Socializing a Working Puppy... - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2012, 04:00 PM Thread Starter
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Socializing a Working Puppy...

In light of another thread that I recently read, I am curious about how others raise their Sport/Working prospect puppies. There was some confusion and questions in that thread regarding socialization etc.

I will go first.

I raise my puppies along the lines of a few methods but not solely describing to just one. I socialize, socialize,socialize my puppies so that they are outgoing, confident, fearless stable dogs when they mature. A lot of that has to do with genetics but IMO nuture does come into play. By socialize, I take them everywhere I can and expose them to thousands of new things, people and other animals.

I do NOT however, let just anyone pet my puppies. If I am busy training them to keep focus on me in distracting environments then I do not let other people pet them. After we work a few minutes(they are puppies afterall and need breaks), they may get to say hi to the next person that greets them as long as it is done on my terms which means puppy is sitting and doesn't rush to greet them. I want my dogs looking to me for the OK to say Hi before they just do it themselves. I do not allow people to give my puppies commands or try and make them do anything. It is my puppy and that means it is of no concern to the other person if the puppy can sit or not! I also do not allow store clerks to give them cookies at a young age, for one the cookies are usually gross kinds and two, I want my puppy looking to me for treats and goodies for the first part of their life. Just personal preference.

AS my puppies get older, I do allow people to give them a cookie, but they can only take it after I tell them it is ok. This is for a few reasons, I don't want to be walking my dog in a crowded environment(Pikes Place Market) and have them reach out and snatch a little kids food. I also do not like strangers giving them treats as there are some crazy people out there and I always worry about them getting poisoned. I find by teaching them they can not take food from anyone without my permission, it stops a myriad of potential behaviors IME.

Now, I feel my dogs are extremely well socialized. My puppy, non-GSD, is unflappable in any environment, NOTHING scares her yet. I feel that most of that is due to early socialization/exposure to things. My dogs do visits at a Nursing Home and are very polite and well behaved there, so they are well socialized using the methods that I do to raise/socialize them.

What are other ways that people raise/socialize their working prospects??

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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2012, 04:43 PM
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I am raising my first working pup now. He is 9 months old. I have pretty much taken him every where with me. I gave up, early on in the processes, on the idea of not letting people gush over him. Now that he is bigger it is not so much of a problem. However, he also no longer acts interested in being gushed over like he did when he was very small. He is now much more aloof and disinterested in strangers. I have struggled to foster the same disinterest in other dogs though. He still gets quite excited to see other dogs. We are working on this though.

He is very confident in any environment. We go into stores, I take him to both my wife's work and my own work. He can walk through a crowd, go into dark rooms, walk up and down stairs, over shiny floors and elevated platforms with no problems. He never acts sharp with strangers. Some times he will just stand looking at someone who is giving him attention with his tail barely wagging.

He will bark at the dark and shady looking character walking down the road though.

I know I have made mistakes with him though. Not necessarily with socialization but in other areas like doing too much obedience training as a pup. This is another topic that goes into the subject of raising a working pup and probably deserves its own thread.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2012, 04:44 PM
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I used a similar approach. I want my dog to ultimately be comfortable in as many environments as he may be exposed to. I did not let everyone pet my pup, but selectively allowed physical interaction as a part of his training. In other words if a 2 year old wanted to pet him and I had not let a child of that age physically interact with him in the past and the child was not going to pounce on him, then it was allowed. Did I let evey 2 year old do that, no.

I think as you stated, a controlled yet diverse set of experiences both in just basic exposure as well as pysical interaction is a good balance. It is also a factor of Temperament and knowing you pups limitations and adjusting appropriately.

As my dog has matured it is evident that he is confident and friendly yet starting to become somewhat aloof. If I allow him, he says hello gets a pet and then he just moves along or I move him along.
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2012, 05:15 PM
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I have never really done anything special. We go to KPT classes that a friend and I teach. I will introduce them to the agility equipment. We go to club, we travel in the course of training the other dogs, I take classes, we train, we live life. I might take them to the pet stores when older to visit, but I don't go out of my way to socialize.

