Socializing Charlie Brown
As a behaviorist and trainer, I cannot stress enough the
importance of early socialization for puppies to be able to grow into friendly,
confident members of your family.
Socialization means to give your puppy positive exposure to everything
they might come across as an adult dog. This needs to be done in a planned out
and careful way, and if done poorly, it will most likely do more harm than
good. Most of the dogs I work with that are suspected of abuse, most likely are
under-socialized and not abused. There is a small window of opportunity during weeks 3-12 when Socialization is easy. Most puppies come home during week 8, and that gives you only 4 weeks to make the biggest impact on your puppy's adult life.
Dogs with limited exposure to a variety of environments are
less flexible, easily stressed, and will quickly enter the fight or flight
response. So take your puppy with you! Expose them to car rides, the park, the
vet’s office, sporting practice or game, pet store, or a friend’s house. Ask
local businesses or your place of employment if they allow dogs, or would be
willing to make an exception for your puppy. Have them walk on different
surfaces, like gravel, sand, grass, pavement, woodchips, shiny floors, carpets,
or tile. Take them camping, a hike through the woods, or a stroll down main
street during a low traffic time.
They need to meet new people. They need to meet men, women,
children, the elderly, and the disabled. They need to meet your family and
friends. Men with facial hair, people wearing hats, sunglasses, back packs, big
coats, long hair, short hair, people of different ethnicities, and people in
uniforms. They need to meet new children. Even if you have children in your own
home, they should meet new children too. Be very careful with new children;
puppies can easily get hurt by a well intentioned child.
Let’s not forget about other dogs. Make a point for your new
puppy to meet new friendly dogs. Talk with your friends, family, and neighbors
and schedule some puppy play dates with dogs that are patient, friendly, and
have good social skills. Keep the numbers of new dogs to two or three, and
avoid dog parks or puppy classes where all the puppies are thrown together to sort
Look for opportunities for them to meet dogs that are big, small, tall,
short, plump, skinny, fast, slow, floppy ears, not so floppy ears, docked
tails, other puppies, adolescents, adults, (patient) old dogs, long hair, curly
hair, or no hair. Dogs that move differently, breathe loudly, or do a lot of
snorting. It’s very important to keep it positive. Don’t expose your dog to
another dog that could potentially harm or scare your puppy. If during the puppy
play date things are making you uncomfortable, give the dogs a few minutes to
cool off, calm down, or even take a nap.
Don’t make the mistake that Socializing is only for leaving
the house. You need to socialize your puppy to your house too. Intentionally
expose your puppy to other household pets (cats, birds, rodents, reptiles), and
maybe even farm animals. Expose them to sounds they might hear around the house
such as the vacuum, dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator, washing machine and
dryer, hair dryer, or garage door opener. Purposely drop something that might clang to
startle your puppy, yet not frighten your puppy. As always, keep life positive
for your puppy.
questions I often get….
Q: How often
should I socialize my puppy? A: Every single day from the age of 8 weeks until
14 weeks. If you can’t leave the house, then focus on something within the
house to expose your puppy to.
Q: What do I
do when I take my puppy out in public? A: Keep Socialization positive and be
careful to not overwhelm them. Plan ahead with pockets (or treat bag) filled
with treats, and when you’re exposing your puppy to these new things, use lots
of encouragement, toys, and treats to help your puppy associate fun things with
new experiences. Have strangers meet them with treats either handed to them or
dropped for the more shy puppies. Teach them something fun (trick) or revisit
an easy obedience command. (come and sit)
should I avoid? A: Large crowds, very hot weather, extremely cold weather,
aggressive or unfamiliar dogs, dog parks, anything that might actually frighten
your puppy, and teaching a new command or trick. Remember this is about
positive experiences. Teach the new stuff when you’re home and it’s easy to
first couple of weeks with me have been packed full of lots of Socialization.
So far in the last two weeks Charlie has met hundreds of strangers, attended
two soccer games and a soccer practice, been to the apple orchard, had nine
puppy play dates with four different families, been to the vet’s office twice,
had visiting family and friends on four different days, gone hiking, walked
through two pet supply stores on four different days, walked through a farm
store, sat in on preschool reading hour at the library, has gone to the library
three other times, and went with us to the Fire Station open house.
becoming well known in our little town. Each time I take him out I make sure my
treat bag is filled with a variety of treats, and I have a couple of his
favorite toys or bones. When strangers ask to pet him, I let them know he knows
how to sit, and have them either pet him or give him a treat while he’s
sitting. When we visit a new place I give him lots of encouragement or treats,
followed by praise for a job well done. (his job is to stay calm) In the pet
stores, farm store, and sometimes just walking through town, I will take about
5 minutes and work on simple obedience commands and a few tricks we’re working
I keep a close eye on him and make sure he’s always feeling happy and good
about where we are and who we’re meeting. If I think he might be getting
overwhelmed, I create a bigger personal bubble or leave depending on the
environment. At the vet’s office when I’ve needed to wait in the exam room, we
play a game of fetch until the next person comes in. Then while he’s getting
examined and vaccinated I’m feeding him some of his most favorite treats.
I also want
to set Charlie up for success. A tired dog is a good dog, but an exhausted dog
is just a disaster. I plan ahead on what we’re going to do and make sure I
adjust his awake and active time as necessary. If I want him nice and calm in
the library, I take him for a walk or other similar activity to make sure he’s
sleepy while we’re there. However if I want him to hike a couple of miles with
me, I make sure he’s gotten plenty of rest before and will be able to get
plenty of rest afterwards too.
is about planning ahead and keeping it positive. What do you plan to do with
your puppy? As always…please ask if you have any questions!