Tag Archives: socialize

Puppy Versus the Vacuum Cleaner

Raise your hand if your dog hates the vacuum cleaner. I’m guessing a majority of you reading this are raising your hand and wondering “Well duh my dog hates the vacuum! It’s a loud, moving monster of a machine the dog thinks is going to eat all of us!”

Commonly, dogs hate vacuum cleaners, simply for the points you as the reader are making. They are extremely loud when running, move unpredictably (to a dog), and they are completely foreign to the common way that dogs go about their day. They see cars and people all the time, but pull the vacuum out of the closet for the weekly run through the house, and all bets are off! Dogs will run in fear of the noise, or see the vacuum as a threat and try to ‘kill’ it.

I commonly saw this with dogs when I worked in a doggie daycare. Dogs of all ages and experiences would either cower in a corner, bolt to a safe spot outside, or come streaking across the room to bark and bite at the vacuum. It was unavoidable, with one dog even getting a hold of and ripping the guard off the front of the machine!

Simply put, dogs hate vacuums.

And then there’s Pickle.

It struck me today that Pickle must not be a normal dog, one who screams and runs frightened from the ‘cleaning-machine-of-death!’ See, we had a dog stay with us this weekend, and when she left this afternoon it was time to give the house a good vacuuming. Pickle, when she hears the sound of a vacuum, decides that it’s best for her to sit close, even sometimes nosing the machine while it’s running. I don’t know why it took until today to realize that this was odd (in the best way possible), but the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was a great way to illustrate why we socialize dogs.

So I gave it some thought. I can’t stand when dogs freak out at a running vacuum (maybe it’s from all the dogs at the daycare). I don’t want to have to worry about moving Pickle from room to room just so I can run a vacuum over the carpet. To avoid the extra hassle, Kira and I committed early to getting Pickle used to loud noises. Whether it’s our NutriBullet, music in the car, what ever it is, Pickle does not get startled by loud noises anymore. She has been socialized to understand the difference between a dangerous noise and an innocent one.

Then we tackled the vacuum itself. Each time one of us pull out the vacuum, we would set treats on it to make her feel like she is being given a reward, just for approaching the machine. That extended to giving her treats while the machine was running, then slowly putting treats on the vacuum while it was on. Magically, Pickle figured out that even though the vacuum was noisy and freaked her out, it wasn’t a threat to her well being and actually something to look forward to.

Now, some people think that it’s fun to chase a dog with a vacuum. Don’t be that guy. Generating fear in a dog over something like a vacuum can manifest into a dog having issues with loud noises outside the home as well. Save yourself the trouble and don’t do it. Plus, it’s mean!

I tried to vacuum once when we were sitting for a friend’s lab mix. Soon as I hit the power button, the dog was attacking the vacuum, seeing it as a threat and trying to kill it. To those noises, the dog was not adjusted, and it came out through barking and aggression.

When you get a puppy, do yourself a favor and help it to understand the difference between safe and dangerous situations. Don’t provoke a dog to be afraid of innocent things (like chasing them with a vacuum). Though a dog may never like being around a noisy machine, they can at least know that it is safe.

Socialization people, the opportunities are everywhere!

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Socialization Project: Lowe’s

Kira, Pickle and I recently started fostering a wonderful puppy, Bindi, and our experiences have been quite rewarding. Kira gets another puppy to snuggle with, Pickle gets another friend to romp around with, and I get another puppy to help train and socialize.

Which brings me to the topic of this post: socialization. Socialization is the process of getting a dog adjusted to its surroundings. This means sounds, smells, sights, textures, situations, different animals, people, etc. In order for your puppy to become a well adjusted dog, they should be familiar and comfortable with the environment around them. Up until a couple days ago, I didn’t know much about Bindi’s past before she arrived in Seattle. My goal has been to try and get her exposed to as many urban things as possible, because Seattle is where she’ll most likely be adopted (and is really scary for any dog that’s not from here!)

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Bindi helped me decide if we needed any strawberry plants for the garden.

Today’s experiment was taking her to the biggest hardware store in the neighborhood: Lowe’s. Hardware stores in general are great places to bring dogs that can handle such situations. Very few places offer such a wide array of people (ethnicities, appearances, clothing styles), smells (lumbar, gardens, paints), sounds (forklifts, paint mixers, talking and yelling) and situations (crowded aisles, waiting to checkout, people approaching, forklifts driving by, filled shopping carts passing by). For the most part, hardware stores are filled with quiet customers who are shopping, meaning a dog (and handler) don’t usually need to worry about being rushed by screaming kids or anything else unexpected.

