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June 5, 2014

Everything I’ve Learned About Dog Socialization

No doubt it’s a big world out there. But is it big and scary? Or big and exciting? Well, that all depends on how you look at it. “Hey bro, I can’t see. Is it scary or exciting!?” For my first dog, a terrier named Blitzen, I treated the
No doubt it’s a big world out there. But is it big and scary? Or big and exciting? Well, that all depends on how you look at it.

“Hey bro, I can’t see. Is it scary or exciting!?”

For my first dog, a terrier named Blitzen, I treated the world as big and scary. When he was a puppy I worried he might get parvo or some other illness so I never took him far from home. I kept our outings short, uneventful and far away from dogs who might get my puppy sick. I loved Blitzen like crazy and did everything I thought best to keep him safe and healthy. It wasn’t until Blitzen was older and had his full vaccinations that I felt comfortable introducing him to new people, dogs and places. Despite my coaxing, Blitzen was wary and uninterested in these novel experiences. Blitzen was a loving and loyal family pup, but he was also an unequivocal homebody. Years later I realized my efforts to protect and nurture Blitzen were well intentioned but misguided. The more I learned about proper socialization the more I realized how invaluable it is to expose your dog to novel stimuli in a positive way.

“Ooooh, looks like lots of new stuff out there!”“Ok bro, so do we like the stuff out there or not?”

If you only knew Eko, you wouldn’t believe Ridgebacks have an anti-social reputation. With guidance from John, Eko’s breeder, I launched a socialization blitz for puppy-Eko that included everything from group puppy classes to family parties. Wherever I went, Eko came, and I made sure he had a blast. My efforts helped shape Eko into the extroverted and adventurous pup he is today.

Currently Penny is smack dab in the middle of the “socialization window,” the time up through about 16 weeks when dogs form their base personality and behavior patterns. Socialization is a lifelong process for pups, but these formative early months are extremely important. Penny won’t have her full vaccination schedule completed until after this initial period is over, but my veterinarian agrees socialization is too important to Penny’s development to miss out on.

As with Eko, I plan to have countless adventures with Penny, but for the next month I plan to make an extra effort to have her see as much of this big and exciting world as I can show her. The more people she can meet, the more (healthy, vaccinated) dogs she can play with, the better. Socialization also happens to be a lot of fun.

Penny introducing herself to my friend James

 Penny loved checking out all the people on the patio when we went out for lunch. I was happy to see how comfortable she was with the commotion. Not only was she not overwhelmed, but she had no trouble taking a nap

Exploring the world with a smile

This big world can be scary, but with Eko and me by her side, I think Penny will learn the scariest thing is missing out on all the fun and exciting adventures the world has to offer.

I’m always looking for new experiences for Penny, so if you have any socialization tips or suggestions be sure to let me know!

Comments for Everything I’ve Learned About Dog Socialization

  1. Victoria says:

    you are great at socializing your puppy family – i can tell from all the adventures and pictures of what you and Eko do and Penny will really benefit from that too.- i, like you was worried about my puppy, (oddly enough our second one) and listened to some bad advice about not getting her around any puppies who might not be vaccinated so now Muffin is not nearly as good socially as she should be – we work on it now but its not the same as taking care of it during their puppy stage – its 100 times much harder

  2. Emmadog says:

    You need to keep it up forever. I used to love other dogs, but in the US we can’t go many places and now I don’t really like new dogs much. Mom is determined that Bailie never has that happen. Bailie goes to 1 half day of daycare a week. It teaches her to be with other dogs and also to be on her own. We get real dependent on us sisters always being there which can also cause issues. If BlogPaws is any indication, Bailie is doing great. Now to keep it up, but with all the classes and activities it should be fine.

