Thursday, November 13, 2008

Taking puppy out...socialization thoughts...

Mom has the guest spot on my blog I'm going back to sleep, and she's wide awake and home with a cold. :) Enjoy!


Today I wanted to discuss socialization of your puppy. I am in charge of all of the Puppy Raisers for Fidos For Freedom. One of the aspects of puppy training that we focus on quite a bit is that word everyone hears when they get their new pup: Socialization. I think that many people misunderstand what we are talking about when we bring up this term, so I want to break it down, as I see it...especially in talking about puppies in the Service and Hearing training.

First and foremost...we want these puppies out and about experiencing as much as possible. Eventually these pups will grow to be a dog that goes out with a client to many places...restaurants, shopping malls, subway trains, zoos, etc. We want the puppy accustomed to as many things as we can.

Of course this means that they have to meet new people. We want puppies to meet people of different shapes, sizes, races, genders, ages, and abilities. When I have a new baby (8-9 weeks) puppy in training, I shove him/her into the arms of anyone who dares "Awwww" over the pup. I was at Fidos last night with the newest pup, Bryce, who is living here for a few weeks. He saw little kids, teenagers, adults, people in wheelchairs, people in walkers, people with and without their own dogs on leash. Many people held him and everyone petted him. He was wiped out when he got home. He will continue to meet new people as he stays here...I'll take him out to meet the mail carrier, and the UPS driver. He's met the neighbors all around, kids and adults. He'll go to the vet and have happy visits with everyone there.

This sounds like a lot of time, and it can be. But we don't stop there. Socialization is not just about meeting humans. The puppy needs to meet other dogs (adult and puppy), and as many other types of animals as possible. Bryce has met the two cats (one fluffy adult, one short-haired kitten), he's met the guinea pigs and rabbits. He lives of course with Sawyer and the others, and meets other friendly adult dogs. Bryce and the neighbor pup, Cocoa (6 mo. shih tzu) had a playdate yesterday in the yard. We'll have a bird boarding with us over Thanksgiving, so he'll get to meet a bird in a cage. I make sure that all of these experiences are positive for him. We were at Fidos last night, and there were many dogs out and about in the building. Some dogs strained at their leashes to meet him...and I made sure to protect Bryce from those dogs. Whether friendly or not, they were being pushy, and I didn't want him scared. He met adult dogs that were easy-going and friendly to him. First and foremost, protect your puppy! Meeting adult dogs that don't like puppies, for instance, is not going to help in the long-run. Heading out to the dog park with the puppy...not a good idea. Set up play-dates with other puppy owners, find a good puppy class, meet up with friends who have puppy-safe adult dogs...these are what you should do instead!

In addition to meeting all these new friends, we still have more socialization to do! It doesn't end with humans and "other" animals. ;-) Another aspect of the socialization includes the environment the puppy is in. This means the puppy should experience more than just your house and yard. Of course young pups aren't completely vaccinated, so you want to be careful about where you go. The training center is a good place to go, so puppies come along to classes with me during the week (more people and dogs to meet too!).

I want the puppy to experience different surfaces under their feet...slippery floors, mulch, carpet, uneven surfaces, rough surfaces. I want the puppy to eat in different their crate, in the car, in the living room, in the kitchen, up on a taller surface (on a table, couch, etc), in the grass, etc. I want them to play with different items...stuffed toys, hard toys, water bottles, metal keys on a ring, soda cans, the list is endless. Eating out of different containers...ceramic, metal, plastic bowls, frisbee, etc. This is all part of the socialization. It's not just meeting people!

The last thing I want to mention is that I always stress quality rather than quantity. It always makes me think of the line, "First, do no harm". It is up to you, as the puppy parent to make sure that all these experiences are positive and fun for the puppy. If the puppy is worried, scared, unsure, do not push it. Protect the puppy from potential harm: a big dog rolling the puppy, a surface that the puppy is scared of, whatever it might are the one in charge, the puppy relies on you.

~Sawyer's Mom (aka Erin)

One of the guidelines I follow, and recommend to my puppy raisers is the "Puppy's Rule of Twelve" by Margaret Hughes. I print off a copy for each of my puppies, and I circle each thing that they do or experience.

Make sure all experiences are safe and positive for the puppy. Each encounter should include treats and lots of praise. Slow down and add distance if your puppy is scared!

By the time a puppy is 12 weeks old, it should have: (If over 12 wks start right away)

Experienced 12 different surface: wood, woodchips, carpet tile, cement, linoleum, grass, wet grass, dirt, mud, puddles grates, uneven surfaces, on a table, on a chair, etc...

Played with 12 different objects: fuzzy toys, big & small balls, hard toys, funny sounding toys, wooden items, paper or cartboard items, milk jugs, metal items, etc...

Experienced 12 different locations: front yard (daily), other people's homes, school yard, lake, pond, river, boat, basement, elevator, car, moving car, garage, laundry room, kennel, vet hospital (just to say hi and visit, lots of cookies, vaccinations) grooming salon (just to say hi) etc...

Met and played with 12 new people: (outside of family) include children, adults (male and female) elderly adults, people in wheelchairs, walkers people with canes, crutches, hats, sunglasses, etc...

Exposed to 12 different noises: (ALWAYS keep positive and watch puppy's comfort level-we don't want the puppy scared) garage door opening, doorbell, children playing, babies screaming, big trucks, Harley motorcycles, skateboards, washing machine, shopping carts, power bost, clapping, pan dropping, vacuums, lawnmowers, etc...

Exposed to 12 fast moving objects: (Don't allow to chase) skateboards, roller-blades, bikes, motorcycles, cars, people running, cats running, scooters, children running, squirrels, horses running, etc...

"The Puppy's Rule of Twelve" is something that I am very proud of, and would like to keep ownership of. Please give me full credit when using this on your website or any other form.

Positive Paws Dog Training ©2002 - Margaret Hughes

Adapted with permission from Pat Schaap's "RULE OF 7's" for 7 week old puppies

Thank you,

Margaret Hughes, owner of The Puppy's Rule of Twelve

P.S. That's Score and his first girlfriend, Twister, at the top of the page. Back when they were about 10 weeks old in puppy class. Twister is currently up for adoption...I'll post a link to her page soon.-Erin

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