Okaw Veterinary Clinic

140 W. Sale
Tuscola, IL 61953

(217)253-3221

okawvetclinic.com

 Socialization Before Obedience in Puppies

Puppies need to learn a lot about living in a home and much of it does not involve obedience. This may sound crazy but please, let me explain. Puppies who later grow up to be dogs, need to calm and accustomed to riding in a car, walking on a leash, playing in a backyard and ignoring people, bicycles and other dogs walking by, meeting strangers, hearing thunderstorms or loud noises, loud TV set, yelling people, active children and the list goes on. Being calm around these things is taught by having something good for them, usually treats or playtime, when all of this is happening at the tender age of 2-3 months old. In this short window of time, many puppies can associate good things will loud noises, other dogs, children, car rides, baths, etc if they get exposed to that often paired with a food reward. After 4 months of age, it is more difficult for that puppy to learn to accept these otherwise startling things, and the dog will tend to be tense or timid around them. As the dog ages, and has even less exposure they will become even more guarded and even possibly aggressive around strangers or loud people for example. This early exposure paired with a reward is socializing the puppy. Puppies who are out and about before their vaccines are finished are usually much more calm and even tempered around multiple settings. Dogs who are primarily in a yard, not leash walked or do not go to the groomer, the pet store or out and about until they are 6 months or older are much more difficult to handle around these situations.

There are some puppies who are genetically timid. At the early open period for socialization they may be timid around strangers or loud noises. These puppies must get help to reduce their fear to be able to socialize. One of the best products to use at this age is the mother dog pheromone spray Adaptil. This pheromone works on the calming center of the puppy's brain to activate calming. Now with the puppy less timid, they can take a food reward when riding in the car, going in the carrier, or meeting new people. When they take the treat, that is how they make that good association learning that these things are less scary. If your puppy is whining a lot, slow to come up to people, hiding or showing other signs of timidness at 2-3 months of age or older use this pheromone.   The puppy will not grow out of this. They will actually become worse with time.

The old advice to wait until a puppy has had all of its vaccinations before going to parks, or around other dogs or people is the opposite of what is best for your puppy. The University of Minnesota Veterinary College did a study of puppies who were not complete in vaccination that were taken to puppy classes, pet stores and other places to see if they became ill. Actually these puppies were healthier than those who were isolated until an older age. So these puppies were healthier and better behaved due to socializing before vaccines were done at 6 months.

If you did not get your puppy out for socialization it is not too late. You will need more treats, and to take events a little slower with an older puppy. If your puppy is pulling away, do not force the puppy to go to people. Toss the rewards, try going to a quieter place or start farther away. You do need to get your dog out, but you will need to go at a slower pace than a younger puppy. If your dog starts acting afraid of things like it had never been before, the open period is over and you must use rewards to help this dog not be so upset.

Obedience training for sit, come, stay, and heel is important. Puppies can learn these commands and should. A puppy will learn the obedience commands best if they have a foundation of socialization at the tender age of 8-12 weeks. Again, if you have missed socialization do not fear. You can still work on this with your puppy. If you are having difficulty with your puppy learning obedience it is likely they are stressed by training and socialization class would help them at this point with obedience coming later.

There are puppy classes in the area. What you want to see in a puppy class is supervised play time for a period - handling by different people - crate games - leash time outside - items that make loud noises with rewards (vacuum, hairdryers, alarms, etc) and trips to the veterinary clinic that are not scary.

Your puppy may learn a sit or come command but that would be the extent of obedience in the early puppy ages. A second obedience class would cover the come, sit down and more leash skills.

I cannot say enough about early socialization in puppies and how important it is. I have seen many problems with separation anxiety, inter dog aggression, noise anxiety, and stranger aggression which started as a puppy who was not exposed in a positive way to these things. Take the time to do this with your puppy! It will make for a much better life in the long run. I have articles on my website on puppy socialization and other topics under Pet and Health Care Articles and Behavior Articles.