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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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Socialization Q & A
  1. Why create an entire organization dedicated to early socialization?
  2. I have raised several puppies without the help of an OS Trainer and they all turned out fine. Why should I participate now?
  3. Can I over-do socialization?
  4. What is SEES?
  5. What is a Behavioral Vaccination?
  6. What Behavioral Vaccinations should my puppy receive?
  7. If I socialize my puppy early is there any guarantee that he will become a social and adaptable adult?
  8. Can’t I socialize my puppy at any age?
  9. Won’t my puppy get sick if I expose him to other dogs and locations?
  10. Will socializing my puppy help with his training?
  11. How many people and dogs does my dog need to meet to be successfully socialized?
  12. My puppy goes bonkers when I take him out in public and won’t listen to anything I say. Shouldn’t I wait until he is better trained to expose him to people?
  13. My puppy doesn’t want to go out the front door and shies away from other people and dogs. How can I socialize him?
  14. Do genetics play a role in my puppy’s socialization process?
  15. Does it matter what breed of dog I own?
  16. Is the socialization process the same for every dog?
  17. Should I always take my dogs out together when socializing my puppy?
  18. When I get my Socialization Success Certificate, am I done socializing my dog?
  19. What should I do if my puppy growls at me when I try to take something away from him?
  20. What should I do if my puppy fearfully barks, snaps or growls at a stranger?
  21. Should I always have my puppy with me?
  22. Should I punish my puppy if he behaves aggressively toward me or someone else?

1. Why create an entire organization dedicated to early socialization?

Because we want puppies to have long, happy lives with their families—and early socialization can make all the difference. By preventing behavior problems that often land dogs in shelters or even gets them euthanized, early socialization can save a puppy’s life. It’s a small investment that pays big dividends when a puppy reaches adulthood.

We created Operation Socialization to provide the public with a one-stop source of information, professional help, and resources for safe, early socialization.

2. I have raised several puppies without the help of an OS Trainer and they all turned out fine. Why should I participate now?

Because things have changed. More of us live in towns and cities than ever before, and we have promoted dogs from workers to pets to family members. We take them to the office, to cafés, to dog parks the size of a postage stamp. We expect them to behave nicely to every unfamiliar person and dog on the sidewalk. It’s a lot to ask of animals that only yesterday—evolutionarily speaking—roamed hillsides or ice plains or woods, and never had to be on leash.

Operation Socialization Trainers know all this, and they understand canine behavior and development. They can spot problems early on and help you nip them in the bud.

3. Can I over-do socialization?

Yes and no. Generally speaking, the more socialization the better. But no two puppies are the same and it’s important to go at your puppy’s pace. If you overwhelm him, your efforts could have the opposite effect of what you’re hoping for. To hit the right balance, study our materials and work closely with your Operation Socialization Trainer.

4. What is SEES?

SEES stands for safe, early and effective socialization.

Safe
While you can never completely eliminate health risks when socializing your puppy before he’s fully vaccinated, you can significantly minimize both health and behavioral risks by following OS Safety Guidelines and working closely with your veterinarian. Download the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s position on Puppy Socialization.

Early
Taking advantage of your puppy’s early development is critical. This is when he’s at his most receptive; open and pliable. Make sure he has as many positive experiences out in the world during this time so he’ll grow up to be easygoing and friendly. If you wait, your puppy’s “internal timer,” the so-called socialization window, begins to close (around 12-16 weeks of age). After this, he’s genetically pre-programmed to become more and more distrustful of new or unpleasant experiences.

Effective
When you work with an OS trainer, you’ll learn to manage your puppy’s experiences to create positive, lasting associations while avoiding common socialization pitfalls.

Socialization
The process of introducing your puppy to a multitude of sights, sounds, surfaces, objects, people and other dogs in a positive, safe and responsible manner so he can grow into an adult with the ability to adapt to new experiences.

5. What is a Behavioral Vaccination?

By behavioral vaccinations we mean early training (< 6 months) that helps puppies build their confidence and develop “resistance” against behavior problems down the road. Behavioral vaccinations not only significantly reduce the likelihood of problems like stranger aggression and separation anxiety from developing, they also help your puppy become a delightful companion you can be proud of.

6. What Behavioral Vaccinations should my puppy receive?

  1. New experiences are OK
  2. Being alone is OK
  3. Be gentle with your teeth
  4. Potty training
  5. To chew or not to chew
  6. Curb your enthusiasm
  7. Sharing is good

7. If I socialize my puppy early is there any guarantee that he will become a social and adaptable adult?

Alas, no. There are no guarantees when it comes to behavior. You can’t influence your puppy’s genetic makeup or control his experiences prior to meeting you. What you can do is give him the best possible chance to reach his full potential—and safe, early, effective socialization is a must for this. (Going to school doesn’t guarantee you’ll land a well-paid job either, but it sure ups your chances dramatically.)

8. Can’t I socialize my puppy at any age?

Not like this, no. Early socialization is a one-time opportunity because what happens inside your puppy’s brain during early puppyhood is very different from later-stage developments. Young puppies are nearly blank slates whereas adolescents and adults have very firm ideas about what’s safe/unsafe, familiar/unfamiliar.

What does this mean? With older puppies or fully grown dogs, you have to modify existing behavior—and anybody who has tried to break a habit will tell you that’s tough to do. By contrast, you can shape the future perceptions and behavior of young puppies from scratch.

(If you have a dog with fear or aggression problems, Operation Socialization isn’t the program for you, but please feel free to see if our trainers offer behavior modification services.)

