Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | June 6, 2006

Puppy Socialization

Dear Pet Column,

I have just recently adopted a new puppy, from a shelter of course, and he often times is afraid of new things and will run and hide?  What do I do to help him – should I take him out more or is it true that puppies can’t go out in public because they can catch diseases?

 Sincerely, Puppy Paranoia

 Dear Puppy Paranoia, we are the most recent shelter pups here at Second Chance and at ten weeks of age (don’t let our size fool you – we are Newfoundland mix pups) we too are finding the world is an exciting but sometimes scary place.  Every day we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch new things and some of them can be frightening at first.  Thus, socialization is the best way to help us with this and it is very critical that this occur as soon, after eight weeks of age, and regularly as possible.  If done properly it can prevent us from developing fear reactions when we are adults that are harder to deal with and may turn to aggression.

 As you mentioned, there is a concern of puppies picking up potentially fatal diseases from other animals such as parvo, distemper, and hepatitis.  Thus, you want to be clear with your veterinarian when your puppy has completed his vaccinations and can be safely introduced to other animals.  Until then you can begin the socialization process in your home with pets you know are vaccinated.  For example, having a “puppy shower” is always a great way for him to meet new pets and people.  Introduce your puppy to different types of people and pets: loud, quiet, young, old, tall, short, active, inactive, etc.   Also, have people wear hats, glasses, backpacks, gloves, masks, helmets, big jackets, hoods, and other possibly threatening things. 

 Make sure all of your puppy’s socialization processes are positive.  If your puppy is afraid of certain objects or stimuli, remove the puppy or object and re-introduce very slowly, adding positive reinforcement to the situation like treats and praise.  For example, if your puppy is afraid of someone wearing a hat, have that person feed the puppy yummy treats.  This way the puppy will learn to associate the initially frightening stimuli with something positive instead.

 Here are a few more examples of stimuli that you should gradually introduce your puppy to in your home environment (again, using treats and praise to overcome fear):

 sound/movement of a vacuum/broom/mop

television/radio noise (play a variety of music – anything except Barry Manilow – you don’t want to traumatize him…)

sounds of electrical appliances/gadgets (blenders, hair dryers, children’s toys, etc.)

sounds/motions of things rippling in the wind like kites and plastic bags

a recording of thunder and other storms (play at low volume)

grooming instruments, dog brushes, clippers, toe nail trimmers, etc.

being handled and held by strangers, paws/tail being touched, teeth/ears being looked at, etc.

going for rides in the car

 After your pup’s Vet gives the green light for him to go out into the world, start taking him to the park and other places where he can be socialized with other dogs and stimuli such as bicycles, skateboards, running children, wheelchairs, etc. so that he is not startled by them as an adult.

 Additionally, to expand upon the socialization process, do some basic training with him.  Teach him how to gently accept treats, to chew on toys rather than human appendages, not to jump on people, to walk nicely on a leash, and about appropriate/inappropriate barking.  Also teach him important basic commands such as sit, down, stay, & come. 

 Remember, as we puppies learn proper socialization – the potential for living happy, adjusted, and comfortable lives increases.  Given all the changes and challenges we are confronted by in the modern and human world -we need all the preparation we can get.  Like, what about that large round white porcelain water bowl that you people sit on rather than drink from – what is that about?

 In closing, if you want a playmate for your pup, my siblings and I (named Eenie, Meenie, Minie, & Mo) are ready for adoption.  We are currently in a loving and supportive foster care home so that we can be properly socialized (see above) and more prepared to enter into our new forever homes.  You can inquire with Kim (626-2273) about meeting us.  We are mellow beings and expect to physically grow in stature in an attempt to contain our big-hearted nature.

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