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HELP! Socialization – 9-1-1

Updated: May 30, 2020

We are living in some weird times. I never thought I would be isolated in my house for weeks and weeks on end! The extrovert in me is lost and confused, but alas, I am not alone and the entire globe is dealing with the same situation together. With the majority of people having to work from home and with all this “free” time, many people have decided to get puppies!


Now, puppies are a lot of work! I am not surprised people have decided to take on the responsibility when they are spending their days at home. There are some positives and negatives to getting a puppy now. One positive is that you have ALL the time in the world to properly train and socialize your puppy! Then what’s the negative? how do you do that socialization?


We always strive to be proactive, so we do not need to be reactive down the road. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty!


What is socialization?


“The process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.” ~Oxford Dictionary


Socialization is a critical period in a dog’s life. This time period is vital for the proper development of a well-balanced dog. But, not all socialization is equal! It is extremely important to note that many of us, even when times were normal, set our dogs up to fail. Not on purpose, of course, but our definition of socialization was to get our dogs to meet anything and everything, no matter how scary it might be and to just “deal with it”. This extremely common mindset is WRONG.

So if PROPER socialization isn’t meeting every dog, human and going into all the new places, what is?


Well, there are a LOT of things that go into productive socialization. To list a few categories:


Noise:

When playing these noises, I would pair them with food, play the noise, and feed the dog. And, then repeat. Make sure it is in that order! Otherwise, we may cause some additional issues… we want to introduce our dogs to a variety of noises, preferably noises that we can control the volume and intensity. YouTube videos are great! You can search for anything you want and play it back to your puppy (or sound-sensitive dog). Audio topics to look for:

  1. Fireworks

  2. Different dogs (barking or howling)

  3. Different animals (e.g. chickens, goats, cats, birds, elephants, etc.)

  4. Children playing and screaming

  5. Emergency vehicle sirens

Common noises around the home that you can do:

  1. Blenders

  2. Coffee Grinder

  3. Vacuums

  4. Bathroom fans

  5. Flush the toilet

  6. Make an alarm go off

  7. Hairdryer

  8. Microwave or oven timer

  9. Close a door (and work up to slamming it)

  10. Knock on doors

  11. If you have a fireplace, make a fire

  12. Watch an exciting movie (you can increase and decrease the volume) lots of variety of sounds comes from movies!

  13. Drag chairs on the ground

  14. Ring the doorbell

  15. Open and close your vehicle door

  16. And so much more, be creative!

Visual:

The world is full of things to see; there is fast-moving vehicles, erratically moving animals, lights and more. We need to prepare our dogs for these items. Usually, when we go for a walk, the largest issue we have for a dog that is under-socialized is leash reactivity. The dog sees something and needs to react to it. These dogs, unfortunately, don’t get to live as vicarious of a life as a dog who accepts and ignores their surroundings. This is due to the increase of physical, emotional and mental strain on the people; a dog, no matter the size, that is lunging is exhausting. To help be proactive and set your dog up for success – here are some ideas to implement:


Go to a park, it can be any park or any open green space (ensure it’s dog friendly!). Find a bench and just sit there. When any of the following come by (or are 200 feet away, as long as the dog notices. Mark and Reinforce.)

  1. People walking by

  2. Children running or playing

  3. People on Bikes or Rollerblades

  4. Dogs

  5. Wildlife (rabbits, deer, birds)

  6. Vehicles

  7. Emergency vehicles

  8. Lawnmowers

  9. Holiday decorations