Like children, puppies need a variety of positive
experiences in order to become confident, well adjusted adults. As
part of their upbringing, puppies should learn to get along with other
dogs, children, and other people, and to accept the many strange sights,
sounds, and experiences that are part of everyday life. At HoboDog
Haven we recognize the importance of socialization and can help integrate
your puppy (or older) dog with other dogs and humans.
Stages of Development
Puppies pass through several developmental phases. Initial "dog
socialization" begins in the litter. At seven to eight weeks,
puppies start to become more independent and ready to explore their
environment. This is a very good age to bring your new puppy home.
Around eight to ten weeks, your puppy will probably enter a fear period.
During this period, you will notice that your puppy sticks close to you
and is easily frightened. Avoid loud noises or surprises during this
period, and keep new experiences very non-threatening. Once the fear
period passes, at around ten weeks of age, your puppy will enter the
juvenile phase. He will be more inquisitive and more wide ranging in
his explorations. This is a very good time to introduce new
experiences! The juvenile period will last until your puppy becomes
a young adult. Watch your puppy carefully, though; some pups go
through a second fear period around their fourth or fifth month.
When socializing your puppy, you must keep his health needs in mind.
Until your dog's vaccinations are complete, he is at risk of catching
Parvo, a widespread and deadly disease. You should be extremely
careful not to put your puppy down in public places until his shots are
complete. Consult your veterinarian for advice about what else may
pose a health risk for your puppy.
Getting Along With
Dogs have a language of their own. Using body posture, facial
expressions, and vocalization, they communicate fear, anger, aggression,
submission, playfulness, and more. A puppy who grows up among
other dogs will learn canine language and be able to communicate
effectively. A puppy raised in isolation may misinterpret cues
from other dogs, or inadvertently send signals that may anger another
Also, like children, puppies need to learn appropriate social behavior.
When puppies play, an overly enthusiastic nip results in a yelp from
another puppy. Persistent jumping on "Mom" may result in a growl
or snap of rebuke. In these ways, puppies learn the limits of play
good way to give your puppy these important learning experiences is
through "puppy socialization classes."
During socialization, puppies should be allowed free play time.
Puppies should be supervised to make sure puppy play doesn't become
overly aggressive, especially if there's a big size difference among the
Puppy socialization with other dogs begins in the litter, and should
continue (if possible) throughout the puppy and juvenile growth stages.
A well socialized puppy will probably mature into a dog who can be
trusted to meet and play with other dogs. Note that socialization
is even more important for dog-aggressive or dominant breeds.
However, if you find your puppy becoming overly aggressive or overly
afraid during play sessions, you should seek help from a professional
dog trainer to make sure the behavior is corrected before it becomes a
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Getting Along With
Since dogs must live in a human world, it's important for them to deal
well with people. Early, positive exposure to lots of strangers,
with praise or rewards for good behavior, will help your puppy grow up to
become a well-behaved dog.
Invite friends to your home to meet and play with your puppy. Ask
adults to crouch down and avoid sudden movements when meeting your
puppy... from the pup's point of view, a human is HUGE. If you don't
have young children of your own, invite friends' or neighbors' children.
(Be sure to instruct children in how to handle the puppy, and always
supervise play!) Puppies who are not raised around children can
develop aggressive behavior toward children when they grow older.
Small children, who tend to run around and make loud or high-pitched
noises, can trigger prey instincts in dogs who are not used to them.
Some breeds don't do well with children because of their strong prey
instinct; other breeds are very good with children. If you have
small children in your home, this is a very important factor to consider
when choosing a dog.
As soon as your puppy's shots are complete, begin taking him to public
places on leash, such as parks where he can meet lots of friendly people.
Also, make a point of introducing your dog to people of different ages and
races, people in uniforms, and so on; dogs may become very wary when
confronted with people who seem "unusual" in any way.
It's important to remember that you are teaching your puppy to be
comfortable with people, and to behave himself around them. Behavior
that seems cute in a puppy, such as nipping and jumping, is no longer cute
when the dog is an eighty pound adult! Whatever you don't want your
dog to do as an adult, he should not be allowed to do as a puppy.
Teach the puppy the behavior you want, and discourage the behavior you
don't want. Gently but firmly correct unwanted behavior from the start,
and you'll have a well-behaved adult dog.
Your well-socialized dog can still be a good watchdog. Your dog is
smart enough to distinguish between people who you welcome into your home,
and people who should not be there.
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Dealing With New
Everyday experiences can be very frightening for your new puppy.
A pan dropped in the kitchen, a vacuum cleaner, or a ride in the car can
become traumatic events that the dog will try to avoid forever after.
To prevent this, introduce your dog to as many new experiences as you can
think of. Use rewards and encouragement to make the experiences
positive, so your dog doesn't develop fears. (Remember to keep new
experiences non-threatening, and avoid startling the puppy, during the
fear period around eight to ten weeks.)
For example, to accustom your puppy to a vacuum cleaner, first allow him
to explore and sniff it without turning it on. Praise him or
reward him as he explores. Then, when your puppy is a comfortable
distance away, you may start up your vacuum cleaner, stand near it, and
call your puppy. If he approaches, encourage him and praise him,
or give him a reward. Gradually encourage the puppy to come closer
to the vacuum. Repeat this experience several times, with lots of
praise and rewards, and your puppy will soon have no fear of the vacuum.
To get your puppy used to riding in a car, first get in the car with him
and play with him, or give him a reward. On the next "outing,"
drive a few yards while someone holds your puppy and praises him.
Work up to drives of a few minutes; keep them short so your puppy won't
get sick. Afterwards, play with your puppy so he associates the
car ride with a pleasant experience.
Other experiences to work on with your puppy include getting into his
crate or kennel, walking on a leash, walking on different surfaces (such
as tile, carpet, gravel, sand, grass, and snow), climbing steps, and
hearing the doorbell and telephone ring.
You can use the same approach to accustom your puppy to experiences that
might otherwise be ordeals for both of you! Try the reward
approach when brushing your puppy, giving him a bath, and clipping his
nails. You should also teach your puppy to let you handle his
paws, his ears, his tail, and even open his mouth without a struggle.
(Remember, start with very short sessions and use praise, play, or
rewards to keep the experience fun.) This basic groundwork with
your puppy will make life much easier when your vet needs to examine
Keep new experiences upbeat and positive, and your dog will soon be a
confident and happy companion.
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