So, armed with a pocket full of wild-rabbit chews, we got to it. Even crossing the parking lot, full of moving cars, shopping carts and people proved to be fine. Bindi was a little frightened by an automatic door, and a shopping cart rolling on the concrete floors. She did however love the attention she was getting from other customers, several of whom stopped to pet her. I did coax a couple people to give her treats, and Bindi was loving every second of it!

The only issue we had the entire visit was while waiting to get a set of house keys made. Bindi was approached head on by a man, and they both stopped in front of each other, assessing what to do next. Before I could tell him Bindi was friendly, she let out an anxious bark. When faced with an anxious puppy, it’s best to ease them away from the situation causing them problems. We circled around a display, waited long enough for Bindi to calm, and simply walked past the man again. Even the sweetest dogs can get anxious when faced with new scenarios, so be patient, and be willing to apologize once in a while. In the end, it pays huge dividends if you are willing to put in the time.

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Bindi, sticking her tongue out and making a silly face for the camera!

Something interesting to note here is that dogs cannot generalize between one situation and the next. For example, if you teach a dog to sit in your house, that does not guarantee they will sit when you are at a park. Dogs need to get used to doing a particular action in all situations, a major part of socialization. Recall is an awesome tool for dogs, but it is useless if your dog can only do it inside the house. To work on these things, it’s best to have a pocket full of treats, and wait for your dog to lose focus on you, then whisk them back with bait and have them earn their treat with a command. I can’t tell you how many weird looks I got when I would have Bindi sit while in the middle of an aisle. All in a days work!

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“What, just ’cause I made one mess you think you need a whole new, stain resistant carpet?”

By the time we had passed through lumber, plumbing, got our keys made and checked out some plants for the garden, Bindi seemed pretty comfortable with all the people and things going on. She waited in line like a little lady while I checked out, soaking up all the complements she could handle! The cashier was a sweet Vietnamese woman who couldn’t help but gush over Bindi, saying she reminder her of a dog she had back in Vietnam. It was enough to make your heart melt!

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Bindi seemed pretty comfortable in the store by the end of the trip!

Socialization is the most important step to ensuring a dog grows up to be well adjusted as an adult. My objectives with Bindi are to make sure she is a well rounded and confident dog for her new family, and they can be confident that Bindi can handle what ever the world can offer. I’ll be recapping most of our socialization sessions through this blog and track her progress, as well as eave hints and tips on how to deal with tough situations.

If you like what you’ve read, please make sure to share with all your dog-loving friends! You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Congratulations, you’ve finally decided that it is time to get a dog! You’ve committed yourself to putting in the time and effort to raise, care for, properly socialize, and make it the best dog it can be!

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Happy dogs come from lots of hard work!

But one question still remains: What kind of dog do you want to get? The answer to that question can be critical in building a healthy relationship between you and your new pup. Having even a brief knowledge of a dog’s traits and how they match a person’s life would ensure that thousands of dogs are properly homed and not surrendered every year. A busy owner living in a studio apartment probably shouldn’t own a Siberian Husky. Marathon runners looking to bring their dogs on long runs probably shouldn’t own an English Bulldog.

Catch my drift?

Now, there are dozens of Breed Profilers out there that help to distinguish the different characteristics of purebred dogs. But thousands of dogs are adopted from shelters and rescues, and these mix breeds are a bit more challenging to pinpoint. My focus here is about picking a handful of general characteristics that are apparent in any dog, and highlighting how they may or may not fit into your life. Then, if you walk into a shelter and see a dog, you’ll have an idea what to expect, even if you’re not sure about the breed. Sound good? Cool, let’s get started:

SIZE

Maybe more obvious when you adopt an adult dog, but something to watch for with puppies as well. A large breed (75lbs+) would be a hard dog to manage if you live in a studio apartment, don’t have a yard, or if you’re elderly, especially if the dog is young. They typically require more exercise and food, costing you both extra time and money.

Consider that toy and terrier breeds tend to be smaller in stature, but still need to be exercised and kept entertained. Some small breeds can still make great running and trail partners, and can easily be carried if they are hurt or if you’re in a hurry.

Managing a large dog in limited space can be done, but it requires a lot more effort on your part. Matching a dog’s size to your lifestyle can be important on building a healthy bond.

HAIR

Long hair? Short hair? It all comes down to how much work you want to put in. Long hair means lots of brushing (to remove excess hair and tangles) and lots of trips to the groomer. Shorter hair means less brushing, easier clean ups, and dogs that can cool easier in warm weather. Trust me, I used to be a grooming assistant, and musing your way through matted Collie hair is not a good way to spend a Thursday afternoon if you’re not prepared for it!

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Chesapeake Bay Retrievers have special oils in their fur to help repel water and dirt, making them perfect for afternoons at the beach!

NOSE

Bet you didn’t think about your dog’s nose as a crucial trait. If you are an active person looking to have an active dog, then pay attention. Smushed nosed dogs (Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers, etc) have a more difficult time getting air into their systems through their shorter noses. These dogs are brachycephalic breeds (short nosed), and hot, humid weather can make life difficult when put under stress, and even become a health risk. This means that it only takes a little bit of strenuous activity to wear them out. Now this could be a good thing, I mean bulldogs that I’ve worked with only require one good walk a day and turn into couch potatoes. I wouldn’t recommend doing any marathon training with a French Bulldog, however.

A longer nose allows for working class dogs to have higher endurance, and make it easier for them to breathe in hot and humid conditions. Athletic breeds are typically equipped with a longer muzzle to allow airflow to their systems. But don’t be fooled, even Boxers have a long history of being service dogs.

BREED BACKGROUND

Regardless of whether you end up with a purebred or a mixed breed, dogs will always display certain characteristics that reflect the instincts bred into them. Shelters can typically give you an idea on the breeds when you are adopting a rescue, and it is your responsibility to know what to expect. For example, Hound breeds are trackers, bred to follow the scent of a trail. They will be looking for lots of mental stimulation and will not be happy to be let inside (and they’ll let you hear about it). You’ll need to set up simulated games (like hiding treats for them to find) to keep their minds and bodies active.

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Cattle dog breeds, like this mix, were bred to herd cattle over long distances of rough terrain. Doesn’t sound like a dog that wants to be cooped up inside all day!

If you have any idea of the breed of the dog you are adopting, do your due diligence to research what they are all about.

Breed traits are a great way to sift through the countless adoption options you have. Remember that age and temperament also play factor. I wish this went without saying, but puppies are a ton of work. They require more frequent potty breaks and a lot more time and focused energy. I’ve heard trainers and owners say that “puppies are cute as a survival tactic.” Honestly, if people saw puppies as ugly, they probably wouldn’t take on such a monumental task.

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Vizslas, bred as bird dogs, are typically very active. Luckily they like to kick back and relax sometimes!

Adult dogs are typically easier to gauge, and they have a history to help support if they are a good fit for your home. Rescuing an adult dog can be a risk, as they could be from an abusive home and need some serious training and attention to get back on track. Work with a shelter worker, or with a trainer to test the temperament of a dog at any age. Look for confident, curious and welcoming dogs, unless you are willing to work with dogs that are not as open to attention. Do justice by the dog, you don’t want them to be surrendered again.

Of course, dogs don’t always fit a perfect mold, but if you keep these things in mind, you should have a very happy relationship with your new dog!

If you are looking for a new pet, please consider adopting through a local shelter or rescue!

Misconceptions of Puppy Socialization

I’ve explained before that socialization is a crucial piece of a dogs development. Properly introducing your dog the world around us will lead to your dog being a well-balanced, confident, relaxed dog and will create a healthy and long-lasting bond with you, the owner.

New puppy owners commonly become to focused not the idea that socialization is only about interacting well with people and other dogs. This a huge mistake and an unfortunate misconception of socialization. Socializing a puppy is about getting them used to the world around them, and the other dogs and people you interact with are only a small piece of the world they live in. Puppy owners must remember to acquaint their pups with the environment around them as well as the living things within it.

What do I mean by ‘the environment’? Think about your current living situation. If you live in a small apartment in a major city, you are surrounded by noisy cars, buses, shouting, music, construction, doors and windows opening and closing in neighboring apartments, you name it. If you don’t live on the first floor of your building, you have stairs, elevators, delivery workers, carpets, perhaps even hardwood or concrete floors.

Now look inside your apartment. Maybe you own a blender to make morning smoothies, or you like to watch the football game and jump and scream. Vacuum cleaners, slamming doors, water running in the sink, even the coat rack in the corner.

