When we decide to bring a dog into the family circle, we all want a confident, calm, non-reactive yet responsive family companion. We also hear a lot about the importance of socialization, but what does this involve?
Socialization is more than learning to get along with other dogs. It is also important that you introduce your pup safely to a big new world. An important question to ask of yourself before you pick up your new puppy is, “How am I going to make sure my puppy is socialized and trained properly in order to allow it to grow into the well-adjusted, confident and well-mannered companion I want?” Obedience training alone is not enough.
All dogs will need grooming and the handling of certain body parts at some point in their lives. Practicing gentle handling and restraint all over the puppy’s body, including its nails, teeth, and ears regularly is an important part of socialization and a great bonding exercise.
During their first few weeks of coming to live with you, introduce your pup in a calm but fun way to people of all ages, people wearing all kinds of clothing, holding bags, boxes, an umbrella, etc. Let them become familiar with noises from the vacuum, garbage trucks, doorbells, and loud and unusual sounds. Fortunately, you can find all sorts of sounds on your cell phone to help with this. Puppies need to learn about walking on many types of surfaces and in different environments. Puppies need to be introduced to other animal species too, such as cats, and birds, whenever possible.
It is important for most dogs to attend group classes and it needs to be done in a way that is not overwhelming. Consider working one on one with a trainer for the first couple of training sessions. For the first group class or two you may wish to simply sit on the sidelines and work with them there. Let your puppy be the guide to what they can handle. Encourage and do not use force.
There is a popular theory today that puppies should not start training classes until they have had all their vaccines. The fact is that puppies are more likely to develop significant behavior problems if they are NOT attending Preschool / Socialization classes BEFORE 16 weeks than they are apt to come down with a disease from a clean and low–traffic training facility. Low traffic meaning, not a busy doggie day care and not in a busy big box pet store. I often observe people walking with young puppies on public trails and in parks where hundreds of animals such as dogs, coyotes, fox, raccoons, geese, and others walk and relieve themselves every day. Yet people worry about the spread of disease there less than a room that is mopped regularly with puppy– safe disinfectant.
Be aware that there are two major fear periods most puppies encounter that we will need to help them through. Remember to not overwhelm and NEVER use force when your puppy shows shyness or fear towards anything. Consult your trainer about how to best handle issues as they crop up.
Benefits of encouraging many positive associations with your puppy will be evident in having a confident and well-adjusted companion when paired with consistent training towards developing good manners in many situations.
About Fran Menley: Fran has been training dogs for 50 years. She trained her first dog to a AKC CD title at the young age of 13. After that dogs were always a huge part of her life. Her first professional job, at 17 years old, was with a large show kennel in TX. Fran oversaw readying the puppies for the show ring. She learned the importance of socialization, building confidence and training along with their fitness. In her mid-20’s she was what would now be considered a Vet Tech and Surgical Assistant for several years. In the decades that followed Fran and her husband owned a cattle ranch and were involved in training dogs and horses for themselves and others. Fran stayed involved in AKC competition thru the 1990’s. During this time Fran also competed in professional rodeo.
After her husband passed away Fran moved to Colorado in 2009 to be with her family. She was employed by Freedom Service Dogs where she trained and graduated many service dogs, became the Foundation Training Manager and Dog Intake Manager. In 2019 Fran left FSD and joined forces with Dawn Olson, a long-time friend and owner of Ken Caryl Pet Spa, and Creating Forever Dogs was born. Fran has always admired Dawn’s overall knowledge of dogs as well as her success and integrity as an entrepreneur in the pet business.