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Discussion Starter #1
Thanks again for everyone on the site who generously shares their knowledge and experience. I was able to play with my pup in the front yard on a long leash... while the neighbor kids played and waited for the bus on the other side of the street. Good engagement with that level of distraction would not have happened last week.

I have been reading about the stages of puppy development. The consensus seems to be the optimal age for imprinting, and therefor, socialization is about eight weeks. Then the pup tends to go into a more cautious stage at about 16 weeks.

If we miss that optimal window, have we permanently lost anything, or is socialization still possiable, just a bit more work (and required a bit more time and patience) for older puppies?
 

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It really depends on your pup's genetics/temperament. I have heard of a dog that was kept in a barn for two years and it had great temperament and was social. It is ideal to expose puppies to as many things as possible from an early age, but if your pup has good genetics, imprinting after the optimal time won't have any impact. The other side of the coin is that if your pup has bad genetics or the genetics for a low threshold for defense, or a shy, nervy dog, imprinting will do little regarding socialization.
 

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dogs are what they are. My girl was socialized and loved people. Now that she's mature, her suspicion is coming thru and she doesn't like strangers approaching her. She's not reacting in fear. She's just angry. My boy was barely socialized and he's pretty ok with anyone unless they get in my space.
 

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Nothing is set in stone, dogs developmental stages do vary, as do their core temperaments that they are born with. The best you can do is to keep putting effort into your dog, there is never a day that will be "too late" to work with things with your dog. Even older dogs with serious fear or other issues can be de-sensitized and worked with, it's just easier in a younger puppy.

Puppies will usually start to lose their openness around 4 to 5 months old that I have seen, but if they already have stability and trust with you, then you can continue to de-sensitize them to all sorts of things. However, some dogs are naturally just not very sociable, so if you are expecting that out of your dog and haven't seen it yet, chances are it's not part of their personality! My female GSD is not sociable to outsiders at all. She is not even particularly tolerant, she is the opposite. She will never be pleased to have strangers around, however, I have taken her to large metropolitan areas on my travels. She can walk in crowds of people and seem composed (but that took a fair amount of conditioning).
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks, That gives me hope. We will both keep practicing. I am trying to read his moods so that I can tell as he switches between interested, excited, anxious, and angry. Then practicing getting his attention back on me before he elevates to the point of no return.

More importantly, I need to learn to tell when I escalate from optimistic to frustrated so we can both take a break to regroup and try again.

The experts make it looks so easy :)
 

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What exactly do you think socialization is? All you have to do is expose your puppy to his environment. What are you getting frustrated about? What is this "point of no return"? Just let them sniff, lick and feel their environment while also building engagement with you. no flooding with people. No flooding with other dogs.

 

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Discussion Starter #7
I am using the definition of socialization as "Dogs need to see the world and handle it with social grace."

By way of a little background. (I got a 4-month-old puppy two weeks ago.) The family gave the pup to their grown son. They said their son didn't have time for the pup so he gave it back to them. My guess is that the pups history is a bit more complicated than that. He immediately pooped or peeded when he went in his crate. Then he would start to whimper.

We are getting the crate thing taken care of by spreading 1/2 cup kibble on the floor of his crate after we come in from playing. While he is busy eating, I can close the door and go to my desk about 5 feet away. He will sleep contently until his next potty break.

Over the past two weeks, I have slowly been moving farther away. For brief periods of time, I go into another room where he can't see me. It is not to the point where he looks up at me but doesn't stir when I leave. We have been making slow steady progress on, 'My crate is a great place to nap.'

With regard to Socialization.... My pup takes a long time to get comfortable anywhere new. His hackles go up, and he acts jittery. I am still trying to figure out the difference between anxious, frustrated, and angry.

In general, I have been encouraging him to slowly explore new places on a 20-foot lead. If he starts to look anxious, I tell him to look back at me to see that I am calm. If his anxiety continues to rise, I recall him to redirect his full attention back to me. We are getting to the point where a quick redirect of his attention back to me calms him down most of the time. The rest of the time a recall, full focus on me, and calming walking away from the source of the anxiety is enough.

Every one in a while it appears that his stress raises rapidly. Too rapidly for me to redirect his attention. A that, point he starts to bark and lunge toward the source. After he crosses that 'point of no return.' We need to calmly leave the area and give him a few minutes to settle down.

