Puppy of the Month

Bear is a 6 month-old Labradoodle.

 

Favorite Activity:
Joining the family for rides in the van.

 

Life's Ambition:
To wear all the shoes she has stolen.

 

Favorite Socialization Spot:
The children's bus stop.

 

OS Certified Trainer™:
Patti Hight of WOOFS! Dog Training Center LLC.

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What the Experts Have to Say

Here's what experts are saying about the importance of puppy socialization.

Veronica Boutelle; Jean Donaldson; Pat Miller; Karen Pryor: Julie K. Shaw : Meredith Stepita

Veronica Boutelle

Trainer: Veronica Boutelle
Business or Organization: dog*tec
Website: www.dogtec.org

Why is early socialization so important?

We are not a culture enamored of putting effort into prevention. But not actively socializing puppies is akin to keeping a child at home without opportunities to play with others or to experience the larger world, then being surprised when that child experiences grave difficulties navigating kindergarten. And the activities needed to socialize a puppy are actually great fun. There’s simply no excuse, and anyone who brings home a puppy with visions of a companionable adult dog must understand that socialization is critical to one day enjoying that dog. To not do so is to risk the terrible disappointment and stress of a dog who is shy or, worse, reactive or aggressive toward dogs or people.

What advice would you give a puppy owner who’s reluctant to socialize her puppy because she’s concerned about safety?

Take a look at what the top experts in the field are saying, such as the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior and the American SPCA, and new research such as Dr. Stepita's study on the frequency of parvovirus infection in puppies attending classes. It’s become clear that the risks of keeping puppies at home far, far outweigh the risks of taking them out and about. Unfortunately for the lives of dogs, that information has been slow to trickle down and change advice at the individual veterinarian level—to the heartbreak of many a dog owner.

How would you put a vet’s mind at ease when it comes to early socialization?

Show them the facts and the statements by organizations like AVSAB and the ASPCA. Start with the assumption that the vet  knows at least as much as you do by opening with something like, “You’re probably already aware of these statements and studies, but I brought copies for your staff in case they might be useful.” Explain your cleaning and safety procedures in detail. Better yet, ask them for their advice on cleaning protocols and products. Engaging their expertise rather than questioning it can go a long way toward getting them on board.

Jean Donaldson

Name: Jean Donaldson
Business or Organization: The Academy for Dog Trainers
Website: www.academyfordogtrainers.com

Why is early socialization so important?

Puppies are not only widely believed to be in a sensitive period, biologically, but are encountering many very important things - people of all types, dogs apart from their littermates, sights, sounds etc. - for the first time, which, from a Pavlovian conditioning perspective, is noteworthy, as significant experiences of both negative and positive variety are sometimes indelible. So it behooves us to “pad” puppies with good experiences regarding things we want them to like, because inevitably life will throw them bad experiences. We have the luxury with puppies of some say over whether their first experiences with something are good, bad or neutral. So the bottom line is: maximum bang for buck.

What advice would you give a puppy owner who’s reluctant to socialize her puppy because she’s concerned about safety?

I’m not sure what the safety consideration is. Disease risk? This has been well addressed by veterinary behaviorists (see AVSAB position paper on this subject, Purdue U info and epidemiologist RK Anderson’s letter on this topic).

Anything else you’d like to share relating to early socialization?

Please avoid bad experiences, including but not limited to, traditional dog training methods.

Pat Miller

Name: Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, CDBC
Business or Organization: Peaceable Paws, LLC
Website: www.peaceablepaws.com

Why is early socialization so important?

There is a very small window of time during which a puppy learns what is safe and good in the world. A well-socialized puppy has an optimistic world view—assuming things are safe unless and until proven otherwise. A poorly-socialized puppy is fearful of much of the world, and all new things are suspect. Fear… often leads to defensive aggression, and eventual euthanasia.

What advice would you give a puppy owner who’s reluctant to socialize her puppy because she’s concerned about safety?

Kudos to the puppy owner who is concerned about safety. She’s right – it’s important to protect your puppy. Choose your socialization opportunities with care.

Karen Pryor

Name: Karen Pryor
Business or Organization: Karen Pryor ClickerTraining; Karen Pryor Academy
Website: www.karenpryoracademy.com

Why is early socialization so important?

