Wednesday, September 9, 2009
By Ruthie Bently
Every dog training book I have ever read has chapters about socializing your puppy. After living with a dog that was not properly socialized when she was younger, I understand the importance of socializing a puppy. You don’t want to live with a dog that barks at the mailman and delivery people. Or one that barks at every sound they hear outside, whether it’s your kids playing in your yard or a loud car stereo going by.
On the other hand, a dog that has not been socialized can also be a “Nervous Nellie” and may go hide in another room or under a piece of furniture. They can even be afraid of sounds inside the house, like the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher or clothes dryer. In a worst case scenario, they can become aggressive to other dogs or strangers that visit your home. So it is important to begin socializing your puppy as soon as you bring them home. But how do you go about it?
There are several ways to help you socialize a new puppy, and they don’t take a lot of effort. One good way is to enroll them in a puppy obedience class as early as possible, but make sure they’ve had all their shots first. Your puppy will get to meet other dog breeds, and by interacting with them will learn not to be nervous or fearful around them. When I took my first AmStaff to obedience class, I asked how many other dogs would be in his class. Since he was a younger, smaller dog, I wanted to get him into a class with fewer dogs. A smaller class is good because you can get more hands-on socializing, without overwhelming your new puppy.
The veterinarian’s office is also a good place for your puppy to have new experiences. They have a chance to interact with other pets and meet the vet and their staff. When you make your puppy’s first vet appointment, let the person you speak with know that you are bringing a new puppy, and that you would like help in socializing them. By having the vet and their staff make a fuss over your dog, your dog will learn that there is another place they are welcome to go and meet friendly people.
What about your local pet shop – are dogs allowed there? I managed one store in Illinois and we encouraged new puppy owners to bring in their dogs for a meet and greet. We asked for three things: 1) the puppy had to have a leash and collar (or harness) on; 2) we were allowed to give the puppy a cookie; 3) they should walk the puppy thoroughly before they brought it in to prevent “accidents.”
The place was large enough to negotiate with a puppy (or an adult dog), and the puppy got to help pick out their own toys and had fun being able to go into a store. Not only that, there were lots of people available (both workers and customers) to fawn over the puppy.
You can get your friends and family members involved in socializing your puppy too. Have a “meet the puppy” party, and supply puppy-sized treats in a dish by the door. CANIDAE Snap-Bits® are great for this; they are a perfect size, with a pleasant flavor, and they don’t have too many calories. Have the puppy next to you by the door and after the bell rings or they knock, open the door and hand the guest a treat for the puppy. If feeding your puppy between meals makes you uncomfortable, have the arriving guest get down on the puppy’s level and put out their hand for the puppy to smell, speaking to the puppy in a friendly voice and then have them pet the puppy. You can also ask a friend or family member with a dog to come over and meet your puppy. This way your puppy gets to meet other dogs in a safe arena under your supervision.
Are there any businesses in your town that hand out dog biscuits? Our bank has a treat jar right next to the lollipop jar at the drive through. Skye loves going for rides in the car, though I don’t take her with me when it is too hot or too cold out. By taking your dog for rides in the car when you can, they get used to going in the car and may be less apt to get carsickness, as it could be stress related. The dog park is a good place to meet dogs, but I recommend checking it out first before taking your new puppy. Go to the dog park and meet some of the other dogs’ owners, as well as the dogs, and see if you think your puppy is socialized well enough for that.
By following these simple ideas for socializing your puppy, you can meet new people and your puppy can make new friends as well. Nothing could be finer!
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently