Socializing Your Dog or Puppy

Socializing you dog or puppy will help him to feel safe and to understand what is happening around him. By taking the time to introduce your dog to a variety of situations, you are opening him up to new experiences.

Socializing your dog or puppy is a very important part of raising a happy and well-adjusted dog.  It encourages confidence, it teaches manners, and it allows for enjoyable outings. 

Socializing your dog or puppy is the first step toward training.  A dog who is not socialized will have difficulty with trust as he has not been exposed to new ideas, smells, noises or friends, both human and four legged.  He will learn to feel safe. It will help him to understand what is happening around him. By taking the time to introduce your dog to a variety of situations, you are opening him up to new experiences and showing your dog that the world is a fun place to be.

I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post if required. All safety and medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

Introducing Your Puppy to Humans

Puppies are trusting and adventurous.  They are open to new ideas.  They feel that everyone loves them and will comfortably visit with anyone who is calm and inviting. 

Use every opportunity to introduce your puppy to new people, of all ages.  Taking them for daily walks has multiple benefits.  Obviously, the exercise is great and the ability to let her sniff, explore and learn about new situations provides great brain stimulation, but there will likely be people and other dogs along the way as well.  At a public park or hiking trail, your pup will have many chances to engage with humans and dogs of all ages and sizes. 

If the humans want to pet the new puppy and your puppy doesn’t seem fearful, let them.  Your dog will learn to be comfortable being approached and touched by many people.  This will create a level of comfort with people in general.  If you keep your pup away from people and anxiously pull her away, she will associate other humans with anxiety.  Once this happens, your pup may shy away from, or even become aggressive toward people because they think people are to be feared.

If the human that wants to visit with your puppy is a young child, be sure the child is calm. Be sure the parent is present and agrees to the interaction.  If possible, show the child how to let the puppy sniff his hand first and not to try to grab or move too quickly. Speak calmly and softly to both of them. Keep your puppy from jumping on the child or being too bouncy. This will benefit both the puppy and the child, as it teaches them both how to behave in each other’s company.

A dog, even a puppy, who jumps up on a young child, can create a permanent fear of dogs.  Alternatively, a child who pulls a puppy’s fur or slaps at her, can instill a fear of children in your pup.  Both of these can be avoided by taking the time to introduce both of them the best way to interact with each other.

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Introducing Puppies to Other Dogs

When introducing your puppy to new dogs, be sure to wait until she has had all of her vaccinations.  Once she can safely play with other dogs, you can take her on puppy play dates with other pet owners.  Make sure you know the temperament of the dogs you are introducing your pup to.  An overzealous or even mildly aggressive dog can have a negative impact if your puppy is afraid.  Start slowly with well socialized dogs or other puppies so that she feels safe and calm.

Another way to expose your puppy to a variety of dogs is to take a puppy training class.  While there are many dogs around that you may not know, you will be there along with a professional trainer to encourage proper interactions and maintain controlled environment.  Your puppy can be learning basic skills and manners while meeting new friends.

NOTE: LEASH FREE PARKS ARE NOT A SAFE AND CONTROLED ENVIRONMENT.  DOGS PLAYING IN A DOG PARK ARE RARELY CALM.  THEY ARE VERY EXCITED AND WILL OFTEN APPROACH YOUR PUPPY VERY QUICKLY.  THIS CAN BE TERRIFYING AND WILL BE DETRIMENTAL TO YOUR PUPPY’S DEVELOPMENT.  ALSO, NOT ALL DOGS ARE PROPERLY SOCIALIZED AND THE INTERACTIONS CAN BE AGGRESSIVE AND DANGEROUS.

Socializing Older or Fearful Dogs

Unfortunately, many dogs don’t have the benefit proper socialization as a puppy.  Rescues, for example, have often been neglected or abused before they are rescued and placed in a loving home.  Some have lived on the streets where humans were a threat and other dogs were competition.  Rescues are usually older and have passed the point of innocent puppy curiosity.  This makes socialization more difficult, but not impossible. 

There are many challenges to overcome. It will take much more time and patience.  You will have to devote a lot of time, and perhaps elicit the help of a professional trainer, but it will be worth it.  These dogs are often so grateful and eager to please. They are so loving because they have lived in fear and danger for so long.

Many of the methods used for puppies can be used for timid dogs, but the results may take a lot longer.  The use of positive reinforcement, encouragement and treats will go a long way. A professional trainer will be able to assess your dog’s needs and guide both of you through the best methods of socialization.  In the mean-time, exposure to a variety of places and people will help your fearful doggo to realize that he is safe in his new environment.  He will slowly learn to trust, which will go a long way to develop great social skills.

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Other Important Things to Consider When Socializing Your Dog or Puppy

When meeting other dogs on walks or in social settings, it’s important to remember to ask permission to approach another dog.  Even if the dog seems calm and well behaved, there may be an underlying issue that could be triggered with a seemingly innocent movement or sound.  The same rules apply for dog interactions. Your dog or puppy may just want to play with a new friend, but the other dog may be learning or dealing with fears or stresses that could result in a scary or dangerous encounter for both animals as well as the owners. 

Summary

Socialization is a very important part of raising a happy and well-adjusted dog.  It encourages confidence, it teaches manners, and it allows for enjoyable outings.  A well socialized dog is not fearful of the unfamiliar.  He doesn’t react negatively to new people.  When he sees another dog, he does not feel threatened or afraid.  These become a positive part of his day.  Each new person or dog friend is a step toward living his best life. Socializing your dog is the best way to ensure that he is able to have a peaceful and stress-free life.

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Pee Pad Training

Pee Pad Training is one of the most popular methods of house training your puppy.

Your new puppy is going to require a lot of training. The first thing on your list is going to be house training.  There is more than one way to go about it, but the two most popular are pee pad training and crate training.  If you choose pee pad, here are a few things to keep in mind to help with quick and successful learning.

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Setting Up Your Puppy’s Space

Keep your puppy in a limited, enclosed space and cover the floor with pee pads. This helps them associate pee/poop with the pad.  Eventually, if they are not in the enclosure, they will seek out the pad rather than use the floor or carpet.  The pad will be familiar territory for doing their business. 

Learning to Go Outside

When you take him out of the enclosure, be sure to put his leash on and take him directly outside.  The leash restricts his range and limits the number of distractions that might keep him from peeing. Take note of pee/poop habits.  Many dogs have a little routine than they do before they go.  Some will spin in circles; others will have a specific posture (i.e. tail position, hind quarters lowered) that they assume as they are looking for the perfect spot. Get to know your dog’s unique routine so that you recognize it later, when he tries to tell you he has to go out. Once he is done, come back in so he knows that outside is for peeing.  Once your pup is trained you can spend play time outside.  For now, it is just a big potty.

Indoor Play Time

While your pup is in the house, but out of the enclosure, keep a close eye on his every move.  Look for the routine that you have identified as “the potty dance”, and have the leash ready to go out when you see it happening or be ready to put him in the enclosure to let him use the pad.

Mistakes Will Happen

If an accident happens, do not scold.  Just take your puppy outside to show him that this is where he should have gone.  Many suggest taking the “evidence” with you so that he associates it with something that belongs outside.  This does not mean you should have him sniff it or rub his nose in it, just put it down in the area where he usually pees so that he makes a connection.

As Your Doggo Progresses

As your puppy’s ability to hold his bladder becomes stronger, you can leave him out of the enclosure for longer.  Once he is showing signs of seeking out the enclosure when he has to pee or poop, you can remove the enclosure and eventually reduce the number of pads being used until you no longer need them. 

Pee Pads for Everyday Use
Indoor Turf is an alternative to Pee Pads. It provides a more natural option and is more absorbent.

Some families, especially those who live in multi-story apartments or condos or work unusually long hours, may choose to keep the pads to use when they just can’t get out.  In this case, have a designated space for the pads as this will provide consistency.  You may also want to get a more durable pad or potentially choose to use an indoor turf as an alternative to be sure the adult pup’s urine volume will be absorbed without damaging your floor.

Whatever method you use, please be patient and consistent.  This will reduce the pressure and stress on your puppy and will increase your chances of success.

Happy training!


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Crate Training your Puppy

When you must leave the house, make sure that there will be someone to let the pup out at regular intervals. A puppy is only physically capable of holding their bladder and bowels for a few hours.

Crate training is one of the most effective methods of puppy training. This is because, unless a puppy is desperate, he will not mess where he sleeps. It is important to follow certain steps and procedures to be successful. The goal is to avoid confusion and frustration for both you and your pup.

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Step One: Choosing the proper crate

When choosing a crate, it is imperative that you select the appropriate size specific to your pup’s size. The guideline is to make sure he can stand, sit and turn around comfortably in the crate. Anything larger will set you up for failure as he would be able to poop on one side of the crate and go over to lay down on the other side. This defeats the purpose. You want to create a place where your dog won’t be comfortable sitting in his own his mess. This will encourage him to hold his bladder or bowels as long as possible until you let him out. Take him outside as soon as you let him out of the crate and return him as soon as he has done his business. This will help to associate potty breaks with going outside. Make sure these intervals are brief at first. Increase the time between potty breaks until your dog is able to hold it for a reasonable amount of time.

Step Two: Make the crate your pup’s Special Place

The idea when crate training is to make your pup’s crate her home. You want her to enjoy going in there and to seek it out as a place of calm and comfort. You can provide appropriately sized, safe chew toys to keep her entertained while spending time in the crate. Make sure there is a nice cushion for comfort. Place the crate in a location where your pup can see people and be involved with the family. Feeling isolated is scary and lonely. These are feelings we definitely do not want our pups to experience. This should become a safe haven for your pup. It will be where she runs to if she is feeling overwhelmed; a place to go when you have company or if she’s afraid during a thunderstorm.

Step Three: Leave the crate door open at first.

When introducing the crate and the concept of it being his place, leaving the crate door open indicates that this is not a place where he will always be confined, but a place where he should be free to enjoy whenever he wants to go inside. Once your puppy shows signs of being comfortable inside the crate, close the door for short periods of time so he gets used to the door being closed while resting or playing in there.

Step Four: Reward your pup for entering the crate on her own.

If your pup goes into her crate on her own, offer a reward in the form of a small treat . Use praise to enforce that you are happy with her behavior. This encourages her to go in easily, knowing that it is a positive experience. This will help if you need her to enter before you leave the house. It is not fun for either of you if you are chasing her around the house and having to gently force her into the crate. This causes anxiety and associates the crate with an unpleasant experience; the very thing you are trying to avoid.

Step Five: Never use the crate as a punishment.

Never use the crate as a punishment.

If your pup has an accident on the floor, it is common to react by sending him to a place out of the way so that you can clean up. Your dog will pick up on anger and tone and know that he has done something to upset you. If you send him to his crate when you are reacting to the incident, you are telling him that this is a place to go to when he has been “bad”. This places a negative tone on the crate and he will not want to go to the crate in the future.

Step Six: While you sleep, keep your puppy crated in your room.

If you keep her in your room, she will not have the sensation that she is isolated or that she has been left alone. This will also cause feelings of anxiety where the crate is concerned. The training will then take longer and will be more confusing for her. If she wakes in the night and cries or tries to get out, take her outside to do her business and return her to the crate as soon as she is done. This tells her that she sleeps in the crate at night and only comes out for potty purposes. This is not play time or a time to visit with everyone. It creates a clear schedule for her.

Step Seven: Never leave a puppy for more than 3 or 4 hours

When you must leave the house, make sure that there will be someone to let the pup out at regular intervals. Puppies are only physically capable of holding their bladders and bowels for a few hours. If you leave them for too long, they will not be able to control themselves and will wind up messing the crate and themselves. Once again, this makes the crate an unhappy place that your pup will want to avoid. Returning home or having someone come by to let your pup out will give him a chance to relieve himself. He will be able to stretch his legs and have a few minutes of stimulation in the form of smells and a change of and scenery. He will be happy to return to his crate after a brief visit.

Once your pup has mastered bladder and bowel control, you may want to keep using a crate and increase the size as needed, or upgrade to a pen enclosure . Another option is to keep her gated in a smaller room until it is safe to leave your pup to roam while alone in the house.

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Collar vs. Harness – Protecting Your Dog’s Neck and Spine

There are many potential hazards associated with the pressure a collar places on a dog’s neck, throat and spine.

Wearing collars in the house:

Dog collars are great for attaching dog tags and licences to, but that is about it.  Many pet parents are unaware that puppies and dogs who spend time in crates while wearing regular collars are put in jeopardy every time you leave them unsupervised. There are thousands of cases annually where dogs have accidentally strangled or hung themselves by getting caught on the bars of the crate and were unable to wriggle themselves free. Choosing the safest dog collar or harness depends on your dog’s needs and habits.

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This can best be avoided by removing the collar altogether before entering the crate or pen. Another option is to use a break away collar. In the case of an emergency, the dog pulling to get loose will release the clasp on the collar and the dog will be free and safe. I actually experienced this recently with my cat. We came home to find that the cat had no collar on. It was several days before we found the collar. It was wrapped around the floor-level hooks on our coat rack. Had he not been wearing a break-away collar; he may not have survived. Because of this incident, he no longer wears a collar at all. It’s just too dangerous.

Wearing collars on a walk:

Collars were traditionally used to attach leashes to when walking your dog. We are now learning that there are many potential hazards associated with the pressure a collar places on a dog’s neck, throat and spine. If the dog walks easily beside you, and never pulls, there is little chance of damage. The likelihood that your dog never pulls for any reason, is very slim. If a dog sees a squirrel, another dog, a favorite person, if he gets startled or needs correcting, the leash will probably reach full tension. As soon as this happens pressure is placed on the dog’s neck. This is where the decision between dog collar or harness comes in.