My current approach is to focus on our relationship and then gradually explore the world one piece at a time. If pup gets overwhelmed we step back and revisit that place in a few days.

One other point of note is that after one of these outing he usually goes into a really sound sleep. Sometimes the sleep is so deep that he doesn't notice a family member coming home. His eyes twitch and jump beneath his eyelids as if he is reprocessing the experience.
 

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Temperament is to a large degree, genetic. I've heard of dogs that spent their lives in puppy mills, never interacting with other dogs, except to be bred or raise puppies, never knowing anything but a cage. Some of these dogs have gone on to be wonderful pets, with the help of an experienced foster home. Others are so scared of everything in their new environment that they have to be euthanized.

Read the link Jax posted by Mon Anstee, and subscribe to her blog. She has currently just finished rehabbing a dog named Leppy who was born to a mom that was a street dog. She has tremendous insight into working with problem dogs, and knowing how to socialize them and get them ready for a forever home.
 

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One other point of note is that after one of these outing he usually goes into a really sound sleep. Sometimes the sleep is so deep that he doesn't notice a family member coming home. His eyes twitch and jump beneath his eyelids as if he is reprocessing the experience.
It's interesting that you say that! Scientists have speculated that one of the reason newborns and young children sleep so much is that they are processing all the new things they've experienced while they are sleeping!
 

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With regard to Socialization.... My pup takes a long time to get comfortable anywhere new. His hackles go up, and he acts jittery. I am still trying to figure out the difference between anxious, frustrated, and angry.
That's not anger in a 4 month old. If he's loose on the lead, I doubt it's frustration either. That sounds most like anxiety to me. I would do exactly as you are already doing.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks everyone,

In my naive eyes, pup is awesome. His is high energy (for me) and really curious. I am constantly working to find things for him to do to keep him from getting into trouble.

We will just take it slow. I took six desensitization trips, but he is now perfectly happy to play 'find it' anywhere in the vet's office. The first time we went the sent us home and asked us to come back the next day after taking trazodone.

I am working with a local dog trainer for weekly reactive dog sessions. They are one dog - one owner - one trainer. I hope the trainer can keep me pointed in the right direction.

Subscribed to the recommended blog.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Ok, I am supposed to make a follow up for shots in a month. I'll do more research before then into the local vet situation.

I also have to make the neuter/not neuter decision. It looks like I have some learning to do on those subjects as well.
 

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I will tell you why I think genetics are about 70% of the dog’s behavior in public and in general. Time spent with the dam and litter also contribute, but far less.
I currently have two German Shepherds.
Both have been trained and socialized in the exact same way. One is 8 and nervy and still submissive pees for strangers. The other is rock solid, calm and friendly and confident.
My puppy comes from a line of calm, confident dogs.
He also spent considerably more time interacting with children, people, and other dogs, from birth to 10 weeks. My older dog did not, and was taken away from his litter and dam at about 6 1/2 weeks, to be crate trained.

Hans comes from lines that can be sharp, according to Cliffson, who looked at his pedigree years ago. I love Hans dearly, but will never get another dog like him.

A giant part of the dog’s character is inherited, and I have found that it doesn’t change no matter what I do.
That is my experience.
 

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Ok, I am supposed to make a follow up for shots in a month. I'll do more research before then into the local vet situation.

I also have to make the neuter/not neuter decision. It looks like I have some learning to do on those subjects as well.
You have months to make that decision. Let your dog mature.
 

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Chip,
No need to argue; I said in the first sentence, 70% genetic., and that a giant part is inherited. The time spent with litter and dam is a smaller part.
I edited to clarify what I meant.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Luckily, I met the Dam, Sire, and one littermate
They were what I think of as great pet dogs. High energy running around the yard. None of the dogs went nuts when another stranger came in the yard or house to look at the other pup. Calm and respectful in the house. The adult dogs took a nap in the living room, and the pups played in the kitchen with two of the family's kids. When my pup got too rowdy, dad rumbled at him to settle down, and he did.

EDIT: After a bit more reflection I think that it is my attitude that needs to change:(

Instead of focusing on the big picture of "Seeing the world and handle it with social grace." We are going to focus on little challenges to build confidence. Hopefully, this will scale up to 'Seeing the world and handle it with social grace.'
 
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