Raising a puppy can be overwhelming. Housebreaking, crate training, mouthing, chewing, exercising… the list goes on. But it can also be really, really fun. Sure there are messes, and things can get destroyed, but with a little planning the anxiety of puppy rearing can be a fun adventure.
There have been some wonderful blogs circling the internet stressing that ‘socializing’ doesn’t mean tossing your pup in a dog park or forcing them into scary interactions. I won’t rehash what has been so well written, so here is my recipe for socializing:
1.Teach LAT (Look at That) to the puppy & teach yourself how to recognize stress
2. Let the pup observe life where it happens
3. Play LAT a lot with the puppy is on leash
4. Reward puppy for acts of bravery if fearful & for calm behavior if they are excitable
5. Keep their canine social circle to adult dogs you KNOW are good with puppies.
6. No dog parks!!
7. Enroll in a puppy class. Don’t skip this step. Homeschooling has nothing on a well run puppy class.
8. Repeat step #3. It’s great to have off leash play, but what’s more important is to teach your pup to stay calm on leash.
9. If your puppy is shy, don’t push your pup to meet people. Its only good socializing if the puppy is enjoying the experience. See step #4
10. If your puppy is exuberant, please don’t let him pull you to see dogs or people. Work on teaching him to be calm. If needed, use a no pull harness.
Most important…be your puppy’s advocate! Don’t let strangers on the street convince you that their adult dog is ‘perfectly fine’ with puppies. Most people have no idea how their dogs are with pups, and many adult dogs don’t like pups. If your pup looks uncomfortable with an interaction, then move them away and play LAT.
For more information and ideas, here are 2 of my favorite puppy books that I have dog-eared over the years:
Control Unleashed: The Puppy Program