Social interactions

Good Sunday morning, hopefully you remembered to move your clocks ahead lastnight. If not do it now, there has been more than one year I missed appointments because I didn't remember. This is the crappy time change, yes it gives us more daylight but it makes hauling yourself out of bed in the morning near impossible. And the dogs? What the clock says means nothing to them, they know it's too early to get up no matter what.

I wanted to discuss socializing this morning, early and late socializing is so important. There are such ranges of puppies that no two are ever going to beidentical in their needs or their reactions. But one thing is for sure, they need to be socialized. Socializing can come in many forms but it should start early, really early. Many vets are now starting to come around to the importance of early socialization and how to go about it safely.

Puppies can be introduced to many different sights, smells, textures and sounds well before they could ever get out in the world. Having puppies experience many new things each day really helps to prepare them for our big and scary world. As a dog trainer I often meet puppies from the age of 7 - 12 weeks in their new home. It is then that the great debate begins. The vet says "no" and I say "yes," a carefully controlled yes but most definitely yes to socializing early.

I completely understand the need for great care when it comes to puppies but because puppies are a completely blank slate it is fairly easy to socialize them. This can be as simple as taking them to the side of your house and letting them explore where they have yet to go. Take them out into the front yard to experience perhaps cars, bikes and people passing by your home. Invite the neighbors over, especially if they have children.

Children are an essential part of socializing, but you must be careful that they do not overwhelm a puppy which can then lead to a fear of children. Puppies must go out on their own, away from the rest of the pack. If they are always within the pack even when they are out socializing they never truly learn to deal with what life might throw at them.

Take your puppy out in the car, go to coffee shops and anywhere that you can sit and take in the world with your puppy in your arms. Meeting many different people, all shapes, sizes, walking postures, hat wearing, men, women and children from the very young to the very old. I have to say that Luke has been my greatest canine teacher out of all of my dogs. He is super sensitive to literally everything, sound, site and smell. And it is through watching his over reactions that I have learned the what many dogs displayed but we simply miss the message because their communication level is much more subdued.

I'm a canine behavior watcher, I am constantly watching the signs. Often when I am out with people and dogs I realized when I get home that I could not tell you what any of the people were wearing, none of them. But I could tell you play by play what the dogs were discussing over the entire social gathering. If you watch for the subtle signals you might learn how comfortable or not comfortable they are in certain situations.

So what happens if you missed the boat so to speak, you didn't do your job and now you have a grown unsocialized dog? You get out and start socializing, but you must take it in baby steps and not overdo it. There is a fine line between pushing a bit and flooding. Flooding - In flooding, you expose yourself to the feared thing not in small or medium size doses but instead, all at once in fullest intensity. This is not a recommended method of dealing with canines. You can not talk them through it and it typically makes matters worse.

There are several things that I feel very strongly about and this one may cause me to be called a nag by some, infact I know I nag because I even say that I nag about it to my clients. Socialize, socialize, socialize. Especially if you see a behavior issue arising, instead of hiding and running away from it, tackle it head on and help your dog. They will thank you for it.

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