I have received many questions about puppy socialization, and what it is I hope to achieve through my new business. In an effort to not only answer questions, but also give people an insight into what I am doing, I have decided to record my socialization efforts here in the blog.
I was very excited to get my first puppy client just last week, and have had several days to work with a sweet little Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Molly Brown. Molly is a very affectionate 4 month old puppy that specializes in making people smile. She is such a loving little gal, but since she’s a puppy she has proven to be loads of work for her mom and dad.
Did I mention that mom and dad are both marine biologists, mom is currently finishing up her PhD, and they have an 8-month old baby? Yea, their busy. Busy enough to need an extra set of hands to raise their puppy and get her used to living in a city.
The goal of day 1 was to achieve a base line for how familiar Molly Brown was with her surroundings. Socialization stretches from how comfortable she is in a car, how friendly she is towards people, meeting and greeting strange dogs, and hearing strange sounds. I was hopeful that Molly would be fine meeting people and folks, but I was clueless about her exposure to the outside world.
Luckily the results started coming from the very beginning. Molly became uncomfortable and anxious riding in the car with me, something her dad warned me about, but something that seemed to stem from leaving home with a stranger. To get the full effect I had the radio tuned to some alternative rock, with enough of a bass to catch her attention. A little anxious, but in the end she was fine.
Next step was to introduce her to Pickle. Meeting a strange dog was the most intriguing part of day 1, and both dogs passed with flying colors. The result was an hour of puppy explosion, a combined 80-pounds of energy rolling around in toys and shaggy carpet. Molly shared toys, was’t possessive of bones, and allowed me to play with her body and teeth even when she was amped up. Socializing a dog and desensitizing them to touch and body handling is crucial if you ever hope to give them a bath or even hold them, so I plan on including that into all of my socializing programs. Pickle benefited from being held and roughed up by people from a very young age, and since Molly Brown shares a house with an 8-month old baby, it is good to get her used to ear tugging and tail pulling, and encourage her not to react aggressively. The obvious perk is that the baby doesn’t get bit, but I’ve seen families give up their dogs because this has become too much of an issue, which we don’t want to become a problem later.
Pickle was very reliable and wore Molly out to the point of exhaustion. Perfect time for a walk and to test out some obedience skills. Turns out Molly is a decent leash walker, a great sign for a young pup. I wanted to expose her to loud traffic and people, so a walk along a busy sidewalk past groups of people was perfect. It was also trash day, and loud trucks and smashing dumpsters made for the perfect training backdrop.
Again, the most important part of socialization is to encourage the most positive interaction between the dog and new experiences. When Molly heard a dumpster smash, she became startled momentarily. Situations like these call for encouragement, positive association, praise, whatever you can do to make the dog relax and happy. Puppies are very responsive to praise, if you get them in that crucial socialization phase then they can cope with loud noises positively, and instead of curling up in a ball afraid they will face the situation with confidence and assurance.
The day ended with two tired dogs and a little insight into the dog that I just took on as a client. I am so lucky to be working with such a sweet pup and such great owners who are really focused on getting the most from their little girl. I know that this whole project will be an experiment, but it’s good to know that I have people who are willing to work with me through the process.
I’ll be updating the progress that Molly makes and trying to raise problems that come up along the way. My goal is to create a space that owners can come to to see the process and not only get a feel for what I do, but how it can apply to how they handle socializing their own puppies at home.
Check back in this space every couple days as I offer up new updates!