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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2012, 06:17 PM
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I socialize mine quite a bit but like Lisa I'm not really going out of my way to do it. I live in the city and I work on a college campus, so a simple walk around the block or having a puppy in a crate in my van for potty breaks at work means exposure to several dozen different people a day, lots of other "dog traffic" both in my neighborhood and on the college campus, plenty of new smells, sounds, and textures. I try to take the puppy to a new place everyday but again, I'm going all over all the time so it's not hard. I take them to see my relatives b/c we get together every Sunday, I take them to my parents b/c I stop there on a routine basis anyway, I take them to the pet store since I'm picking up food on the way home. For the first few months I take my puppies to work with me since I can't get home during the day to potty train them. I get two really short breaks and one longer lunch break and use these to let the puppy out. On the longer break we walk around the campus and encounter hundreds of people and all sorts of different situations. Dogs aren't allowed indoors but sometimes we sneak in quick and visit dog-friendly offices. My dogs are sort of like mascots on campus (just today someone was complaining he hasn't seen Pan in a while) and they are actually safer in my van at work than at my house, since my van is more secure, the parking lot is private (staff only) and patrolled 24/7, and the whole area is a nicer neighborhood (my house is not in a bad neighborhood but it's not as a nice and there have been break-ins lately). My boss actually encourages us to take our lunch breaks away from our desks so going outside with a puppy is refreshing when you work in a window-less basement and live in Michigan. If I didn't have a puppy I'd say it's too cold or too wet but when I have a puppy that needs to potty I always feel better getting some fresh air and hopefully a glimmer of sunlight.

I don't generally carry treats for people to give my dogs but if someone asks to pet my puppy I'll let them. Likewise when we see someone that appears uncomfortable with dogs we move over and take it as an opportunity to practice being polite. I don't really do a lot of training, we just walk around for exercise.

I don't really do it because I think it matters all that much; I think how a pup will react to things is primarily genetic, and a lot of the reactions I do see with a baby puppy will change over time. For example Nikon used to get kissy-faced with any old stranger and now he's extremely aloof and neutral towards everyone but me. Pan has actually gotten a bit more social than he was as a baby. When I first got him he walked around like he was king of the world and paid no attention to anyone or anything, he was very confident but not in a pushy, bratty way. Now he's 18 months and not any less confident but more likely to solicit attention from other people or want to interact with other dogs. I suspect this will continue to change over time, since I still refer to him as "my puppy".

For me "socialization" is mainly about the opportunity to observe my dog and see if their reactions to things are different than what I expected, and also a way to encourage the dog *not* to become overly social but be able to ignore all sorts of distractions. Plus, my dogs are my buddies and I simply enjoy their company.

Last edited by Liesje; 02-23-2012 at 06:23 PM.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2012, 06:34 PM Thread Starter
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Good posts everyone!

I don't go out of my way to socialize either...It just happens living everyday life where dogs are a big part. I try and follow some basic guidlines I set for myself cause I do better with structure for everything. lol

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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2012, 07:25 PM
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Karlo is the only dog I train in IPO. Though I don't really consider him a 'working dog'.

When he was a pup, I wanted to expose him to everything but not so much socialize him with people/dogs. He played well with my two females and was confident from the get go.
I didn't really ever have people give him treats and stayed away from the pet stores.
We attended Memorial day parades, parties, boat rides, youth group and went for long car rides.
He was exposed to high speed and freight trains, gunshot, horses, cows, llama's, sirens, trampoline, bridges, thunderstorm on a boat(rain/wind for 1/2 hour til we docked) and other dogs/pups but always supervised. This was just the everyday life, nothing I sought out but made a point of bringing him if possible.

He took everything in stride and never balked when something new was introduced.

I took him to an obedience class but didn't overdo some of the lessons. He was the youngest in the class, but one of the best behaved/trained for his age! This was all in his first 4 months of life.
We started going to SchH club around 10 weeks of age and continued weekly(changing clubs 4 times in his first 18 mos).
If I had to do over, I'd probably focus on obedience more structured early on, because I let him be a puppy and just 'worked on our bond' for the first year of his life.
Even though we were going to a club, it wasn't really stressed to push the pups(from any of them).
He did protection work from the get go, and had good instruction/helperwork at all clubs. Never really has been a prey dog, though. He likes to fight more than the game of winning a sleeve.
My goal isn't the nationals or podium, it is having a great time with my dog. If I had other goals, I may have a much more structured day to day life with my partner.

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Last edited by onyx'girl; 02-23-2012 at 07:27 PM.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2012, 11:20 PM
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I don't really socialize, but rely 90% on genetics. If the nerves are solid the pup should be able to make the adjustment. I take them to training at 8 weeks, and my grandkids come over on Sunday....but going to stores, malls, petsmart, etc....can't say that I do. But everyone does what works for them.
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-24-2012, 08:07 AM
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tho I always take my puppy at the time, everywhere, I also don't go out of the way to do anything specific to socialize , I tend to agree if it's there it's in the genes ..


Something I found VERY interesting but not surprising,,a friend told me this , she knows a very well known breeder who has awesome dogs..kept 3 back in a litter didn't do 'anything' with them, nada,,took them out at 4-5 months and exposed them to the big wide world and they were just "fine" with EVERYTHING...that to me is good genes...there's a little more to it, but not for me to really say,,but again, good genetic background..

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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-24-2012, 08:40 AM
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I agree it is genetic. If I took Onyx to all of the places Karlo went, she would have been overwhelmed/past her threshold.
Too much 'socializing' on a dog with weaker nerves won't make them better, if anything it will take you back several steps.

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