
THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN SOCIALIZING!
- CREATE PLEASANT, POSITIVE EXPERIENCES for your puppy with a variety of people and in a variety of places. Introduce them to animals and novel objects like umbrellas, canes, baby strollers, vacuum cleaners, brooms … etc.
- DO NOT FORCE YOUR PUPPY to experience something she fears. Dragging any fearful dog to visit a child is not socialization … sorry! Punishment is not part of socialization and neither is contributing to any unpleasant experiences.
- ALLOW YOUR PUPPY TO TAKE TIME with new, novel stimuli. Encourage the puppy to make small successful steps by laying a trail of treats. If your puppy is repeatedly exposed to situations that elicit a fearful response, the goal of socialization is not being accomplished.
- If you puppy displays UNWANTED PROBLEM BEHAVIORS during an encounter such as fear or aggression, you may want to inquire about a private coaching session so you can learn about behavior modification games and counter-conditioning.
- ALWAYS SET THE PUPPY UP TO WIN by making the situation less intimidating. For example, ask that tall bearded man to sit on the floor without direct eye contact and hand him high valued treats. Perhaps he could create a “train” to his hand with treats.
- Make sure the puppy IS HAVING FUN by playing with favorite toys and by feeding high valued treats.
Socialization helps a puppy overcome emotional responses and accept unfamiliar things. So start today! You’ll be surprised at the positive relationship that it brings.
This was originally written in 2001 … and now a perfect thing to post.
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Founder of WNC K9