Monday, September 27, 2010

Socializing a Puppy

We all have our own definitions of what proper socialization means, when it comes to puppy socialization. In Doglando's puppy classes, I define it in terms of two areas, to help new puppy parents understand how to properly socialize their pups.

Often Socializtion is confused with exercise. While socializing may be quite tiring for your puppy, it is different from exercising your dog.

My definition of Socialization fits into two categories: Social interaction and Environmental Enrichment. Here is how I describe the two categories:

1. Social interaction: This takes place normally between the puppy/dog and another animal or human. All our puppies must be socialized amongst other puppies, adult dogs, senior dogs, dogs of all breeds, on leash and off leash, in small spaces and out in very large open fields. Puppies must be socialized with all races of people, male and females, infants, toddlers and youths... screaming, yelling, crying children, men working on construction sites, people at gas stations, out door restaurants, outside the movie theater, and the dog's vet office.

A socially apt dog knows how to interact when given the permission to do so, with all animals and people. A socially apt dog maintains and respects space and boundaries, and can be seen just hanging out at a local restaurant by the owners side, without the need of having to greet everyone that walks by.

A socially apt dog does not have to be best friends with all animals and people, he/she is accepting of others and has learned to relax and maintain calmness when in such social settings.

2. Environmental Enrichment: Many pet parents miss out on this part. They will have the most social dog when amongst other dogs or people, but these dogs are terrified of walking on different floorings, heights, motorcycles, thunder, dark spaces, etc.

This critical component of puppy development teaches a puppy to cope as opposed to flea or fight when confronted with an environment unfamiliar, scary or threatening to the dog.

A dog that has been successfully socialized, can be taken into any environment and will adjust immediately. For example, my dog Wyatt has never been trained. I have never done any formal obedience work with him, but when he was a puppy, he came with me every where I went. Literally, everywhere I went.

If I were going to Publix, he would ride along and wait in the car. My windows were all the way down, and he had no desire to jump out to greet the person parked next to us, because this was such a routine, and he was socialized properly. He had learned when it was appropriate to say hello, and when it was not. He was content with that.

After I was done with my shopping, I would load up my groceries, while intentionally leaving the back door open (so that he had the opportunity to jump out, but he had learned not to.... he was taught to wait until released to come out with me). Upon his release out of the car, we would walk together to drop the shopping cart off. This was our routine, whether I went in to buy a packet of chewing gum, or weeks worth or groceries.

It is so important to take these steps early on in the dogs life rather than waiting till the dog outweighs you or has learned to use its strength against you.

A well socialized dog is one that every opportunity was a learning opportunity for the puppy. Nothing was taken for granted, and those things the puppy appeared not to like or avoid, were repeated over again and again turning the experiences into fun games.

Socializing a dog may seem very time consuming and in actuallity it is not. Puppies are small, more manageable, and easier to handle making it very possbile to socialize and enrich them when younger.

To learn more about how to properly socialize your puppy, contact us at

Dog Responsibly.

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