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Positive Dog Parenting

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Early Puppy Socialization

Getting Started

Socialization is easiest with puppies because the canine brain is pliable and wired to learn the most from social experiences that occur between ages 3 and 12 weeks. In adult dogs, this can still be accomplished; it just goes much slower. The goal of socializing a puppy is to develop an adult dog who is comfortable and relaxed with things encountered in the dog's environment. A socialization checklist is a list of specific experiences to introduce to the dog. This intellectual stimulation increases acumen and makes the dog "experienced." Most importantly, it reduces the likelihood of the dog showing signs of fearful behavior or aggression later in life.


Baby steps


If one of the situations on the checklist does trigger a fearful behavior or aggression, then it is recommended to introduce this situation in "baby steps." That is, break the task down into smaller increments, and couple each step with praise and a small food treat. If the fear continues, contact an animal behaviorist to help prevent further development of the fearful or aggressive response.
 

A socialization checklist is a list of specific experiences to introduce to the dog. This intellectual stimulation increases acumen and makes the dog experienced instead of socially stunted and inflexible.

In each case, when you introduce the dog to the stimulus, object, animal, or location, act happy, give a cookie (i.e., a food treat), and reward the dog for acting nonchalant and without fear near the new experience. If introduced early in life, most puppies will show no obvious response, which is the goal. If the socialization is not complete, the dog may suddenly develop a phobia to one or more of these situations later in life.

Carefully and gradually
introduce the dog to the following checklist items:

Socialization to stimulating objects

Thunder/lightening

Beeping from an appliance like a microwave

Traffic

Fireplace with fire

Mail box

Vacuum cleaner

Hair dryer

Wheelchair

Socialization to other animals

Cat(s)

Horse(s)

Pocket pets) (i.e., rats, mice, hamsters, etc.)

Bird(s)

Socialization to other locations

Parks (including dog parks)

Other homes

Crowded offices

Elevators

Dog show

Pet friendly store

Dog obedience class

Stairs

Socialization to other people

Mail person

Anyone wearing a hat

Truck delivery person such as UPS

Rollerblades

Children

Skateboarder

Someone with facial hair

Someone with an umbrella

Someone with a backpack

Someone with glasses

Someone on a bike

Someone with a raincoat on

Anyone in uniform

Someone with a puffy jacket

A variety of people from different ages, ethnic backgrounds, and genders
  • The goal is to have the dog or puppy meet the individual on neutral territory so that the dog is not responding from a territorial standpoint.

  • You can provide a dog treat for the other person to give your dog.

  • Once the dog responds appropriately in a neutral environment, continue the meetings on and off of his or her territory.

  • Have the new person ask the dog to "Sit" before giving the food treat.

  • A useful trick is to step next to the other person (after the dog is sitting) so both of you are facing the dog at the same time. This communicates to the dog that this person is not a threat and that you and that person are on the "same team." This should reduce any aggression and make it more likely that the dog will accept the new person and the cookie.

Improving Relationships between People and Pets!

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