9. Won’t my puppy get sick if I expose him to other dogs and locations?

Puppies are like kids; there’s always something going around. So yes, you should be careful. But better vaccinations have dramatically reduced the risk of your puppy contracting a serious disease from another dog. We don’t recommend taking him to the dog park before he’s fully vaccinated, but it’s much safer than it used to be to have your puppy play with other healthy, partially vaccinated puppies.

In fact, the risk of a dog dying because of a behavior problem (being put down or surrendered to a shelter) is far greater than the risk of him contracting a serious disease from another puppy.

10. Will socializing my puppy help with his training?

In a sense, yes. Well-socialized dogs adjust better to new environments which means it’s easier for them to relax, focus, and learn—a lot of dogs labeled distracted or stubborn are actually stressed. But try not to think of socialization and training as separate activities. Socialization is part of the training process for puppies. You’re teaching your puppy what his world is going to look like and helping him develop the skills needed to deal with stress. What better training is there?

11. How many people and dogs does my dog need to meet to be successfully socialized?

Our weekly guideline is:

25 new people (recommended by Dr. Ian Dunbar)
8 new dogs
5 new places

This is a minimum guideline, however, not a hard-and-fast rule. Every puppy is different, so work with your Operation Socialization Trainer to determine what’s right for your particular puppy.

12. My puppy goes bonkers when I take him out in public and won’t listen to anything I say. Shouldn’t I wait until he is better trained to expose him to people?

Definitely not. Yes, having an over-exuberant puppy can be a bit of an embarrassment in public, but don’t let that tempt you into leaving your puppy at home. If you do, you create a catch-22 situation. Your puppy isn’t being socialized because of his behavior, but his behavior worsens because he’s not being socialized. Puppies that are particularly bouncy, easily distracted, and playful need to be thoroughly socialized. It’s their best chance of becoming relaxed, friendly, well-behaved adults.

13. My puppy doesn’t want to go out the front door and shies away from other people and dogs. How can I socialize him?

If your puppy is so scared by new things, people, and places that it’s difficult to take him out and about, keeping him home is the worst things you can do. Instead craft a plan to carefully and positively build his confidence with the help of a trained professional, for example an OS Trainer. (If there are no OS Trainers in your area, contact us and then search the APDT directory of trainers.)

Keep a short log of what is scaring your puppy. New people? New places? New dogs? The more specific the information, the better off you’ll be when you work with a trainer. And remember:

Never force your puppy to interact with something he is scared of.
Never punish fearful behavior.

Also see Why We ♥ Targeting

14. Do genetics play a role in my puppy’s socialization process?

Absolutely! Think about it this way: Selective breeding has produced dogs that like to swim, retrieve, herd, etc. Breeding can also produce traits like fear of strangers, anxiety when left alone, etc. However, genetics are only part of the picture and your puppy’s early training makes up the rest. Don’t ever accept generalizations like “German Shepherds are reserved with strangers” or “Chows don’t like other dogs.” Certain breeds have in-bred tendencies, but through early training and socialization you can make your German Shepherd the friendliest he can be or your Chow the most dog-loving version of himself.

On the flip side, don’t assume breeds like Labrador Retrievers are automatically going to be friendly. All dogs can become aggressive if they don’t receive proper training and socialization

15. Does it matter what breed of dog I own?

No. All dogs, from Chihuahuas to Golden Retrievers, need to be socialized safely, early, and effectively.

16. Is the socialization process the same for every dog?

No, there’s no cookie-cutter socialization process. Each puppy is unique and should be socialized at his own pace, which is why working with a professional dog trainer is so important.

17. Should I always take my dogs out together when socializing my puppy?

On the contrary, it’s important to socialize your puppy individually. Puppies that go everywhere with older, wiser canine housemates don’t develop the ability to handle things well on their own.

18. When I get my Socialization Success Certificate, am I done socializing my dog?

People who live isolated lives can become a bit peculiar, and dogs are no different. For this reason you should carry out Socialization Maintenance throughout your dog’s lifetime—with the most important period being his first two years.

19. What should I do if my puppy growls or snaps at me when I try to take something away from him?

Work with a professional trainer to reprogram your dog so this problem doesn’t worsen. For more information, see the Sharing is good Behavior Vaccination.

20. What should I do if my puppy fearfully barks, snaps or growls at a stranger?

Never force your puppy to interact with something that scares him or punish him for displaying behaviors like these. Instead pay attention to what happens immediately before the fearful or aggressive behavior, and keep a simple log you can share with a professional trainer.

21. Should I always have my puppy with me?

Socializing is very important for puppies, but so is learning that being alone is okay. You don’t want your puppy to grow so attached to you, he doesn’t know how to relax when you’re not around. For more information, see the Being alone is OK Behavior Vaccination.

22. Should I punish my puppy if he behaves aggressively toward me or someone else?

Unpleasant as we find it, fearful or aggressive behavior is simply communication—and we want our dogs to communicate with us so they don’t have to resort to biting to get their point across.

Fearful or aggressive behavior gives you important information about how your puppy is feeling. If you can determine what happened immediately before the behavior, you and your trainer can figure out how to change your puppy’s reaction by changing his feelings.

Punishing fearful or aggressive behavior, on the other hand, makes a bad situation worse. What’s more, punishment often has fallout. It can create a traumatic association and make your puppy’s reaction more severe. Bottom line? As a strategy for changing your puppy’s behavior, punishment is not only ineffective, it’s counterproductive.