Raising A Creative Canine

The introduction of a new puppy into a reactive multi-dog household

Socialization

The Most Important Puppy Task Add comments

The AVSAB’s (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior) statement on the importance of puppy socialization:

The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing over-stimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior. Incomplete or improper socialization during this important time can increase the risk of behavioral problems later in life including fear, avoidance, and/or aggression.” www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/…/puppy%20socialization.pdf

The most important thing for puppy Austyn is to give him as many positive and productive experiences with humans, canines, and the world as possible. Emphasis here are on the words “positive” and “productive.” Certainly it is not possible to predict what the outcome of every interaction will be but it is extremely important beforehand to get as much information as possible to make that decision intelligently. But something can always go wrong:

Take, for example, one of Lizzie-Taylor’s puppy experiences: At lunch we were walking around in a nearby Petco when a gentleman started walking toward us with his adult Golden Retriever. Seeing that we both had Goldens, I smiled. He asked about Lizzie-Taylor, how old she was etc… He then asked if his Golden Retriever could meet her. I happily consented because his girl Golden seemed nice and calm. I gave Liz her “Go say Hi” cue and she went up to the Golden confidently. Right as she was about to sniff her, his female Golden quickly snarled and smacked Lizzie on the head. Needless to say I was shocked! I looked at the man questioningly and he said, “Well, I guess it’s true. She has not been great with puppies and thought maybe it woud go away but I guess not.” I was furious! I would have liked to be told ahead of time that we were guniea pigs!

So even in that situation, there were no dead giveaways. Sometimes things just happen!

My socialization plan with Austyn so far:

Each weekend we walk in the woods with friends to interact with their dogs and to work on recall and check-in skills.

Austyn comes to work with me everyday to learn how to settle in his crate (with many mentally stimulating toys) and meet all of my co-workers, their children and their dogs.

He comes to all of the various training facilities that I go to. Once there, he is learning to wait in his kennel while all of the other dogs work and then he gets his working time as well. Here we practice walking around other dogs that he CANNOT say hello to. I put this interaction on cue, so that when he is an adolescent, he will already know that this is not a “given” and therefore he will not get frustrated and/or reactive when he cannot say hi to every dog he sees. The scenario described above is one of the many causes of canine reactivity.

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