Sepia Saturday–The Importance Of Socializing Your Puppy

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Other than trips to the vet, the pups hadn’t been anywhere just for the sake of going.  Now that their vaccinations are current, they are able to get out and about and begin the very important business of socializing.  Exposing puppies to different experiences, textures, temperatures and sounds as they are growing and developing helps to create a dog that is much more confident and temperamentally sound.  Genetics plays a huge role, of course, but environment also plays an important role in what a young pup will become. Exposing them to a variety of stimuli is very important in achieving a well-rounded adult.

While pups are still with their mother, they learn important things such as bite inhibition and pack structure.  They learn how to behave within the pack that is their mother and litter mates.  When they move on to their new homes, it is up to their owners to teach them the rules of living in their new pack as well as how to behave in public.  How they have developed up until that point can help or hinder them in the process of learning how to be part of their new worlds.

The Us Military created a program in the 1970’s called the Super Dog Program, or more commonly known as Early Neurological Stimulation.  Many breeders incorporate ENS as part of their puppy rearing process.  Dr. Carmen Battaglia wrote this article on the subject.  In a nutshell, it basically means that puppies who are exposed to various stimuli as they develop tend to do better in life than do their counterparts who do not receive this stimuli during critical weeks of development.  I found another great article with photos here.  It had originally been my intention to photograph and video these processes as my pups grew, but with my husband overseas for a month after they were born, I was pretty much brain dead from exhaustion so it didn’t get documented.  Now that they are older and more mobile, it is much easier to record their new experiences.

Back when I used to teach dog obedience, I encountered many folks with questions about how to help their dogs with common fears.  Thunderstorms, umbrellas, strollers, wheelchairs, vacuum cleaners.  These are all things that your dog is very likely to encounter in his/her life and they can be very scary to them at first.  The key is exposure and de-sensitization and how you react to their fear of whatever it may be.   For example, as these pups were born here, I began from birth with vacuuming near their whelping box.  Eventually the noise became part of their surroundings and they paid no attention to it.  They became desensitized to it.  Now if a pup reacted strongly to the vacuum, for example, cowering or crying and trying to hide, you must be careful not to reinforce that behavior.  Ignore it.  At a later time, with the vacuum off, try and coax the puppy up to the vacuum (or any other object they are afraid of) and praise when puppy investigates.  I will usually put a treat on the vacuum and praise the pup if they are brave enough to retrieve it.

It is normal human behavior to want to comfort someone (especially a cute puppy) when they are distressed.  However with dogs, this can create more problems than it cures.  If you coo at the puppy and excessively pet it (“It’s okay, it’s alright,”), trying to comfort it, your voice and body posture are basically conveying to the pup that there is something to be worried about and they may seek this reassurance for the rest of their lives.   You are basically praising them for behaving this way.  Think about it–petting our pups is often how we praise them for behaviors we want them to continue.  If you ignore the behavior and act as if everything is fine, continuing on with whatever it is you need to do (after all, the house does need to be vacuumed), mindful of your body posture and the way you hold yourself, the pup will pick up on this.  Don’t make an effort to shield the animal from things that initially cause it distress.  This can create a lifelong issue.  If puppy sees the vacuum every day, and sees that it doesn’t get eaten, it doesn’t eat you, and the presence of the vacuum doesn’t seem to bother you at all, then eventually the puppy will realize it is nothing to be worried about.  You can even use this time to give the puppy special treats (if they are not acting fearful), thus associating the vacuum with a positive thing.  Providing a new chew toy may take their mind off the very loud, rolly thing.

So yesterday we braved the wide world.  We went to our local Home Depot, as it is a wonderful place to socialize.  Who doesn’t want to visit with and pet cute, fuzzy puppies?  Along with many new sights, sounds and smells, the puppies met some very friendly folks.  We were thrilled to meet a very nice lady from Turkey, who knew instantly what breed the pups were, and cooed and gushed over them for a good 5 minutes.   We visited the lumber section, where there was a loud, beeping forklift and the wonderful smell of all that wood.  We went out to the garden section and looked at all the pretty plants and then back inside to cool off and visit a few more people before heading home.  We spent about 45 minutes there, and by that time Parvati was exhibiting signs of being ready for a nap, so we ended it on a high note with a very nice lady who gave them kisses and cuddles.  Chewy could’ve kept going, but Parvati was clearly done.  She settled herself in the cart and began to drift off to sleep.  Being adored really takes it out of you!

Here is a video of our first big outing:

[vimeo 128599444 w=500 h=281]First Trip To Home Depot from Walks With Rama on Vimeo.

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9 Comments

  1. Cathy Armato May 23, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    It so important to social puppies as much as you can, especially before about 16 weeks of age when their total curiosity turns to curiosity w/ a healthy dose of wariness. We started socializing our Husky as soon as she was old enough to go out in the world. It’s made her love all people and other dogs and able to handle crowds and other situations. I think it helped make her an amazing therapy dog as well! I love your video, the pups are so adorable riding around in the HD cart!

    1. Rama's Mama May 23, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Thanks Cathy! Yes, you are so right! And those fear periods that come after can be made all the more difficult to deal with if the pup hasn’t had socialization earlier in life. I’m glad you mentioned crowds. That’s something many folks don’t think about, either. 🙂

  2. Earl Lover May 23, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Our young Ethel is as friendly as can be! We have socialised her so much, visiting Earl’s agility shows with her in tow, and more. She is more than a social butterfly! Nothing scares her; she is really up for anything that life brings!

    Thanks for joining Ruckus The Eskie and Earl’s World! in Sepia Saturday!

    sumskersandearlskers13.blogspot.com

    1. Rama's Mama May 23, 2015 at 5:55 pm

      That is so awesome! Way to go Ethel!

  3. DZ Dogs May 23, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    I love how you raise your pups. 🙂 Ziva was clearly not socialized properly as a young pup and we’ve had to work through many issues because of it. On a good note we have successfully conquered many scary “monsters” with her through lots of positive training and treats.
    This summer since i’ll be done with school, the hubby and I made a deal to spend saturday mornings on socialized and exposing both our dogs to more people and busy situations, we’re thinking of spending time outdoors at coffee shops and busy parks.
    Dante loves crowds but he seems to think he doesn’t have to listen, and crowds make Ziva nervous so it will be good for both of them to be further exposed and work on some distraction training. 🙂

    1. Rama's Mama May 23, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      That sounds like a great plan! You guys have done SO much good work! Coffee shops are among my favorite places to socialize dogs. Can’t wait to read about your summer adventures!

  4. Marie May 24, 2015 at 8:16 am

    Great article. Yes, socializing puppies (and kittens) is very important. Love the photo 🙂

    1. Rama's Mama May 24, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      Yes, kittens! You are so right!

  5. Sand Spring Chesapeakes May 24, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    Great post, so many dogs don’t get the socialization that they need and it is sad to see them as adults. Good for you getting out there and exploring new things and doing all that you do while raising your litter.