These are things that many people tend to take for granted because we are around them everyday. But they are brand new to a puppy, and the sound of rushing water or a running fan can be quite alarming when heard for the first time. The environment you live in is full of foreign sights and sounds that a puppy must be introduced to in a slow, positive way. They must be socialized to become familiar and comfortable with them.

So how in the world are you supposed to socialize your puppy to everything in the environment? Take advantage of the fact that you live within that environment. You will have the chance to introduce your dog to hundreds of different things every time you leave for a walk, and it’s your job as the owner to take advantage.

Here are some things to remember when socializing your dog:

Keep it Positive: Remember to keep every new experience positive for your puppy. Get treats that drive your dog crazy and praise them when they are relaxed with new situations. Read your puppies body language carefully. If they are cowering, hanging their heads or tucking their tails then take a step back and give your pup space. Follow every socialization session with games, lots of praise and loads of delicious treats!

Textures: Think about everywhere your puppy will walk. Concrete, grass, sand, asphalt, hardwood, tile, carpet, your dogs need to be socialized to all these surfaces. Dogs can become uncomfortable on new surfaces and properly socializing them can limit any anxieties.

Visuals & Sounds: Busy crowds, festivals, fireworks, traffic, wheelchairs, skateboards, bicycles, door bells, all these are fair game. A major city has lots of firetrucks, garbage trucks and street music. Rural areas have livestock and wildlife. Depending on your neighborhood, your puppy could be facing lots of stressful situations.

Places: Hardware stores, playgrounds, parks, pet shops, vet offices, construction sites, dog friendly bars. Take them anywhere they are happy and comfortable.

Maneuverability: Moving a dog through elevators or up and down stairs can be tough. Exposing them to as many places as possible will make them more confident when navigating new situations.

Socialization is a long and windy road, but the hard work you put in now will pay huge dividends to your puppy becoming a respectful, confident, well-adjusted dog. Remember that socialization goes far beyond the interactions with other dogs and people, and though those are important, exposing your puppy to the environment will make their lives less stressful, and your life much easier!

Socialization for a Happy Life

Socialization is hugely important to a puppy. It is their way of learning how to deal with living in a human world, filled with all sorts of curious noises, sights and smells. Socialization helps your puppy be comfortable in all kinds of otherwise stressful situations. But there are lots of caveats when it comes to socialization: when should I start, how should I go about it, where should I take my puppy? Hopefully I can point you in the right direction, and help you to give your puppy a good start to their new life!

WHAT:

Socializing is teaching your puppy about new sights, sounds and smells that overwhelm them in their early days. A passing bus or a strange man on the sidewalk can be frightening to a dog if they have never seen or heard them before. Socialization is a process that teaches a puppy that these things are okay and will not hurt them, and help them to become comfortable with the world around them as they grow into adulthood.

Dogs naturally go through a period when they are young where they are open and curious about the world. This is a great time to expose them to new things. When they are slightly older, however, dogs become instinctively cautious, approaching new experiences with hesitation and more thought. Naturally, this helps them to avoid potentially dangerous situations that they would have faced outside of their life with you.

Socializing helps to harness your pup’s curiosity when young, and help them be safe and happy when things get a little rougher.

WHY:

Well socialized dogs prove to be happier and more relaxed as pets. This is because they are able to adapt to a wider range of environments and situations. Poorly socialized dogs have a tendency to react to new experiences with either fear or aggression. Trust me when I say that a fearful dog is not always a peach to own, especially when it comes to meeting other dogs and people.

Though the amount of socialization is up to the owner, the more you socialize your pup, the better their odds of being relaxed and happy with new exposures. More safe exposures add up to a much happier relationship between you and your dog!

WHO:

You and your pup. And the mailman, sidewalk strangers, the old woman at the bus stop, 15 of your closest friends and all their kids, your neighbor Jim, even the bus driver or the lady handing you food at the drive thru. When it comes to people, you want to get your puppy exposed to as many types of looks, personalities, ethnicities and ages of people as possible. Especially people with hats, scarves, hoodies, any kind of unique style that may throw your puppy off later.

When it comes to dogs, a little discretion is important. Puppies are very susceptible to disease and illness, and their little immune systems cannot cope with a lot of the sicknesses that older dogs may carry. Make sure if you bring your new puppy around dogs they are dogs that are fully vaccinated and healthy, and of course make sure they are okay with puppies. Remember, puppies are super rude, and not all older dogs will be okay with that.

