Sunday, November 18, 2012

Socializing Kelly

Kelly at the local fire station.
Kelly (Northrock’s Anchors Aweigh) is the puppy we kept from the Dougy x Coco litter.  We are enjoying her immensely.  She is a delightful mix of impish charm and cuddly sweetness.  She makes us laugh and keeps us on our toes, as we are ever watchful that she doesn’t get up to something that she shouldn’t.  Sophie is extraordinarily patient with her since Kelly jumps up and tugs on her as only silly puppies can do.  The two of them are getting along very well.  Quincy too is very patient.  He will usually rebuff her suggestions to play as her “style” of playing is really not to his liking.  She has learnt that an enticing bow and bum wiggle will more often yield positive results with getting him to play as opposed to the full on kamikaze body slam.
Visiting the pet store
Over the last several weeks we have continued to incorporate many opportunities to socialize Kelly to a myriad of different environments and situations.  The secondary socialization period ends at approximately 12 weeks of age.  Up until this point puppies are quite willing to approach new situations, and investigate new people and objects.  It is so important to expose them to as many novel experiences during this timeframe.  A broad range of positive interactions with people and places will help to foster a puppy’s confidence and she will learn that new and unusual things don’t have to be scary. 

After 12 to 13 weeks of age it’s normal for puppies to begin to show more reluctance and uncertainty about approaching something new.  We worked really hard to socialize Kelly lots in the preceding weeks and she has learnt that life and new experiences are fun.  It's not bad if your pup is initially worried about something new. What you want to see is the puppy “bounce back” from initially being afraid and go and approach whatever it is that she is worried about. 
Meeting the letter carrier
Through the years, I have come to understand that it’s our job to help our puppies to work through their trepidation and make sure their new experiences are positive and that they approach whatever it is that they are unsure of - on their own terms. It’s not helpful to coddle your puppy with lots of petting and “it’s okays”.   Puppies take their cues from us so we need to speak confidently and act confidently.  Try instead to say something along the lines of; “wow pup!  That garbage can just fell over, woo hoo let’s go check it out” In a sure and happy voice.  Sometimes it’s more helpful to not say anything at all.  Throw treats on the ground and encourage her to approach and sniff.  What do you do if she doesn’t want to go near it?  No problem.  Just redirect her focus and continue on your walk.  Try to come back to the can a little later and see how she does.  Start giving her treats as soon as she sees the can and see how close she is willing to get to it.  Chances are she will be much more likely to approach the can and check things out. 
Riding the bus
I’m getting better at training my dogs.  It certainly hasn’t happened over night and I will forever be grateful to Quincy for putting up with all of my sloppy handling and all of the mistakes I have made.  For some unbelievable reason he still loves me despite the fact that I am his biggest handicap.  The challenges I’ve had with him have inspired me to be a better trainer.  Over the years I’ve attended many seminars and classes and read tons of books and I’m still so hungry to learn more.

Graduating from puppy kindergarden
Although a critical window of socialization has now closed for Kelly we are continuing to introduce her to lots of new experiences. Our second round of puppy classes begins this week and we are really looking forward to it.  As you can probably tell I’m really enthusiastic about spending the time and making the effort to socialize puppies.  The payout is so worth it when you end up with a well-adjusted and confident adult dog that is a pleasure to be with wherever you are.  Besides we are having a tremendous amount of fun socializing our little puppy so why on earth would we stop?

New surfaces

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