What Is Puppy Socialization?
At Vanaheim we take temperament very seriously and go through a range of temperament testing which includes early socializing for our pups. Rottweilers have always gotten a bad rap, being classified as dangerous and aggressive and up till today we get similar responses from friends and strangers who doesn’t know and understand the breed. An important part of settling your puppy into his / her new home especially with a big breed such as the Rottweiler is start getting your puppy socialized right away. It is said that for your dog to be well integrated into society and to be socially confident is to be introduced to 1000 living creatures before your dog reaches adulthood. This could be made up of other dogs, cats, humans, rabbits etc. and having him / her understand that there are other breeds and animals sharing this world with them. During what’s called the “sensitive period” of very early life, puppies learn about what’s normal in the world. They’re not immune to fear or even trauma, but in general they accept whatever they have a pleasant encounter with. It’s almost as if they develop a catalog of sights, sounds, smells, and experiences that fall under the heading of “safe.” As a special bonus, if the range of pleasant early experiences is wide and varied, the puppy also seems to learn that “new” does not necessarily mean “scary.”
When Should You Socialize Your Puppy?
There is no such thing as playing too safe when it comes to socializing your puppy, so I urge you to safe–socialize diligently from the minute you get your puppy home.
The catch about socialization is that it’s a window of opportunity and when it shuts, it slams shut. Different experts will give you different closing dates, ranging from 12 to 16 weeks old. Individual puppies will vary. But without good socialization, your puppy will likely be shy and skittish as he grows up. And with experience, he may learn that going on the offensive can drive away the things that frighten him. This could also lead to them becoming what is widely known as fear aggression.
Under-socialized Dogs Are Often Fearful, Aggressive, and Inflexible
Badly socialized dogs seem brittle rather than flexible–they respond to change and novelty with fear, taking nothing in stride. I’ve heard of many situations where badly socialized dogs may do well in a familiar context, then fall apart when their family moves to a new home. Other dogs can stand to walk outside, but only just–they slink with their tails down and they pull frantically toward home. Some bark and lunge at anything and everything. There are no guarantees in life, so I can’t promise you that high-quality early socialization will prevent a hundred percent of behavior problems a hundred percent of the time. But the odds of trouble do go way, way down.
Minimize Health Risks While Socializing Your Puppy
An aside here about physical health. Some veterinarians, understandably concerned about the risks of infectious diseases, advise adopters to keep their pups indoors till all vaccinations are completed. Puppies are somewhat protected by antibodies they got from their mothers and by their first set of vaccinations, but you can never be to safe so do check with your vet and do research about any viruses with in your region or state.
How to Socialize Your Puppy
Here’s what to do. Take your puppy places–by car, in your arms, or in a child’s pram if it’s too heavy to carry. If allowed take it to a mall, to a hardware store, to the bus station, to a train station, on a train if possible. Take it to a petrol station, auto shop, florist you get the picture. The more scenarios and situations the better. Once it has all of its injections take a trip to the local parks, visit farm (check with vet if any additional injections are required when being around live stock in Australia we are required to do a C5), construction site, police station. Encourage him/her to scramble among rocks and logs. Allow him / her experience many surfaces underfoot, from grass to concrete to leaves to metal gratings to gravel to pebbles etc.
Introduce Your Puppy to Many People
Introduce your puppy to people from as many different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds as we live in a world filled and varied with it. Our country has many different cultures and religions and the last thing you want is to be embarrassed by your dog reacting strongly to people of different races other than your own. So make a special point of being multicultural. Carry some high-quality dry dog food or treats you know they enjoy, and encourage children to stroke your puppy and feed him a treat. People who use wheelchairs and walkers, delivery truck drivers, none of these ordinary folks should be extraordinary to your dog.
Familiarize Your Puppy with Other Animals
The same goes for animals. A puppy who grows up knowing cats is less likely to treat them as prey when he grows up. If you live in the country, exposure to other domestic species may come easily; if you live in the city, work with what you’ve got—police horses can be viewed from a distance and paired with treats if your puppy is skittish about them. As for other dogs, screen them! Your puppy should meet dogs and puppies who you know for a fact are friendly and healthy. A well-run puppy class or play group will help if you have access to one. Avoid even well-managed dog parks until vaccinations are complete.
Get Your Puppy Used to All Kinds of Sounds
Many dogs are afraid of unfamiliar sounds. Make sure your pup hears police sirens, fire trucks, the repetitive beep a truck makes when it’s reversing. Birdsong, music, rolling steel gates, obnoxious ringtones. Banging pots and pans, doorbells, intercoms. Loud cracking sounds are often culprits in dog phobias; download free recordings of perhaps firecrackers going off from the Internet and play them as background music one day.
What to Do if Your Puppy Is Shy
Say you’re introducing your puppy to a friend with dark glasses and a cap, and your puppy shies away. Take a deep breath, relax, and let your puppy retreat. Ask your friend to sit down and ignore the puppy. Let your pup approach at his own pace, while your friend pays him no attention. Praise your puppy softly and warmly when he explores. Avoid luring him forward with food–it’s important that he stay within his comfort zone. If he relaxes completely near your friend, she can offer him a treat; if that goes well, a pat or rub comes next. If your puppy remains a bit skittish, don’t push—just repeat the meeting later or another day.
Follow the same pattern for anything or anyone your puppy doesn’t take in stride: let him retreat to a distance where he feels safe, then venture forward in his own good time. Praise his bravery but do not lure.
If you find that your puppy is easily spooked in many circumstances or by many kinds of people, speak with a behavior specialist right away. Early behavior is often highly malleable and the quicker you intervene in any potential problems, the higher your odds of fixing them.