by Canine Peace of Mind.com
Moments early in a puppy’s life are extremely important for exposure and socialization. The importance of socializing a puppy with people is known to most, but not fully understood.
Dictionary defines socialization as: a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position. The British dictionary defines the verb socialize as: to prepare for life in society.
A dog’s response to strangers starts during early encounters. Socializing a puppy with people does not mean they should meet everyone they see. This is counterproductive. Adults and children can be very overwhelming to a young puppy. The problem is how they approach and what your puppy learns about people in the process.
When people see a puppy:
- They squeal, point, stare, and reach for puppy
- If puppy is nervous, most continue to talk and stick their hands out until they get to touch the puppy
- If puppy is overexcited, people encourage this with affection
What your puppy learns:
- A timid puppy learns people are overwhelming and intimidating. As the puppy matures, he will try new ways to communicate with people to back off. Behaviors include growling, barking, and escalating to biting
- A wild, out-going puppy learns that everybody wants to meet them and jumping is an appropriate greeting. As they grow into adult hood, on leash pulling and intense targeting during walks can get worse. Frustration occurs when they can’t meet people, which can result in growling, barking and even biting.
Socializing a puppy with people needs to be done in order to have a happy and healthy adult dog. As an owner, remember not to overwhelm your puppy. Take them to different places to absorb the sites, sounds and smells without forcing them to interact with other people.
If someone approaches, first read your puppy’s state of mind. Are they nervous or overly excited? If so, you do not want to encourage either. Second, what kind of energy does the human have? Are they about to explode with excitement? Are they reaching for your puppy before you give permission?
It is your job as an owner to do what is best for your puppy and not falter under social pressure. It is okay to say ‘no’ when someone advances on you and your puppy.
For those of us who want to snuggle with every puppy, remember that these early interactions are what shape a dog’s behavior later in life. Puppies learn very quickly from these experiences. How a puppy meets you and your reactions, are important. Next time you see a puppy, do them a favor and either chat with the owner while ignoring the puppy or simply, keep walking.
A training sequence can be very useful to keep your dog sharp and responsive to you when out and about. At class we have covered many different exercises which need to be ustilised and practised daily to be successful in our training. In doors (different rooms), in the garden (different areas), on the drive, where ever we go, when convenient practise one, some or all of the exercises you have been shown at class. Don't miss an opportunity to feed success with your dog.
- SIT STAY
- DOWN STAY
- BACK UP
- YES AND NO MARKERS.
Repeat Sit Down Stand in a block of three leading with a different position on each block. So you then practice sit to stand to down, stand to down to sit and down to stand to sit. Remembering to be consistant with your hand signals and vocal comands. After block of three has been completed break the exercise and praise. If you struggle with your dog changing position on any of these make a mental note and let me know at class so I can help you.
The Heel or Close command. Walk 3 paces keeping your dogs head close to your thigh with your treat. Stop and release treat. Continue 2 paces into a right hand turn, 2 paces into a right hand turn and so on until you make a square. At the end of the square reward and then walk 2 paces into a left hand turn, and again until you make a square. Reward and release. Continue this twice more from the beginning. As your dog's heel work improves the 2 step squares can become larger by adding more steps in between each turn.
Recall. This can be done in many different ways, places and positions. Building recall length slowly in the beginning to achieve your confidence in your dogs response and the dog's confidence in the exercise itself. At home call the dog from one room to another for example, remember for a recall to be reliable it has to be practised in as many different situations as possible building distance in every situations and circumstance, using a happy inviting tone and worthy reward at the end of the exercise. You are imprinting a reaction to a word so it makes sense to start of slowly to build the correct reaction from the dog.
Sit and Down Stay Positions. Again for these exercises to become full proof the dogs must feel relaxed in each postion and the length of time they are expected to stay in the postion must be built slowly. Your distance from the dog starts as close as possible, time and distance lengthening with practice. Stand close to the dog, while the dog is in a Sit position count 3 seconds and reward, 1 step away count 3 seconds and reward, always return to the dog to reward keeping them in the stay position, sit or down. Repeat these exercises in blocks of three in different places and atmostpheres to achieve trust and confidence in your dog.
Centre. Teaching your dog to present itself between your legs at class is just for fun. So present the reward to your dog from between your legs at the front allowing him/her to walk through, you can ask the dog to sit by raising the treat before passing all the way or to get them to run through throw the treat forward for them to run after. Great fun game for both you and your dog, also teach them to run through from the front.
Back up. Using a static object, such as chairs for example, each side of the dog to make a channel about 2 feet wide. Stand in front of your dog and walk towards them when they start to reverse reward them and again with this exercise the reversing distance has to be built. The channel is to stop the dog reversing left or right and to keep them in a straight line.
Practice some or all of the above exercises daily wherever you are with your dog.
When training a dog to achieve a desired response by us, we must make it clear from the start by taking small steps with them to eventually meet the goal. By repeating these steps until each one is proven and then putting them all together is what will then enable the dog to consistently give the desired response to each command.
If you repeatedly rush the learning process and skip stages because you are keen to see the end game you will allow errors to creep in which for the dog will then become the learned response to your command.
Always teach the dog allowing them to become relaxed in the position first and have a good association with it. For example when teaching the down stay make sure you have a solid down first by repeating the action and rewarding by dropping food between their feet while the dog is in a relaxed mind set. Repeat the words DOWN and STAY while the dog is in the position. Moving away from the dog should be done in small steps PROVING each step by repeating it until the dog remains relaxed no matter how far away you move. This must not be rushed. If you repeatedly make a mistake your dog will do the same and the process then takes much longer.
We covered this exercise at class on Sunday and so I hope that our down stays have made good progress for us all to see next week.
When teaching our dogs an exercise we normally start with minimal distractions and sometimes consider this enough and that our dog's response is reliable to the vocal command in the future. This is somewhat true, if you live in a completely predictable enviroment. So it's a really good idea to make the exercises more dificult to obey and maintain by adding distractions to your training schedule and doing the exercises in as many different environments as possible. As an example tell your dog to sit and without saying anything bounce or roll a ball across your dog's path. Would your dog maintain the position or get up to follow the ball? To make sure we have a reliable response when working with our dogs it so important to train in as many different situations as possible so that the dog is desensitised to outside distractions and isn't tempted to ignore its handler. Make an effort to do this for your dog to become proven and reliable. The image above is Nelle and Khaly in a down stay while I am throwing bread around for the birds. Be imaginative, it will also teach you to be a resourceful trainer!