Puppies that grow up in a limited and deprived environment often develop into fearful adults, who socialize poorly with both humans and other dogs.

What advice would you give a puppy owner who’s reluctant to socialize her puppy because she’s concerned about safety?

Keep your puppy out of public spaces soiled by unknown dogs, but do find other dogs and a variety of people for your puppy to get to know, at its own speed.

How would you put a vet’s mind at ease when it comes to early socialization?

Refer them to the current recommendations of veterinary and veterinary behavior organizations.

Julie K.. Shaw

Name: Julie K. Shaw, KPA-CTP, RVT, VTS-Behavior
Business or Organization: Purdue University Animal Behavior Clinic, Karen Pryor Academy Faculty
Websites: www.vet.purdue.edu/animalbehavior; www.avbt.net; www.karenpryoracademy.com

Why is early socialization so important?

Once a puppy parent has aquired their puppy the gentics have already been determined and can not be changed. But, the puppy parent still has a strong influence on the kind of dog their puppy will become by making its socialization period full of positive experiences.  Directing socialization and  how the puppy learns can influence their puppy's mental and emotional health as much as the puppy's genetics.

What advice would you give a puppy owner who’s reluctant to socialize her puppy because she’s concerned about safety?

It is more likely your puppy will 1) lose its home because it develops behavior problems because it did not go to puppy class 2) come in contact with an infectious disease in your own back yard then at a well run puppy class. NOT properly socializing your puppy is neglecting your puppy's emotional health.

How would you put a vet’s mind at ease when it comes to early socialization?

I would direct them to statements made by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior pertaining to early puppy socialization.

Anything else you’d like to share relating to early socialization?

Attending a good puppy socialization class is the number one thing you can do to prevent behavior problems in your puppy.

Meredith Stepita

Name: Meredith Stepita, DVM, DACVB (Veterinary Behaviorist)
Business or Organization: East Bay Veterinary Specialists
Website: www.encinavet.com/medical-services/behavior

Why is early socialization so important?

Appropriate socialization helps to prevent behavior problems. Studies show that puppies that are not socialized during the first 3 months of life are more likely to be fearful, defensive, and possibly aggressive later in life. It has been estimated that ~250,000 dogs and cats are euthanized annually in US small animal veterinary practices as a direct result of behavior problems.

What advice would you give a puppy owner who’s reluctant to socialize her puppy because she’s concerned about safety?

According to the late Dr. RK Anderson, a pioneer in Veterinary Behavior, more dogs die of behavior problems than die of infectious disease. Pet owners however do need to be aware of the risk of infectious diseases young puppies are susceptible to and take precautions while socializing their puppies to minimize this risk. Puppies should be appropriately vaccinated and not socialized in locations such as dog parks, pet stores, and other locations frequented by dogs of unknown vaccination and/or disease status. For the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s position statement on Puppy Socialization visit the website avsabonline.org.

How would you put a vet’s mind at ease when it comes to early socialization?

Again, according to the late Dr. RK Anderson, a pioneer in Veterinary Behavior, more dogs die of behavior problems than die of infectious disease. This means that veterinarians are losing more patients to behavior problems than parvovirus. Our vaccines for infectious diseases now are much better than they were 20 years ago when the recommendation was to “not let the puppy touch the ground outside of your house until fully vaccinated.” My recently published study (Stepita ME, et al. Frequency of CPV in Puppies that Attended Puppy Socialization Classes. JAAHA, 49:95-100) found that vaccinated puppies attending socialization classes were at no greater risk of canine parvovirus infection than vaccinated puppies that did not attend those classes. Veterinarians should also refer to the position statement discussed in the answer to the previous question.

Anything else you’d like to share relating to early socialization?

Remember that it is important to go at the individual puppy’s pace; if they are hiding under the chair at puppy class, then that situation is too much for the puppy at that time. The quality of socialization is just as important as the quantity. If dog owners have concerns or questions I urge them to contact their veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist (dacvb.org). In my behavior practice, I have seen many patients whose behavior problems may have been prevented or reduced by appropriate socialization.