How to Socialize Your Puppy with People

puppy socializationDon’t get fooled into thinking that because you have friends over from time to time that your puppy is being socialized with people.  Many breeds require a lot of human socialization at an early age and throughout their life to keep them comfortable, and more importantly, safe around people.  Dogs such as German Shepherds, Pit Bull Terriers, Herding breeds need early and consistent socialization.  Not doing so can cause your dog to become fear aggressive and thus one of the most dangerous vices, fear biters.  All your socialization should start before your puppy is 16 weeks of age.

As with all your socialization time, you need to keep it controlled and safe for your puppy.  You don’t want to submerse them into it by taking them to a crowded mall and asking everyone to pet your puppy.  This will be too much stress on your puppy and will have adverse effects on them.  Your sessions need to show your puppy that when they meet people good things happen to them by building up a positive association.

You also need to be sure that you introduce your puppy to people of all different races, ages and the different sexes.  Don’t forget that your puppy may see someone in a hat, with a beard, backpacks or umbrellas as a totally new species.  To help combat fear of these “common” occurrences you will want have sessions where people wear and carry different objects to expose your puppy in a positive environment.

Socializing your puppy to people is much easier than to other dogs and puppies, but you still need to watch your puppy’s reactions and remove them if the situation becomes too stressful to them.  You can start by getting help from friends and family by inviting them over to spend some time with your puppy.  Then taking your puppy out on the front lawn or public park is a great place to get more exposure.  People are naturally drawn to puppies so it usually takes little promoting from you to solicit free help.  Just be sure to educate the people on proper interaction with your dog and be sure to have treats if your puppy needs encouragement in the meet and greet process.  You will want to avoid exposure to other dogs, however as this is a time when your puppy is susceptible to disease and little to no control of the behavior of the other dog.

When your puppy is comfortable with low traffic areas you can start taking them to higher traffic areas.  Just be ready to break up crowds if they form and start to stress your puppy.  Going to a park with a playground is a fun place to meet with kids of all sizes, strollers and such.  If you are lucky your park will also have bicycles and roller bladers.  Remember to have treats ready to help encourage your puppy or to distract them if they become scared.  Puppy kindergarten classes are a great place to start your puppy as well.  They will get exposure to different people and puppies in a friendly and controlled environment.

Take it slow, keep it as positive as possible and most important, keep your puppy safe.  See each obstacle as a training opportunity that will help your puppy become a more well-rounded and secure adult member of society.

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How to Socialize Your Puppy with Adult Dogs

Iusing sibling rivalry in trainingn our first article we talked about socializing your puppy with other puppies and how to read some of the body language of your dogs.  It is equally important to socialize your puppy with adult dogs and while this is natural for homes with multiple dogs, those with only puppy need some details on how to safely introduce puppy to an adult.

First off, you should make yourself familiar with calming or displacement signals the dogs may display so you do not mistaken them for aggressive or fear responses. This kind of communication is important to the development of a healthy, happy puppy.  They will use these signals for the rest of their life in order to solve fear, aggression or to help calm one another and avoid physical confrontations.

You will see it in puppy to puppy introductions as they try to determine pecking order and in puppy to adult introductions they are highly important allowing dominant dogs to let frightened pups know that they mean no harm. Puppies will use the same signals to show they mean no harm to adult dogs in order to appease the “top dog” and avoid attack.

Once you know and understand these signals you may recognize them when your dog gives them to you.  A great example is when your dog acts guilty for an incorrect action.  He isn’t really guilty he is using appeasement and displacement signals trying to let you know he intends no harm in order to calm you and get you to stop yelling or acting aggressive toward him.

The most common calming signals include:  Averting the eyes, turning the head away, licking his lips, yawning, sniffing, lifting a front paw, freezing, moving very slowly, sitting with back to you or other dogs, laying down, crawling with tail wagging hard and approaching you or other dogs in a curved path with arc to body.

You may see some or all of these behaviors when introducing a puppy to other dogs.  You will want to be sure the other dog reads these signals and reciprocates with non-aggressive behaviors.  Your priority is to keep your puppy safe and happy especially when meeting larger, older dogs.

When you are ready to introduce your puppy to an older dog you want to be in a safe secure area and use an older dog that has a history of being kind to puppies.  If you have an older dog in your home that has not been around puppies you will need to take it very slow and be sure to remove the puppy at the hint of aggressive behavior by the older dog.  In most cases it is safest to take both dogs to a neutral location so the older dog does not feel the need to “protect” his home from the pint sized intruder.

You will start with both dogs on leash and allow them to investigate their new comrade and surroundings with as little interference from you as possible.  It is important to know you should NOT use retractable leashes during these introductions.  In fact, you should not use a leash longer than 6′ as you do not want them to get tangled or the dogs get too far away for quick intervention.  A really great way to start introductions is by allowing the dogs to sniff the ground where the other dog has been before bringing them together.  This allows them to get information about each other before they actually greet.

