You know you need to ‘socialize’ him/her, but what EXACTLY does that mean? Scientists say that a puppy’s critical socialization period is between 3-12 weeks – but it doesn’t end there! Your job is to somehow introduce your dog to EVERYTHING he may experience in his life from the word ‘go’. Check out our bingo card for ideas.
But that’s only half of the information – the most important detail is that your dog HAS TO LOVE every new experience he has. So how can you tell if he’s digging it? Watch his body. You’ll notice in the video that happy dogs look loose and wiggly, and if they like the new thing they will MOVE FORWARD to check it out. Puppies who are afraid, tend to MOVE AWAY, look away or sometimes hide.
If your pup’s happy checking out the new thing – awesome. Tell him what a great job he’s doing, reward his bravery with a little treat and then move on.
If your puppy gets scared – be a hero and rush to the rescue!
a) In the moment: You need to immediately create some distance for your dog to be able to cope. This means, either you and your puppy quickly move away from the ‘scary thing’ or the ‘scary thing’ needs to go.
b) For the future: Work on making the ‘scary thing’ not scary at all – your dog is depending on you. Dogs who are fearful are WAY more likely to bite. Don’t let that happen to your puppy. You can make a difference, here’s how: Put ENOUGH distance between your puppy and the ‘scary thing’ that he’s not worried by it (that might mean a whole block away if necessary!) Then feed your puppy a small handful of tiny meat treats and ONLY move forward when he’s comfortable – watch his body closely.
At any sign of tension or if he’s taking the treats harder (this is another sign he may be getting WORRIED) it’s time to take the pressure off. Take a step or two back to where he’s comfortable, give a couple of treats and end the session. Try again tomorrow – it should get easier every time.
Just like people, SOME dogs are social butterflies and SOME are NOT! There is NOTHING wrong with either. Love the dog you have and respect the ones you meet.
Your dog’s body will tell you whether or not he wants to meet the dog you’re approaching. Pulling forward and a wagging tail DOES NOT necessarily mean he wants to be friendly. The key to discovering his intentions is to watch that body! If there’s any sign of stiffness or freezing in place, a greeting is NOT a good idea. Time to cross the street.
However a loose and wiggly body and tail says your dog is up for saying ‘hi’. But before you rush in, take a good look at what the other dog is saying. Same rules apply: stiff, tense, lunging, barking or pulling backwards are very clear signals this dog NEEDS space. So be a hero and give it to him. When you cross the street not only are you respecting a dog who needs help, but more importantly you’re protecting your own from a bad experience.
If your dog is playing off-leash you still need to keep a watchful eye! You don’t want to miss the early signs that he is struggling. The signs can be subtle, so act quickly and get him out of there, he’ll thank you for it!
Kids can be scary to dogs because they are more unpredictable, more unruly, more uncoordinated and way more likely to get in your dog’s face than most adults (we know – we have them!). But it’s YOUR job to ensure that your dog is ALWAYS comfortable around children. So be a hero and at the first sign that he’s not, give him a break! Move him or the kids to a place far enough away for him to be able to relax again. Watch the video to understand exactly what he’s feeling.
If you have children – make sure they watch this video too! Show them what your dog is saying to help them understand the most important skill: when to play and when to walk away. If you keep pointing it out, over time it will just become second nature to them. Not only will they understand your dog, but it will keep them safer around other dogs too.
There are some times when WALK AWAY is always the answer REGARDLESS of what emotion your dog is showing: When he’s eating, chewing, sleeping, resting, in a crate or tied up.
If you have young kids, here’s a song you can sing together to remind them to do the right thing.
I couldn't recommend The Family Dog enough to anyone considering getting a puppy Pauline (Super cool Scot with fab hair. Mom of one and a gorgeous goldendoodle.)