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Environmental Socialization of Puppies

Environmental socialization begins at 4 weeks of age. If you have purchased a puppy from a responsible breeder, you will not obtain your puppy until at least 8 weeks of age. Environmental socialization consists of the stimulation of the canine’s various senses and neutralization of what the puppy may construe as negative stimuli. This is accomplished through daily practices of exposing the puppy to various stimuli. These are the environmental things that the puppy must become indifferent to.

Environmental socialization begins at 4 weeks of age but the new puppy owner obtains their puppy at 8 weeks of age and consists of stimulation of the canine’s various senses and neutralization to what the puppy may construe as negativity through daily practices of exposure to outside stimulus that the puppy must become indifferent to.
1.    Auditory Stimuli

Helping a puppy to not be afraid of or startled by loud noise is a beneficial aspect of environmental socialization. Puppies that are exposed to auditory stimuli from the beginning grow into more confident adult dogs.

  • Hand clapping close to the puppy when the puppy is looking and also when it is not looking.

  • Stomping of feet close to pup both when the puppy is looking and also when it is not looking.

  • Closing and slamming of automobile doors

  • Firecrackers set off at least 10 feet away. (This must be done while the pup is on a leash)

  • Expose your puppy to loud voices (yelling) without directing negative sounding corrective tone of voice towards the puppy

  • Loud vocal noises such as high-pitched screeches and whistles and children’s high-pitched voices.

  • Exposure to bells, horns, cymbals, drums, whistles.

  • Exposing the puppy to the sounds of cars, trucks, airplanes, helicopters, bicycle bells, or horns.


2.    Visual Stimuli

Puppies will be exposed to a wide variety of visual stimuli throughout their lives. Starting their experience while they're young will serve them well and prevent possible issues in the future.

  • Expose the puppy to darkness.

  • Bright lights and rotating lights such as also strobe lights. (Be careful not to shine light directly into the puppy’s eyes)

  • Fast-moving items such as cars, trucks, airplanes, trains, helicopters, boats, bicycles, ATVs, lawnmowers, and motorcycles. At all times keep the pup’s safety first & foremost in mind and always have the puppy on a leash.

  • Head out a vehicle’s window. (Not forcefully) Open the window and hold the puppy near the window. Allow the pup to choose to put its head out the window. It should instinctually want to investigate the sound of the wind and the movement of the air.

3.    Species Socialization

Exposing your puppy to a variety of species is crucial for puppy environmental socialization. Introduce puppies to as many species as possible including

  • Horses - present the puppy to the horse’s face gently and slowly. Allow the horse to sniff the pup and the pup to sniff the horse. (Do not allow the horse to lick or bite the pup) If done gently and calmly, it will be a good experience for both species. You do not want the pup to have a bad experience. Neither animal should be spooked. Do not force the pup towards the horse quickly. The best way to introduce a puppy to a horse is to hold the puppy back from the horse and allow the horse to advance towards the puppy, who should be in your arms, and let the horse sniff the pup. Then, move away from the horse slowly and return the puppy to the horse. We only want exposure, not an intimate friendship to develop.

  • Cats - Always supervise closely when introducing a cat to a new puppy Do not allow the cat to hiss at or scratch the pup. Remember, we do not want the puppy to have bad experiences which is why you must not allow the puppy to be scratched by a cat.

  • Humans - Adults, children (always supervised), and elders. It is important to expose pups to African-Americans, Latinos, Caucasians, Asians, and persons of all ethnicities. All should handle the pup face-to-face without the puppy being intimidated.

  • Farm animals - Always make sure that you keep the pup in your arms or on a leash in order to protect the pup from a bad experience.

  • Dogs - When it comes to other dogs, they can actually be the largest threat to a puppy. You do not know the temperament of other people’s dogs, or if they have been properly trained. Important: DO NOT trust a person when they say, “My dog is safe with or good with puppies.”  One bite from a strange dog can ruin a puppy. "Sorry" cannot turn time backward to have a second chance. Once the puppy has been hurt by another dog, it will be all too difficult to establish the pup’s trust again. The puppy will always display an inordinate amount of defense drive around other dogs thereby likely making the pup ineligible for good social ability with others.

