Plans for Puppy: Socialize, Socialize, Socialize


I feel quite lucky that our breeder really has been socializing the puppies well during this critical time in their development. Before the age of six weeks, they had already attended two dog shows. At week six, seven puppies went to their first ice cream social. Next week, the breeder will be having a puppy social party where friendly (and disinfected) people are welcome to come handle, play with, and give treats to the puppies. Veterinary behaviorist Ian Dunbar recommends that puppies meet at least "100 new people in the first 100 days of life." Chances are good that my new puppy will have meet closer to 300 or 400 people by his 8 week birthday but I will diligently continue his socialization.

This is really fantastic news for me, but I am also excited that since I will be bringing my puppy home at eight weeks, I will have six full weeks left of critical puppy socialization periods to instill confidence and exuberance in my puppy.

Not long ago on the Dogster Behavior and Training blog, I wrote an entry called 111 Socialization Opportunities for Puppies. This will be the framework for our first six weeks together.

Since Jim and I are avid campers and love taking our dogs with us, we'll have to make sure he spends at least one night camping in a tent with us during this time. We also like spending our summers on or near water, so I'll be making sure I expose my puppy to rivers, creeks, pools, and baths and will start training him to swim before he reaches four months of age because I know that it will be easier to teach him to swim now than at any other point in his development.

He'll get fun visits to a friend's house. Even though I'll hate missing him for a night, I'll probably have him spend the night with a friend so he gets used to being in a new environment without me. (I think I have approximately 674 friends who would willingly volunteer to let him spend a night at their house.)

I am excited that when I go to pick my puppy up, I will be able to attend a veterinarian's appointment with him and make this a good experience. The trip home will be quite a socialization opportunity as well, involving three flights and two transports in major airports. At one of my destinations, he may very well need to go on his first subway train to transport us from one terminal to the next.

I'm assuming he'll be mobbed like a rock star at each stop, and have considered that security measures may be necessary to prevent him from getting overwhelmed. Because this will be a big day for him, I want him to meet as many new people as possible, but I also want to teach him that mom is on his side and will give him a break when he needs it, even if it means telling potential new friends, "he really needs a nap right now!"

To some, this socialization stuff may sound like a lot of work or an inconvenience. These people should probably not have puppies. To me, it sounds like a blast. I hope to take 1.5 gazillion pictures and videos of these experiences, many of which I plan on sharing with my fellow dogsters. Tomorrow, I'll talk about another very important puppy plan - hand feeding.

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