Below the area of the neck where a standard collar rests on a dog’s neck is a thin layer of skin which covers the trachea, larynx, thyroid and cervical spine. When the dog pulls (or is pulled) the collar can place pressure on any of these areas causing permanent damage. Pressure on the neck can even result in damage to the eyes. Sometimes when I am walking, I see a dog who is pulling so hard on the leash that I can actually hear the dog struggling to breathe. I am not sure why they don’t stop pulling when this level of discomfort is reached. I don’t think that dogs have the mental capacity to logically associate that if they were to stop pulling it would make it easier to breathe.

Harness
If you use a well-fitting harness – one that rests below the neck and does not rub behind the front legs – your dog will be safe and comfortable.

Now that we know that, for most dogs, we probably don’t want to attach our dog’s leash to a collar, we have to choose an alternative. A shock collar is out of the question for me. Controlling a dog with pain is, in my opinion, cruel and inhumane. What’s the safest choice? A harness. If you use a well-fitting harness – one that rests below the neck and does not rub behind the front legs – your dog will be safe and comfortable.

A leash can be attached in two places on a harness. Some have the D-link on the back, allowing the leash to pull from behind. There is little control over pulling, jumping or for training purposes when attached in this location. For a trained dog, this provides a safe and comfortable option. Deciding on a harness with the D-link in the front at the chest level offers more control over the dog’s movements. When training this serves as a gentle reminder not to pull. The resistance comes from a place that does no physical damage at all to your dog. When training or when more control is desired, choose a harness that is reversible or has a D-link in both places .

When deciding whether to choose a dog collar or harness, please consider your doggo’s safety and comfort. They will protect us from anything. We should do the same for them.

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How to Stop Puppies from Mouthing

Mouthing is a natural method used by puppies to learn about their surroundings. It is not generally a sign that the dog is aggressive and usually occurs when the puppy (or older dog if not addressed during puppy phase) is excited or overstimulated. In the wild, it is how they play with each other, and they eventually use it to defend themselves against predators. As puppies, mouthing is generally softer and without a lot of pressure, although those teeth can be really sharp! There are a number of ways to stop puppies from mouthing.

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Puppies mouth when excited or overstimulated.

Why do we want to discourage mouthing? For most pet owners, it is to be sure that the dog does not harm people or other animals. As the puppy gets older his mouthing pressure becomes stronger. Without the awareness that the more intense pressure can hurt, the dog may accidentally injure someone. The damage could be even worse if it is a small child or animal. It is because of this potential danger that many feel that it is important to discourage mouthing. But how does one go about that?

From what I have learned there are a variety of methods that can assist with discouraging mouthing, or at the very least, reduce the intensity of the pressure (known as bite inhibition). Here are a few that seem to be used most widely:

Yelping

One of the most widely used methods is to “yelp” when the dog mouths you. This imitates what would happen during an interaction with another dog during play. If a dog mouths too hard while playing with a buddy, the playmate would yelp and stop playing for a moment, alerting the mouther that the play was too rough. The play would then continue with the knowledge that there is a limit to the amount of pressure allowed. With a human interaction, when the puppy mouths on someone’s hand the human should yelp and then completely relax their hand to make it clear that the pressure was too much and not enjoyable. Wait a few moments and then continue play. This should be repeated until the connection between mouthing pressure and yelping is made and the puppy exercises self-control.

Time-Out

Some prefer to simply stop playing with the dog when mouthing occurs. With this method the human who is mouthed while engaged in play stops playing and briefly (a few seconds) turns their back to the puppy. Play then resumes until the puppy mouths again, and then another time-out occurs. This sends the message that mouthing ends play. Eventually, the pup will make the connection and will refrain from mouthing.

Substitution:
Substitute a toy when a puppy/dog begins mouthing.

When a puppy begins to mouth immediately provide a safe chew toy for him to chew on. By substituting the toy, the puppy knows that it is OK to chew on the toy, but that the hand will be removed.

Redirection

When a puppy is becoming excited or play is escalating, use a command that the puppy is already familiar with i.e. “sit”. By redirecting the puppy to perform an already familiar task the level of excitement will be reduced and focus will be changed to the task at hand.

With any of these methods, it is recommended that you acknowledge any indication that your puppy has understood what you are trying to teach. Some indicators would be beginning to mouth but then pulling away on their own, licking instead of mouthing or sitting when it seems that excitement is escalating. Praise and treats to congratulate achievements using any of these methods will encourage the puppy to continue to exercise self-restraint when they feel the urge to mouth.

NOTE: These methods can be used for older dogs as well, but because they don’t react to new direction as quickly as a puppy does, it will take longer for the process to become effective. Patience and perseverance will prove successful.

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