The Biggest Mistake Of All: SOCIALIZATION.
Dogs need to be socialized. That means that dogs need to SEE the world, and handle it with social grace. We need to teach them the skills and habits necessary for participating within our society. Unfortunately socialization got misunderstood as interacting and playing. While puppies do need to play with other puppies, this is a teenie, tiny piece in their education, but somehow became the only piece.
Here is a socialization list that I have been compiling for the last three puppies that I raised. This is the type of thing that I teach in my puppy class.
1) Ridden in a wheelbarrow.
2) Many, many bridges of different surfaces, widths, heights, gaps inbetween planks etc. She can now take a slippery plank over my pond at a gallop, and stay on!
3) Climbing Driftwood at the beach for footing, balance, and learning how to use her body
4) Climbing rocks at botanical beach. This rock is thin sheets, so you need to focus on your feet and balance.
5) Sooke Home Hardware
6) Pet Smart where she shopped - but be careful of overly-friendly strangers who may not heed your instructions
7) The Gorge Waterway past heavy traffic, an odd pedestrian bridge, people, bikes, dogs, joggers etc
8) Canadian Tire, with a slippery, shiny entrance that she didn't even notice
9) Many types of floor surfaces
10) Only one dog-park trip with most pass-bys done in my arms, and several on the ground with very safe, kind dogs.
11) One walk with a friend and her dog
12) Children, and sat outside playgrounds
13) Hung out with chickens, ducks, and goats. When the goats were really scary, she was on my lap being protected
14) Been tossed into a giant box stuffed full with Teddy Bears, then got covered with Teddies and had to crawl her way out
15) Had towels thrown over top of her head. We have now graduated to entire sheets
16) Been held for cuddling and kisses every night
17) Had her toe-nails worked on weekly, with a dremel
18) Been cuddled and kissed while she chews on her bones
19) We walk at a new beach, forest or Mountain every single day. We are yet to repeat a walk.
20) Got stuffed into my jacket so I was 'wearing her', and we went for a bike ride with the big dogs running beside us
21) Is crated every single day for varying lengths of times
22) Has travelled in two vehicles, in different types of crates or seating arrangements.
23) Has been to Dintner Nurseries, and made friends with all the staff inside.
24) Because she is so friendly, she has had to learn the art of walking past people without always saying hello. We walk past at least four out of five people without greeting, otherwise her friendliness with be annoying when she is big and strong.
25) Maybe one of the most important things: She can pee and poop on grass, gravel, asphalt, or cement, on a leash, or free. This makes traveling very simple.
26) Every day she is presented with small problems that she must solve... how to get her ball that rolled under the couch, how to get the marrow out of her bone, how to stay on a bridge without falling off, how to climb over a downed tree that is higher than she thinks she can climb. I help her but NEVER do it for her. And I only help enough so that she has the confidence to do the rest. If she puts in no effort, I will not help her.
27) She is learning to come running back fast on her name, no matter the distraction. If she is running with my dogs, saying 'hello' to the chickens, seeing a person that she want to run to - 'Come' means chase me.
28) The Boardwalk in Sooke. It is a walk on a raised bridge - and is a fabulous experience for puppies.
29) She is learning that scratching up at, and holding onto my adult dog's heads while you passionately kiss them is not allowed.
30) Play Dates with trusted dog-friends
31) Walk on all types of stairs.
32) Been in a boat
33) Go swimming with a slow steady introduction to water
34) gone into the petting zoo to see all the animals, and more importantly, all the children
35) Walked on the weird decks at Fisherman's Wharf and explored this fun place. Be careful your puppy does not get eaten by the seals - and no, I am not joking. Don't allow them on the edge, peering into the water, just incase!
36) Been to two friend’s houses for dinner, and met their dogs when they were calm so that they would not scare her
37) Watched an adult herding sheep. Her eyes almost popped out of her head
38) Been in a kayak, and knows how to jump on and off
39) Been in a hammock
40) Sat on my lap in a swing
41) Gone down a slide, in my lap
42) Numerous games of soccer, including me tackling the ball from her
43) Stayed in hotels, and another house, during vacation
44) This polite puppy has learned to demand what she wants from me. This will be removed when she is less polite!
45) Travelled in the child section of a shopping cart, all around Home Depot
Socialization means teaching life skills. I exposed them to every possible skill that she might need to be a functional adult. With all of the exposure and success comes a level of confidence and bravery; they will get to the point where they believe they are invincible. Even when they get into trouble, they know I am right there behind her to help her with her difficulties.
When they feel overwhelmed or scared, we do the experience in my arms, rather than on the floor. By not asking them to brave it, they watch from up high, and then starts wriggling like a mad things wanting to get down and do it themselves. Rather than asking them to try it, by taking that option away and making them feel safe they have to then demand that they be allowed to try it. Because it is their choice they are then brave as soon as they are put down on the ground.
My last puppy never did have one 'bad' experience. Unfortunately, it will happen, and even when it does, they will know that I am there to protect and help them. As they go on their adventures in the world, both good and bad, we are a team, and I have their back.