You will allow them to come together and sniff each other to continue to learn more about each other while keeping a close eye on them.  Your puppy should show submission to an older dog, but not be forced to do so by the older dog.  The best older dogs to use are ones that are willing to have the puppy be near after the initial greeting, allowing the puppy to follow along and continue learning.

This kind of healthy interaction is crucial to the rounding out of your puppies communication skills and helps them to be welcome in their community especially when you plan on competing with them in dog agility or other dog sports.  They wont have the same level of fear and apprehension as a poorly socialize dog.

Remember you want to start these interactions before the puppy is 16 weeks of age.  After this age they are not fully capable of learning canine language and it could actual have an adverse affect on them for the rest of their life.  Also remember to keep it positive and safe for your puppy as negative interactions at this age can have equally disastrous effects.

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How to Teach Bicycle Riding To Get Your Agility Dog Fit

get your agility dog fit with bicyclingWe all need a little change of pace from time to time and so do our dogs.  Learning how to run on leash next to a bicycle not only makes exercising you and your dog easier, it also gives you both a change of pace.  If you live in a beach state it means you and your dog can enjoy time at the beach while getting needed exercise.  For those living in rural areas it means being able to venture farther and enjoy even more of the great outdoors while exercising.  And for those of you, like me, that do not enjoy jogging it means a more fun way to ensure you and your dog is in top condition for their dog agility careers.

Before even pulling your bike out of the garage you will need to do some preliminary training with your dog.  Most agility dogs have or will learn simple directional commands such as left, right, by me, easy and here.  Make sure your dog is comfortable with doing these commands while walking on a leash like they will be next to the bike.  You don’t want to use an obedience style heeling position command as the dog could get too close to the bike and get caught up in the wheels, pedals or chain.  You want your dog next to you but at a safe distance.

You should also invest in the proper equipment that will keep you and your dog safe and comfortable during exercise sessions.  Essentials include a non-tangling lead; a body harness, never use a choke collar and a slip collar could, well, slip off; a reflective vest for your dog or reflective tape on a bright dog vest; a small first aid kit that includes vet wrap and gauze for your dog and water bottles for you and your dog.  Extras include: a bike lead baton that attaches to the bike to keep the dog clear of the wheels and pedals and an extra leash in case you need to stop and detach your dog from the bike; a doggie backpack if you need help carrying water bottles and your dog may appreciate hiking grade booties if you will be biking in areas that are hot, cold or rough terrain.  If you will be riding at dawn or dusk you will want blinking lights for your bike and for your dog via a lighted collar or tag lights.  In most states this is the law.

You will also want to clear your exercise regimen with your vet to be sure there are no underlying conditions your dog has that could cause this type of exercise to do him harm.  If your dog is over weight your vet should instruct you on a feed and exercise program that will get them to a safe weight to take on this kind of work load as well.  In fact, depending on your health you too may want to confer with your doctor before starting your new routine as well.  Once you both have gotten the doctor’s ok, you are ready to start.

You don’t want to throw a collar on your dog, jump on a bike and go, however, you need to take time to teach your dog proper biking etiquette.  This will keep you both safe from injury or crashes that could easily occur if your dog gets spooked by the bicycle or sees a critter that needs chasing.  First make sure your dog is comfortable being around your bike without getting on it.  Move them around the bike and let them check it out.  If they are apprehensive about the bike use treats and work your dog at a distance they are comfortable and inch your way closer to it while working your dog.

When your dog is fine with the bike standing there, introduce them to the idea that the bicycle moves.  Roll the bike back and forth so they can see it move and if they are fearful be sure to click and treat every time they look at it and come near.  When your dog is comfortable with the bike moving you can either walk the bike and your dog or get on the bike and ride it at a comfortable walk speed for your dog.  Be sure to only go a short distance at first, say a block or two and gradually build up distance and speed.  During your practice runs is when you will also want to add your directional commands.  You need your dog solid and comfortable with them before adding any speed to your sessions.

When you increase time, distance or speed you will want to keep a careful eye on your dog especially in inclement weather such as heat and humidity.  Stop if you see your dog panting heavily, drooling excessively, or losing coordination.  This could be a sign of hyperthermia.  Stop and give your dog a breather if they seem to be slowing or appears to be tired.  In both cases be sure to find shade for your dog and let them have time to get a drink.  Do not increase the work load until your dog is comfortable and able to maintain the current load without these symptoms.  If your dog does display any of these you may need to make your increases smaller.

Be sure to stop and give your dog breaks and let them know what a great exercise partner they are being.  Remember, they are doing more work than you in most cases so don’t wait until you are tired to take a pit stop.  Watch your dog and stop when they need a break.  Best of luck and have fun enjoying the scenery and your dog’s company.

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