SOCIALIZATION and ENGAGEMENT (puppy posts pt. 1)

Thanks Tori for the inspiration behind these posts!

Socializing and engagement should go hand in hand! Socialization, contrary to a lot of information out there, shouldn’t focus on letting people and dogs interact with your puppy. Socialization should revolve around getting your puppy exposed to different sounds, surfaces, and environments slowly at first and then moving up. This is best done in places where dogs don’t frequent, places in Reno include Scheels, Michaels, Bed Bath and Beyond, and The Gap, you can always carry your pup as well. Yes there’s always a risk of Parvovirus but shielding your puppy during crucial socialization stages can result in your pup growing up into a dog that can’t handle new situations much less the real world.

On the flip side, allowing your pup to greet everyone and everything (or vice versa) often results in a dog that is so overexcited at seeing other people and dog that he pulls and barks when on leash because they just want to play and say hi! Or it can result in fear, insecurity and/or reactivity  because they were never big fans of greeting strangers and were never advocated for so they feel its up to them to create space any way they can (lunging barking, growling or just plain out running Away). This is why we do not recommend dog parks, there’s too many factors that we can’t control: unvaccinated dogs, owners not paying attention, the possibility of your dog getting swarmed, bullied or getting in a fight, and the opportunity to practice unwanted behavior like humping, jumping, not coming back when called etc. 

If you want to get your pup around other dogs, focus on getting together and going for walks with calm dogs you know and have control over. With people, focus on those calm folks that will be understanding of YOUR rules and respectful if you don’t let them pet YOUR dog.  Be very careful when you allow strangers to pet your dog, as allowing one person often turns your dog into a magnet and gives others the idea that it’s ok if THEY pet. I’ve had dogs swarmed so bad by a crowd they pee themselves, had people try to feed them who knows what and even had random people try and pick up my dogs! 

Advocate for your dog. No one has the right to pet and if they get upset or offended, that’s there problem.

To get a puppy who ignores people, dogs and other distractions, work engagement!This is best done with your pups daily food, for example I always had a treat bag on my hip anytime I was with Astro (full of his wet/dry food) so I could repeatedly reward any eye contact and practice luring exercises, this is great to work a puppy through something that scares them and to get their focus back. All this means is encouraging your puppy to chase after your hand to get the food you have and making it super fun. More than likely your puppy already wants to follow and chase you so use this to your advantage! When they get good at this it’s the foundation for obedience - you can lure them into sit, down, spin, on things, over things, and overall you get a puppy who thinks you’re the bees knees and looks to you for guidance. 

I started off in my living room with luring and waiting for eye contact before coming out of the crate or going out the door, then backyard and then small trips to different stores (much to the heart break of the employees who couldn’t pet him). This resulted in a 10 week old puppy that offered eye contact for everything and saw other people and dogs more like furniture - part of the environment and nothing to worry about.  

Most of all, have fun doing this. Little training vests are great tools and can help deter some people. Go on adventures with your pup and make everything a game, soon you’ll have a puppy that’s eager to look to you!

Sweet photo of Murray at 10weeks old, thanks Cherie!

Sweet photo of Murray at 10weeks old, thanks Cherie!

Casey Lara