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(Author’s note: Dog parks do not constitute good socialization. For one, if your puppy isn’t FULLY vaccinated, DO NOT TAKE THEM TO THE DOG PARK! Your pup could contract Parvo, kennel cough, or any of the other dozens of illnesses that dogs carry. Second, puppies are rude and don’t have very many boundaries. Don’t put them in a situation to piss off a mature dog and get bit. Just don’t do it.)

Our trainers used to say “a puppy should have 100 new exposures per day”, and even if that sounds a bit overwhelming, every new moment to a puppy is a new exposure.

WHERE:

Everywhere. Seriously. When we got Pickle, I took her everywhere. I took her on car rides, carried her around the neighborhood (read below to see how), brought her to friend’s houses, took her on trips to Grandma’s, to the hardware store, EVERYWHERE!

Our best strategy (and the one we owe Pickle’s sweet demeanor) was taking her to Chuck’s Hop Shop, a dog friendly bar in our neighborhood. When she was young we would hold her in our laps and limit her interactions with dogs, but we encouraged everyone to hold her, even the bartenders. Pickle adapted to all the sounds and smells, and became very comfortable with being handled by dozens of people and a short time period. This did wonders for her socialization!

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WHEN:

Puppies handle new exposures best between 8 weeks and 12 weeks. They are really curious and their senses have come alive! Of course they may be young for random dog interactions, but there are ways around that (keep reading).

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The trouble happens around 16-20 weeks. Puppies enter a phase called their “fear stage”. They become more cautious of new things and it becomes harder to introduce them to new exposures. The more work you do when they are young the easier your life will be during this time.

HOW:

Here’s the big one. How is it possible to safely get your puppy 100 new exposures everyday, and fit them into a small window where they will appropriately help the pup?

First, throw a puppy party. Have your friends and family come over to your house with the sole purpose of showering your puppy with love, attention, treats and love. Encourage soft wrestling and face playing, grabbing at paws and ears, and making sure the puppy is comfortably okay with these things. When Pickle first came home we invited people over for a Seahawk game, and our little puppy got more face time than ever before. Right off the bat she was becoming comfortable with loud noises and sudden movements, and with the quirkiness of humans.

Being outside is a little tougher. Before Pickle was fully vaccinated, I did a lot of carrying (did wonders for my biceps). The ground has a bunch of bad bacteria that puppies could become sick if they sniff or ingest. Pickle spent a lot of time in my arms as we walked, or in my lap if we visited a dog friendly bar. Luckily, she was so little and cute that she spent a lot of time in other people’s arms as well, so the human side of her socialization happened really young.

For doggie interaction, we signed her up for a puppy play class, where she could run around and romp with dogs her own age. Even 30 minutes a day was enough to wipe her out and teach her better habits when playing with other puppies.

IMG_20140926_105647 When she got a little heavier, Kira bought her a little duffel bag type carrier that I could put her in when we went on walks. Pickle could lay down and soak in the sounds and smells from the city, or she could poke her head out of a hole in the top that allowed her to meet people on the sidewalk. I highly recommend any one with a small enough dog get one. Funny how many places I could take her when people thought I was just carrying a gym bag!

After Pickle was fully vaccinated, we started going on longer walks and having more exposures. She could meet strange dogs, teaching good introduction methods (we’re working on it) and having her on the street, closer to the smells and sounds of traffic and strangers. She also became more visible, so there were many more pets and hand outs from people passing by, which made Pickle happy. It helps that I am a dog walker, which puts her around dogs for at least 2 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Lastly, remember not to push your little one to hard. If your pup expresses a lot of stress during a new experience, either tone down the amount of exposure (turn down noise, remove a stimulant) and/or praise the crap out of them. For example, if you are at the park around lots of screaming kids, monitor how your pup is handling it. If they seem stressed, flood them with treats and comfort, and if that doesn’t work, sit further away from the commotion. The goal is to develop comfort, note generate fear.

Socializing your puppy will help them to adapt to new places and sounds. They will approach new experiences with confidence, not hesitation. It will also teach them to handle places like the dog park in a safe and appropriate manner. Owners will experience a better relationship with their dog and will be able to approach more situations with safe and happy expectations. So get out and get friendly!