Socializing Puppies

There was a discussion over on the Nihon Ken Forum about socializing puppies, and since it's something I'm doing just about constantly I thought I'd talk about it here.

I don't have a program that all my pups go through (and all the pups I kennel here till they go overseas). The reality is that every dog is different. Surprise! Well not really. Anyway, genetics are a huge part of each dog's character. Some dogs are just born easy and bomb proof. I've seen dogs that were physically abused, and treated roughly all the time, but you'd never now it. I've also seen pups that have never had a finger laid on them, been handled gently their entire lives, that are extremely fearful of people and hands etc. I think I was probably one of them in the past, but there's always those people who have an opinion, "Oh, that pup was probably abused." Umm no.

So, what do I do with pups? It's more about not doing the wrong things in my opinion. You don't need a trip into town every day, it's more about having one good experience. Good experiences are key because then the pup makes a positive association with going shopping or wherever it is you've taken him. So, I'm careful not to flood pups. Do not try to force them through a situation. If I planned to go to the hardware store with a pup but it's already uncomfortable in the parking lot, I'll just move us to a far quiet corner of the parking lot to walk around a little. If the pup doesn't get comfortable, it can wait in the car, and maybe next time we'll try again. Dogs have a stimulation threshold, and with fear you can push them till they shut down, which with the Japanese breeds is an absolute red zone you do not want to enter.

All I do is go through a normal day, and everyone once in a while pick a pup or two to do things with me. They just have to be there, experience it, and they are never forced to do things there or interact with anything or any people they don't want to. For the average dog, that's enough, and by the second time they go somewhere, they know the drill.

I know a lot of dog owners stress about getting all that socialization in during that 'window', but my opinion on that is to pay attention to what your pup is comfortable with, and always take it slow, and make things positive. As you and your pup experience things together, your bond of trust grows as the pup figures out that you're in control and have their back. This is more important to me than getting my pup to experience 'everything'. Everything is not possible. But if you build that trust, your dog will look to you when it gets into a stressful situation.

One of my Shikoku females was terrified of cars. So, I always walked her with other dogs that were not scared of cars. Anytime we were on a walk I'd have to pay attention and catch the cars coming before she heard them. I taught her 'come', and as soon as I'd see a car coming I'd call her away from the road, and pick her up. After a while she was getting the hang of what was going on, so when I'd call her and she'd hear the car, she knew I meant safety, so would come sit or stand behind me. After a while of that, now she's absolutely fine with cars driving by. Tail stays up, all is good. This took a few months, but I wasn't stressed, and now she isn't either.

Anyway, that's a light dusting on the subject. I've got two Shiba pups at the house now that have been here for 2 months while waiting to fly to Singapore. They've actually been really easy to have around, and I hope their new owners enjoy them.


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