4.    Handling

It is important to handle a puppy in a variety of ways including

  • Picking up the puppy.

  • Holding your puppy in various positions including upside down, but only momentarily.

  • Face-to-face interaction with the puppy.

  • Pick up front paws and walk pup on hind paws forward and backward in small increments and extend as neutralization occurs.

  • Pick up back paws (gently) and walk pup on front paws forward and backward in small increments and extend as neutralization occurs.

  • Put fingers in the mouth and ears of the puppy to neutralize it to such stimulation. Not deep in the ears, just enough to establish a tickling effect.

  • Touch the puppy's feet and nails often.

  • Begin cutting your puppy's nails immediately, only taking little clippings and making sounds like Whee! to make it a fun experience. If you cut too deep, into the quick, it will hurt the puppy and they will bleed making trimming your puppy's nails a negative experience. You can and should introduce a Dremel tool for grinding the nails. Begin with just the sound of the Dremel near them as they may be afraid of it. It’s a process of desensitization to get the puppy acclimated first to the sound and then to the vibrations of the Dremel tool. Dogs with long hair around the pads of their paws should not be exposed to a Dremel tool as the rotating head will tangle in the hair giving them a negative experience.

  • Blow in their nose, ears, mouth and eyes gently. This is not to startle the puppy but to arouse its curiosity.

  • Roll the puppy over on the ground in both directions, left and right.

  • Have the puppy go up inclines and down inclines. Challenge the puppy's nerves. This is to establish strong nerves.

  • When the puppy is on a leash. Do not drag or force the puppy. Always use a choke collar, never a flat nylon collar. This is for safety so the pup cannot back out of the flat collar and run into danger off-leash.

  • In getting a puppy used to a leash, you can get a puppy to follow easier than trying to get the puppy to lead or walk alongside.


5.    Ground Surfaces

Expose your puppy to a variety of ground surfaces including

  • Soil, both wet and dry, frozen and muddy.

  • Gravel and grass, both wet and dry.

  • Rocks, sand, grass, leaves, ice and snow. Avoid hot surfaces as the puppy's feet (pads) are sensitive.

  • Steel surfaces which should include subway gratings or similar surfaces.

  • Steps - Short sets of steps are ideal for this exercise to ensure that the pup cannot fall down a lengthy set of stairs. Put the puppy in the middle of the steps while off-leash. In this manner, the pup must go up or down the steps. If the steps are open on the sides, the pup will have the threat of falling off the sides and will be more inclined to go up or down. Do not worry about the pup falling off the sides. Pup will realize the danger of height. Work with the puppy until he or she goes up and down fearlessly and with ease. Puppies will usually go up the stairs before they go down. You may have to block off the stairs so that the puppy cannot go up and must go down.

  • Introduce your puppy to water. Do not throw the puppy in the water. Although the puppy will swim and not sink, this amounts to a negative experience and should not be done. Puppies should be introduced to water gently by allowing the puppy to begin in a bathtub with lukewarm water that is not too deep. Place the puppy in the water and allow him or her to have a ball in the water. Try to make it a positive experience. It is also possible for you to bait a puppy into the water of a lake by first going in yourself and coaxing the puppy to join you. At the ocean, the puppy will bite the waves after getting over its initial fear of the waves. That will become a problem because the puppy will vomit the saltwater in your vehicle. A lake, pond, or kiddy pool are better options.

  • Moving and/or rushing water of a brook or stream but not where the pup can get swept away by the current.

  • Puppies should be exposed to a bath weekly and you must make it a positive experience. Use a small pot to gently pour water over the puppy, or a detachable shower head in the bathtub.

  • Kiddy pool with 20 oz. plastic bottles. First introduce the puppy to crunching on a plastic bottle to become neutralized to the sound of the crunching plastic and the feel of the bottles, then to walk through a contained area of the bottles.

  • Concrete - Always be aware of the temperature of outdoor surfaces. Do not force the puppy to walk on the concrete If it is not too hot as puppy foot pads are not callused yet and are very tender and sensitive.

Desensitizing your puppy is an important part of training your puppy. In addition, you should consult a professional dog trainer to schedule puppy training sessions.

© 2022 Acacia Canine Academy

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