This is a very difficult topic to cover but it is by far, the most important to get right, because when it goes wrong it can go very wrong and you can be left with a dog that you will never get truly right.
First of all, I wanted to cover what my goal of socialisation is.
My goal is to end up with a dog that is well balanced and is comfortable around people, other dogs and new or not so simple environments. That sounds like a really simple goal but in reality, very few people get it 100% right.
When you get your puppy and you are taking the dog out for exposure as you should, people will want to come up to your puppy and expect that it is ok for your pup to enjoy the affection and their rewards of praise and attention.
Most puppies when they are up to say 12 weeks will show submission and hesitate to approach people and when you have a puppy like this, having people pet your dog isn’t a bad idea. It is when you have a pup that wants to meet people either from the get go or now at 12 weeks that allowing your pup access to other people is not a great idea.
Your pup is starting to develop a strong value for other people and seeks their attention, and this can be a serious distraction to try and overcome later on.
So looking at this diagram, you will see that your puppy is starting or already has a strong emotional value. I prefer to have a cooler blue zone response in which my puppy is comfortable with other people but will not strive to get to them. A more neutral value.
Puppies learning that other dogs are the greatest reward system through play and interaction would have to be the Number 1 greatest problems I see people for in my Behaviour Consultancy every day.
Either their dog has gained such a high value for other dogs that their dog goes crazy when he see’s another dog or in an attempt socialise their puppy, their puppy was attacked by an aggressive dog and now their dog is aggressive too.
Dogs use environmental landmarks to determine the value of a location, so many dogs as soon as they see the park go nuts and try and drag their owner to the gate.
All the above causes the dog to pull on leash, ignore recalls, become deaf and disengage with their owners maybe to get access to their high reward or offensively attack the other dog or person who they fear.
All these problems could have simply been prevented had their owners socialised their dogs better, and by better I mean they needed to have a goal value for each of these things.
I have written many articles that I can link you too at the bottom that are well worth the read but you have to understand again the concept of this program.
If your pup arrives at your doorstep and when you show him a stranger he hides under your feet,. your dog has a negative value of people and if you do not address this you will likely have an aggressive dog toward strangers.
If your pup arrives at your doorstep and every time he sees a person he tries to get to them, no one should be giving your dog rewards except you, and of course there is a range in between.
When you see your pup anticipate and outcome and this outcome is higher in the emotional range than you would like, stopping your dog playing with other dogs now may be too late, so whilst I am saying it is easy, it is not simple.
Here are some tips though to try and help you gain a better understanding of these concepts.
How long should I socialise my pup?
A: from 8 weeks until you indentify a fear period or 16 weeks, I would take your puppy outside of your property every single day. I would take your pup to places and try and get your pup to play tug there. A dog that goes into prey drive in a new location is a very confident dog.
Once that fear period passes, I would continue to work on socialisation a lot until 18 months at which time I feel if you had a well balanced young dog, not much will change that unless it is a big event.
It is highly important that you introduce pups to cats, chickens, farm animals, other dogs and strangers and kids all very early and teach your dog that they are nothing to fear and nothing to desire.
Then it is supremely important to keep reinforcing that value system until the dog enters early maturity, plan for around 18 months.
Most people give socialisation a go when they have a puppy, 8 – 12 – 16 weeks, but drastically reduce or forget it after that.
This is a huge mistake.
Keep going, you cant do any harm by overdoing this concept, you can’t do too much.
If when your pup is through the First Fear Period, he or she is not confident in certain environments, don’t stop going out every day, keep pushing until your pup no longer considers where he or she is, to matter.
Teaching your pup new things like sit, come, down etc are best taught in sterile environments, but as soon as your pup is competant you really need to work outside of your home mostly or you will end up with a back yard champion.
Set up your car to transport your pup, I use very secure, sheltered cages in the back of my truck so regardless of weather I can transport my dogs. I take them out every time I go somewhere if I can and still do.
I have a dog that will work anywhere.
Everyone wants to pet my pup, they get angry when I say no?
This is up to you to stand up for your beliefs and tell them that it is your puppy and your choice. I am sure when your dog is 18 months old and he drags you down the street and jumps all over the same person they will be cursing you again for not training your dog properly.
They have no responsibility, it is all yours so the choices are all yours too.
I love to see my pup play with other pups
You probably do, and you will be the one that is complaining the loudest when your dog wont come when its called. When people don’t want to put in the hard yards, they are better getting a dog from rescue that someone has already done the work for you.
Dogs that love playing with other dogs will not be reliable when there are other dogs around. This is not a hard concept to grasp. You will not have the scarcity, individuality, unpredictability and freedom that other dogs offer your dog in play, so dont allow your dog to learn to love this, there is no reason for it.
My Puppy School says…
I really dont care, but it might pay you to know that most puppies schools are run by vet nurses or unqualified start up trainers. These people often refer clients to me when the dog gets out of control. They are only good at creating problems not avoiding or fixing them. Here is an article on puppy schools.
When I grew up we never socialised our dogs and they were perfect?
There are two reasons why you might think this, one is that it was over twenty years ago and the human mind remembers things they way it wants to, bringing forward positive experiences. The second is partly to do with the first and it is that you probably don’t remember your dad beating the tar out of your dog almost daily until it did what he said.
These days people don’t want to beat their dogs, so lets train them instead.
Generally there is a fine line between socialisation and engagement with me for my dogs, when there are other dogs around I want to be engaging my pup with me and I reward my pup for doing so.
So I guess you could say I am treating the other dogs or people as a distraction?
Yes I am because that is all they are.
I will have food on me and as soon as I see another dog, use my Behaviour Interrupter to get my pups attention and then start a game, this is teaching the pup that I am more valuable.
This game may be rewarded through prey or food games, whatever your puppy will work for best at this age.
Remember each time you expose your puppy to someone, something or another animal, your looking to adjust your dogs behaviour to the blue rational or neutral zone.
This means that if your puppy first shys away from people or dogs, you will permit and allow interaction on many occasions until the pup feel neutral, safe and not fearful. If you start with a pup that loves everyone and everything, then you will not allow much in the way of reward to occur.
Here is a rather long video that I think you should watch, it shows how I introduce and interact with pups and older dogs.
You need to create a plan, and I advise you to discuss this on the Facebook Page and with the others doing the course will make suggestions and share plans too.
Here are some other links