Socialization is giving your puppy
supervised periods for exploring new surroundings, people and things
in order to build his confidence.
Socialization should have been
started by your puppy's breeder. It is your responsibility to
continue your puppy's socialization.
What puppies learn from the age of
2 to 4 months sticks with them forever. Furthermore, the ease
of socialization ends at around 4.5 to 5 months of age (however, this
does not mean to stop socializing your pup once he reaches 5 months -
if you don't use it, you lose it! It is important during the
first few months you have your puppy to invest in developing a
You must socialize your puppy even
if he has not yet had all his vaccinations. Just be careful
where you take him. Do not take him to a dog park or pet food
store where many unknown dogs have been. Until his
vaccinations are complete introduce him to dogs that you know are
healthy and good with puppies and take him to places where few dogs
have been, but where he can meet all sorts of people.
Attending a puppy kindergarten
class is a very good idea. How I handle the issue of
vaccinations versus the safety of exposure to germs in the class is
as follows: If my vet is vaccinating every three weeks (let's
say the vaccination is given on a Monday and the puppy class is on a
Thursday), I would take my puppy to the class on the same week as the
vaccine was given and also on the next week. I would attend the
class without the puppy on the third Thursday since the puppy will be
due for a vaccine on the following Monday. On a percentage
basis, your puppy is more apt to be protected either by the vaccine
or still by the immunity transferred by his mother on the week of the
vaccination or the week following the vaccination than when the next
vaccination is about due. I recommend following your
veterinarian's advice on vaccination scheduling.
Around 8 to 9 weeks of age
(sometimes up to 11 weeks of age), your puppy may experience a fear
period where things will tend to spook him more and the things that
do spook him can remain ingrained. During this time, continue
to socialize him, but avoid potentially frightening or
Socialization includes introducing
your puppy to the veterinarian in a positive manner. Take your
puppy to your veterinarian once in a while when he does not have an
appointment. Weigh him, let the receptionists and vet techs
greet him, give him tons of treats for just being there.
Do the same with your groomer or kennel.
Make sure your puppy gets to play
with well-behaved children as often as possible. Have
well-behaved children hand feed your puppy treats.
Introduce him to lots of different
types of people. For example, men with beards, people with
hats, people on crutches, people in wheelchairs, people on skates,
babies in carriages, kids on bikes, people in uniforms, and people of
various races. Have all these people (except the babies
in carriages, if too young to do so) hand feed your puppy
treats. Help your puppy learn to sit while they are handing him
the treat (you can gently hold your puppy in the "sit"
position if he is too excited to remain there on his own).
Encourage your puppy to walk on
various surfaces such as slippery floors, icy sidewalks, gravel,
concrete, grass, and puddles.
Teach your puppy to go up and down
stairs and over various obstacles (do not use obstacles that he
actually has to jump over. It is not good for a puppy to
jump and land until he is older and his growth plates have closed).
Carefully introduce him to other
dogs (only dogs that you know are healthy and good with puppies) and
other species such as a cat that is comfortable around dogs.
You can also expose him to horses, cows, goats, etc. but keep a safe
distance away from these larger animals.
Unfortunately, socialization has a
"use it or lose it" aspect meaning that if you in the past
socialized your puppy to children and then stopped seeing young
children completely for a period of time, then he may become
increasingly fearful of children because he has seen them too seldom
lately. Pressure is always in the direction of increasing
fearfulness and avoidance, never the other way.
For detailed information on
"socialization" read The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson,
Besides the importance of
socializing and bonding with your puppy, it is just as important to
achieve a balance between being with your puppy and being able to
leave him alone.
You want to teach your puppy that
alone does not equal isolation resulting in fear and panic.
First, teach your puppy that it is
okay to be alone when you are elsewhere in the house.
Occasionally put him in the place you plan to leave him when you are
gone (such as his crate) while you attend to business in another part
of the house. Begin with short separation periods of five
minutes or so and gradually increase the period of time.
If your puppy is crying or
barking, do not return to him until he has stopped. When you
return, remain calm and open the crate door. Do not praise or
coddle him at this time.
Make your puppy's crate a great
place by sometimes feeding him there and by secretly hiding toys,
treats, and toys stuffed with treats for him to find (leave the door
open so he can get to them when he does find them).
Before you leave, hide a toy
stuffed with treats in his crate, but keep the crate door closed and
him outside of the crate. Once he realizes what is in the
crate, he will be excited about going in and will barely notice your departure.
The manner in which you leave and
return to your puppy is a factor in how he perceives your
absence. If you are emotional and feel guilty about leaving him
alone, he will sense this and will become anxious when you leave.
Some dogs learn to key in on your
"leaving" behavior, which can be anything from putting your
shoes on, grabbing a certain bag, putting on a certain outfit or
jacket, grabbing your keys, taking a shower in the morning, or many
other things that they could use to determine that you are leaving
and they are not coming along. It helps to often do these
behaviors when you are not really leaving so they do not learn to
associate them with isolation. Keep your puppy guessing.
Are you coming, going, here, gone, or just gone for a very brief period?
