One of my responsibilities as Sherlock’s puppy raiser is socialization. My goal is to take him someplace new once a week. It’s not easy when I’m working full time and taking Kinsey to search dog training, but it’s important. It builds Sherlock’s confidence with new dogs, new people and unfamiliar environments. Without it, he couldn’t become a successful diabetic alert dog.
Like everything with dog training, socialization a progression. I give a new puppy a week or two to settle in, then take him on short visits to family and friends’ homes with well socialized dogs. I don’t visit dog parks or pet stores until my puppy is four months old and has all of his shots. (Too much risk of Parvo and grumpy dogs.)
After my puppy is four months of age we begin at Home Depot and/or Lowe’s. My routine for the first visit is a potty break out on the grass, and then practice at the automatic doors. If the puppy cowers or backs up, we stop and sit at a spot where he feels comfortable. I keep my leash loose, and when he looks up at me, I give him a treat. When he appears calm, we take a step closer to the terrifying automatic doors. For the first visit, that might be all we accomplish, and that’s enough. With dog training, short frequent practice sessions are most effective.
Once we’re inside Home Depot, we walk up and down the aisles. Strangers stop to talk and pet Sherlock. He loves it because he loves people. But, when I’m socializing a more fearful dog, I carry treats and ask strangers to feed him. I let my dogs smell, explore and adventure. We check out the gardening section. We walk by carts loaded with lumber. We find the guy in the little forklift and practicing sitting calmly during the BEEP BEEP BEEP as it backs up. We socialize.
Only after I’ve visited Lowe’s or Home Depot enough that my dog feels comfortable do I go to a pet store. Pet stores are chaotic, so I never start there! After a quick potty break, I do the same things. We practice with the automatic doors. I ask strangers to feed my dog. I let him sniff. I make him walk next to me while I push a shopping cart. We try on collars and cute outfits. We walk by the bird cages and fish tanks. If I see another dog, I ask the owner, “Is she friendly?” Usually, the answer is yes. But, I double check the body language. (No growling or hackles or backing away!) Then, I let the dogs have a meet and greet. It’s better than a dog park because both dogs are leashed and under control.
Sherlock is a social, fearless Golden Retriever, so it didn’t take him long to feel confident everywhere. But, that may not be your dog. Your dog may need more repetition, and that’s OK. If you work on socialization early and consistently, you can help him become confident. Keep at it, notice and praise progress. Eventually, your dog will feel comfortable anywhere.
Puppy socialization pack:
If it slips off over his head, it’s useless, so get the right size! Kinsey has this exact collar and I love it!
Six Foot Leather Lead
These aren’t cheap, but over time they become so soft and they don’t break!
Disinfection Wipes In case of an accident!
Below are pictures from a community event we attended last weekend. Sherlock and I got to listen to kids read and hand out books. He loved socializing, and I got to talk dog. A perfect Sunday afternoon for both of us!
One more thing! A couple of weeks back I wrote a post for the Ruffwear Dog Blog about the helicopter training I attended with Kinsey. If you haven’t had a chance, take a look!
Enjoy your Monday!