BABY STEPS Have you ever made a foolhardy New Year’s resolution? Like swearing off chocolate even though you work in a chocolate factory? Or signing up for a fitness club membership even though you despise exercise? Or perhaps planning to socialize your dog to one hundred different people, one hundred different dogs and one hundred different situations each month?
A top-noted behaviourist revolutionized the dog-owning community when he advocated that puppy owners should plan to introduce their new puppy to a hundred people every month until the dog reaches six months of age. My facts may not be 100% accurate but the premise is correct. This canine specialist emphasized the importance of committed socialization of a new puppy to ensure the most rock-solid adult dog possible. His theories rocked the dog world and have remained in place to this day.
I am a strong advocate of puppy socialization, which should begin at the breeder’s home. Puppies should be treated to a wide variety of people, pets, sounds and sights before leaving the breeder’s home and most good breeders work very hard at this. When your new puppy arrives home, it is your responsibility to continue working at ongoing socialization with the goal of introducing your puppy to as many different individuals … children, men, men with floppy hats, black people, women, the elderly, people in wheelchairs, purple people, pink people with purple dots … well, you get the drift … as possible. It is also important to ensure that your puppy meets and greets as wide a range of dogs as is possible, keeping safety, and up-to-date vaccinations in mind. In addition, Ruff should be taken to new environments, begin to learn basic obedience commands, learn to travel well in the car … whew!! I’m exhausted just thinking about it!! Socialization IS important but I’m a believer that, like New Year’s resolutions, sometimes life gets in the way of our very best intentions. When we “fall off the wagon” and indulge in a tasty morsel of the very chocolate we’ve promised to avoid, we typically throw up our hands in despair and mumble something like “ridiculous resolution anyway!!” You’re right … the resolution was not well thought out. The resolutions which seem to work are usually ones which we’ve mulled over for quite some time and are ready for. Often we’ve also formalized a realistic plan of action. Perhaps it would be more reasonable for the chocoholic to treat herself to a chocolate bar a week … still a considerable improvement over the one-a-day habit. Similarly, when we fail to socialize our puppy to three or four people every single day, sometimes we feel like failures and throw our hands up in the air and feel like giving up altogether. I’d like to offer a small suggestion. What about resolving to introduce Ruff to one person a week as well as take him to one new place every single week. Sign up for an obedience class or enroll Ruff in puppy daycare for one day/night a week and you’ve definitely made progress. Encourage your child to invite a schoolmate over once a week. Rather than racing into the post office to check the mail, bring Ruff along with you. Bring him in when you head into the pet store to purchase a bag of dog food. Spend five minutes walking Ruff along the fence at a schoolyard at recess time, just so that he hears and sees rambunctious children at play. Take Ruff for a walk for one block … just one block. Ask your spouse to take Ruff for a car ride to the corner store and back.
The bottom line is that, at the end of a week, you’ve still made progress. Seeing your new puppy blossom under your well thought out socialization plan is often so rewarding that we tend to “step it up” abit and by the next week, time and family commitments permitting, we find that we’re out and about with Ruff even more than the previous week. Devise a reasonable socialization plan, one that is possible to accomplish and then work in a gradual direction of socializing Ruff. You might be truly amazed at the results! by Noel Hynds