Make "coming and going"
a gray area. This means do not be emotional, do not pet
him, do not give him treats from your hand, and do not play
with him prior to leaving him. Instead, keep your departure low
key. Also, do not purposely excite your puppy, play with
him, or give him treats when you first arrive home. Keep
your arrival low key and wait until you have been home awhile before
playing with him.
Make "here and gone" a
gray area. This means that your puppy is sometimes not with you
even when you are home. Gate him or crate him. To get him
used to this, provide him with a fun game such as licking
peanutbutter out of a Kong toy or hollow bone. Only provide him
with this fun treat during alone training so he learns to love being
alone for these short periods.
When your puppy is left alone for
short stress-free periods, leave the radio on. When you are
gone for longer periods, do not leave the radio on. Gradually
increase the time that you call "short and stress-free"
when the radio is on until this time eventually equals the longest
period of time your puppy is left alone.
Remember that although your puppy
needs to be okay with being alone, dogs are pack animals with a
sincere desire for companionship. They simply cannot endure
long periods of loneliness, isolation, and neglect day after
day. Do not get a puppy unless you are devoted to spending time
Also be aware that a puppy cannot
"hold it" all day in a crate if you work from 9 to
5. Puppies should not be crated during the day for more
hours than they are months old plus one (for example, a 3-month old
puppy should not be crated for more than four hours during the
day). At night, if the puppy is sleeping, he may be able to be
crated for longer.
For detailed information on
"alone training" read The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson,
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with Fear or Shyness:
Avoid purposely exposing your
puppy to frightening objects and sounds during his 8th and 9th week
of age (sometimes up to 11 weeks of age). At around this age
puppies tend to go through a stage when they may be permanently
influenced by fear (the fear period). Continue to
socialize him, but watch for things that he is oversensitive to.
Your dog may experience a second fear period around 8 or 10 months
Take it slow. Go at your
puppy's own pace. Do not push him beyond what he is able to
handle. Be patient.
Do not coddle, pet, or sympathize
with a scared puppy - this serves to praise a puppy for being
scared. Instead, act confident, laugh, and talk happily.
If your puppy is hesitant, don't
force him or soothe him. Be enthusiastic and act as you want
your puppy to act. Set the tone for your puppy.
Socialize in quiet calm settings
at first. Wait until your puppy is older and braver to take him
to places that are more noisy or busy. For example, make sure
your puppy is okay walking in a quiet neighborhood before taking him
downtown, make sure your puppy is okay at the far end of a parking
area away from the commotion before taking him to an area where
people are pushing shopping carts by him, make sure he is okay in a
small and quiet pet food store prior to taking him into a large and
busy pet food store.
Take your shy puppy to puppy
kindergarten, but do not include him in puppy play sessions with
rough and tumble puppies. Let him play with calmer puppies.
Introduce your puppy to loud
noises and potentially scary things gradually and carefully. If
a fire truck with sirens on is coming down the road, move your puppy
as far from it as possible and play with him. Do this
before the siren gets close.
It is natural for puppies to feel
stress and to be startled by or to shy away from things that are new
or overwhelming to them. Never drag your puppy over to the
thing that frightened him. Instead, help your puppy learn
to deal with whatever scared him. To do this, walk your puppy
by whatever scared him at a distance he feels comfortable with.
You are to ignore the scary person or thing and act confident as if
it's no big deal. Do not coax or comfort your puppy.
Gradually decrease the distance that you walk by - it may take many
many days. Reward him with food or a game if he's not scared.
Eventually, you may be able to have your puppy approach and sniff the
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your dog already has separation anxiety:
Never ever correct your dog for
destruction or accidents when you arrive home and discover them.
Just because he looks "guilty" to you, does not mean that
he knows that he should not do it or that he even could avoid doing
it. Remember, separation anxiety is due to an extreme anxiety
and the destruction or accidents are just symptoms of the anxiety
problem. The guilty look is an appeasing posture taken on by
your dog when he sees you and the pile of pillow foam in one
place. In the past this scenario has made you react in anger
and all he wants to do is to avert your wrath. So your dog is
actually acting appeasing due to a pile of pillow foam on the floor,
he is not thinking back in time to how the pillow foam actually came
to be (when he got so anxious about being alone that he ripped into
the pillow to make himself feel better).
If your dog has serious separation
anxiety, do not use a correction - it will not work. In fact,
it will quite possibly make it much worse. If you are angry
enough to scream at your dog who just destroyed your expensive couch,
go outside and away from your dog to do so. Scream at yourself
for leaving him in a situation that he could not handle and in a
place where he had access to the couch to chew. Then sit down
and figure out how to prevent the same thing from happening
again. You need a good plan that does not include corrections.
If you are sure that anxiety is
the cause of your dog's inappropriate behavior when he is left alone,
then you must teach your dog a new reaction when you walk out the door.
To teach your dog a new reaction
when you walk out the door refer to the following two books: Dogs
Home Alone by Roger Abrantes and I'll be Home Soon! How to Prevent
and Treat Separation Anxiety by Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D.
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--- Anxiety ---
NOT planned or spiteful!