The number one reason dogs get taken to shelters and the number one reason for euthanasia is directly related to behavior that the owner can't deal with. And bad behavior most often is directly related to poor socialization and a lack of basic obedience training.
We've discussed how to minimize problems by doing every thing you can to pick the right type of dog that suits your situation and some tips on picking the right individual. Once you've made it past these hurdles the work and fun is just beginning.
And that's what we'll cover today, more on socialization and basic obedience training.
In reality, socialization begins shortly after birth as the pup begins to interact with his mother and his litter mates. This pack socialization period is critical and should last at least the first seven weeks of a puppy's life. If we remove them too early they miss out on this learning experience and can often have difficulty interacting with both other dogs and people.
If we remove them from the litter to late, say after 12 weeks, they may have trouble interacting with people.
Early socialization involves exposing the pup to a variety of experiences or stimuli that they are likely to encounter throughout their lives. They should meet people and dogs of different sizes and in different locations. They should be exposed to noises, short car rides and different surface textures as early as possible.
One caveat is that it is important for you, the owner, to control these experiences as much as possible to help ensure that they are pleasant. For example, it's hard to control which dogs your pup will encounter at the local dog park. It would be much better to expose your pup to other puppies at a group training session. We would hope that people attending this type of session are trying to accomplish the same objectives as you and you have the added benefit of having a professional trainer helping create the proper learning environment.
Purina has a relationship with Triple Crown Dog Academy in Texas. My friend Ernie Planck, the Director Emeritus of our Breeder Enthusiast Group at Purina, was very impressed with the quality of training he witnessed at Triple Crown.
Triple crown offers several helpful socialization and training tips that you can download from their site. They offer training classes and all kinds of training aids and toys. I'd encourage group classes for the added socialization and oddly enough, the added distraction and confusion. Learning in this environment is more like real life, teaching your pup to focus on you and will help you control your pet when you are out in public. You should also be able to find good group classes in your area. Ask your vet or adoption shelter for a list of qualified trainers.
One of the pamphlets you can download free is a great discussion of how dogs learn. Understanding a little about dog behavior is key to being successful in your attempts to create a model canine citizen.
For instance, did you know that you have a 1.5 second window to either encourage or discourage a particular behavior in a dog?. As they state in the pamphlet, if you come home to a mess in your house and your puppy comes up to you wagging his tail and looking for love and you punish him for the mess, he has no idea what you are punishing him for. In fact, he thinks you are punishing him for being affectionate. So what might seem like a normal reaction on your part is confusing and detrimental for the pup's development. Who Knew?
At a minimum your puppy should learn to sit, stay, come and heel on a lead. Once you have these commands down and you know how to train your pup properly and consistently you may want to progress to more advanced obedience training.
It's really fun and amazing to watch your dog learn and it's a tremendous way to establish a relationship built on love and trust that will last a lifetime. Darcie still loves to do tricks for Claire that she learned fifteen years ago. And it's a good thing we taught her to come with both verbal and hand signals because as we've mentioned before, she's as deaf as a post.
But we still love her a million worlds full.