  3. That’s a great plan and I bet that’s the right way to have really fun to meet other dogs and people. Easy loves all dogs , except they are black or a a Vizla <—that's crazy, no idea why, I'm a little sad I would like a photo of Easy and his hungarian brothers :o)

  4. Ellen Quilty says:

    You are so smart to do this.Not only will you have a better dog because of it but you will have so much fun in the process.Of course you already know this since you have done such a good job with Eko.My three year old Ridgeback Nikki like Eko came from a great breeder and had a naturally outgoing personality which I nurtured.We took every obedience class and fun class the local doggie school offered,She got her Canine Good Citizen Certificate and became a Certified Therapy Dog before the age of two.When she was young she went everywhere with me and met at least three new people and went to five different places every week.Twice a week we went to a park and hung around as I fed her her breakfast little by little as she took in the world.She is so good now that when I hurt my foot and was hobbling around in a surgical boot people came up and asked me about my “Service Dog”!

  5. raisingdaisy says:

    I think you’re doing a great job socializing Penny. And those pictures are priceless!

  6. Kuruk says:

    Penny, you have pawesome pawrents and big bro! Be brave and have fun socializing. I had no socialization my first 2 years, but Mama worked furry hard and now I am only a little shy. You are a furry lucky puppy girl! Wooooooowooooooooo!

  7. I’m totally getting the “I want to hold/play” feeling with Penny.

    I know that Arizona has courses to teach puppies/dogs to stay away from snakes and all things venomous. Chicago doesn’t have that problem. But maybe a play date??

  8. So many behavior problems down the road can be curbed with proper socialization. I’m so glad you’re getting Penny out and about and getting her used to all the fun that is out there in the world.

    One thing that might be nice is to enroll her in a puppy socialization class. This way she can meet other puppies and be friends with dogs other than Eko. Plus these classes are a great way to start working on obedience!

  9. Mags Corner says:

    We are so far behind on blogs. Just watched the video and read all the posts we have missed. Love Penny’s name. Eko is such a sweetheart and doing so well helping to train his little sister which is no surprise to us. You are super great with dogs Will and I can see a fun and wonderful future for you all with Penny. She is adorable! All of the pictures are great! Hugs and nose kisses

  10. Penny is going to be just fine, just like Eko. We got Dakota when he was already 8 months old so unfortunately we missed out on all of that. It could be the reason he is the homebody that he is! Wish I knew you back then!

  11. oooops! That comment was from Dakota, how did our cat get there? lol

  12. canineliving says:

    Reblogged this on Canine Living Raw and commented:
    Great post !

  13. Penny, we are absolutely LOVING every single post about you! It helps that Will has used voice overs in his videos in the past because now we read the posts IN HIS VOICE *BOL* We hope you and your bro have a grrreat weekend!
    Wally & Sammy

  14. fozziemum says:

    So very true..i made the same mistakes with Forrest as bigger dogs roughed him up..so I thought I was keeping him safe and in fact I created a problem for him..he and Doc both had tangles with big off leash ‘rude’ dogs as pups and I wish now I had not reacted as I had..you are doing juts great with Penny and the only Ridgeback I ever met was our old neighbours Doggy Barney…a social and happy Ridgey boy who still had to grow into his skin and feet 🙂 hugs Fozziemum xx

  15. Socialization is so important, so many people over look it.

  16. I’ve come back to comment on this post Will – I got interrupted by a small ball of fluff when I first read it 🙂 I just wanted to say thanks, perfect timing for me [again]. I was wrestling with just this issue – wanting to get Siddy out and socialising but having to wait for another 8 weeks before he is fully immunised. And like you I know that it is so important not to miss these early opportunities – I don’t want to raise a pup who is uncomfortable or unhappy in social situations. So off we go to puppy class – that’s a start!

  17. Oh my gosh, Penny is so freaking adorable, I can practically see her tail wagging through the Internet! Great advice for early socialization.

  18. Boomdeeadda says:

    awwwwwsome Will. That’s a cute photo of them both looking out the window. I completely understand your nervousness with your first dog. We’re so in love, we just want them to be safe. One thing we always did when out socializing was take the dog pillow whenever we went for the evening. Even if it was a campfire at the neighbours. After playtime and generous attention from everyone, both Jasper and then Buddy enjoyed climbing on their own pillow for a rest. It’s the safe place (near mom and dad) to watch the evening and we could easily peek back to the pillow to ensure he hadn’t wondered off, either around someones house or to dig up their garden. Our dogs always loved their pillows and the command ‘Pillow’ was our go to when we needed him to be out of the way or relaxed.

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