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Puppy socialization: Part I

Puppy Socialization Part II

Socialization is most critical for young dogs from 4 weeks to 4 months. However, maintaining your dog’s socialization is a life-long process. Your dog needs to be exposed to all sorts of people, environments, and different looking dogs. Socialization is accomplished by gradually allowing your dog to investigate different looking people, children, environments, objects, and dogs. It is critical that the dog is exposed to new stimuli on a voluntary basis and not forced to interact with beings or objects s/he is afraid of.

4 week-16 weeks = Socialization

• During this period, puppies need opportunities to meet other dogs and people.

• By four to six weeks they’re most influenced by their littermates and are learning about being a dog.

• From four to 12 weeks they’re most influenced by their littermates and people. They’re also learning to play, including social skills, inhibited bite, social structure/ranking and physical coordination.

• By three to five weeks they’re becoming aware of their surroundings, companions (dogs and

people) and relationships, including play.

• By five to seven weeks they’re developing curiosity and exploring new experiences. They need

positive "people" experiences during this time.

• By seven to nine weeks they’re refining they’re physical skills/coordination (including housetraining)and full use of senses.

• By eight to ten weeks they experience real fear -- when puppies can be alarmed by normal objects and experiences and need positive training.

• By nine to 12 weeks they’re refining reactions, social skills (appropriate interactions) with littermates and are exploring the environment, spaces and objects. Beginning to focus on people. This is a good time to begin training.

• Most influenced by "littermates" (playmates now include those of other species).

• Beginning to see and use ranking (dominant and submissive) within the pack, including humans.

• Teething (and associated chewing).

• At four months they experience another fear stage.

It is possible to accidentally force socialization on a dog. One way to do this is to cue a dog to touch something they are afraid of, or to use food to force them to go close to the being or object they fear.

Proper socialization is force free and completely voluntary on the dog’s part.

Many of us make the mistake of giving strangers food and basically forcing our dogs into a vulnerable position. Just wait, patience is a virtue. Let the puppy /dog figure this out for itself. Stand and talk to a friend sit on the ground let the puppy just experience this in its own time. If it’s a footing problem you can certainly toss food around on top of the floor but don’t force the puppy to “Get IT”.

Socialization is much more than just exposing your dog to your family and dogs and maybe a few kids in your neighborhood, this is a good start but not nearly enough for most dogs/puppies.

Socialization is taking the dog/ puppy everywhere you go exposing the dog/puppy to hundreds of people young and old alike and all kinds of dogs. You want your dog/puppy to meet many unfamiliar adults, young old in wheel chairs using crutches real life events school yards with lots of yelling and screaming kids, and dogs of all different sizes and colors. This socialization will need to continue throughout most of the dog’s life. An under-socialized dog is more likely to bite and or become stressed in unfamiliar environments and situations. Here is a schedule to follow:

The Puppy’s Rule of Socialization

Make sure all experiences are safe and positive for the puppy. Each encounter should include treats and lots of praise. Slow down and add distance if your puppy is scared!

By the time a puppy is 12 weeks old, it should have:

· Experienced many daily different surfaces: wood, woodchips, carpet, tile, cement, linoleum, grass, wet grass, dirt, mud, puddles, deep pea gravel, grates, uneven surfaces, on a table, on a chair, etc......

· Played with many different objects: fuzzy toys, big & small balls, hard toys, funny sounding toys, wooden items, paper or cardboard items, milk jugs, metal items, car keys, etc.......

· Experienced many different locations: front yard (daily), other people’s homes, school yard, lake, pond, river, boat, basement, elevator, car, moving car, garage, laundry room, kennel, veterinarian hospital (just to say hi & visit, lots of cookies, no vaccinations), grooming salon (just to say hi), etc....

· Met and played with many new people (outside of family): include children, adults (mostly men), elderly adults, people in wheelchairs, walkers, people with canes, crutches, hats, sunglasses, etc….

· Exposed to many different noises (ALWAYS keep positive and watch puppy’s comfort level – we don’t want the puppy scared): garage door opening, doorbell, children playing, babies screaming, big trucks, Harley motorcycles, skateboards, washing machine, shopping carts rolling, power boat, clapping, loud singing, pan dropping, horses neighing, vacuums, lawnmowers, birthday party, etc…

· Exposed to many fast moving objects (don’t allow to chase): skateboards, roller-skates, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, people running, cats running, scooters, vacuums, children running, children playing soccer, squirrels, cats, horses running, cows running, etc…

· Experienced many different challenges: climb on, in, off and around a box, go through a cardboard tunnel, climb up and down steps, climb over obstacles, play hide & seek, go in and out a doorway with a step up or down, exposed to an electric sliding door, umbrella, balloons, walk on a wobbly table (plank of wood with a small rock underneath), jump over a broom, climb over a log, bathtub (and bath) etc....

· Handled by owner (& family) many times a week: hold under arm (like a football), hold to chest, hold on floor near owner, hold in-between owner’s legs, hold head, look in ears, mouth, in-between toes, hold and take temperature (ask veterinarian), hold like a baby, trim toe nails, hold in lap, etc…

· Eaten from many different shaped containers: wobbly bowl, metal, cardboard box, paper, coffee cup, china, pie plate, plastic, frying pan,™Kong, Treatball, ™Bustercube, spoon fed, paper bag, etc......

· Eaten in many different locations: back yard, front yard, crate, kitchen, basement, laundry room, bathroom, friend’s house, car, school yard, bathtub, up high (on work bench), under umbrella, etc....

· Played with many different puppies (or safe adult dogs) as much as possible.

· Left alone safely, away from family & other animals (5-45 minutes) many times a week.

· Experienced a leash and collar many different times in lots different locations.

We call this technique the "Rule of Many."

From the age of 4 weeks until 2yrs, a puppy should meet many new people every day. Everyone he/she meets should give the puppy treats, or play with its favorite toy and as much variety as possible in terms of size, age, color, and personality type should be represented. The puppy should also go 7 new places every 7 weeks (or at least one new place a week), and the places should be as different from each other as possible, such as a lake, a park, a shopping mall parking lot, the vet’s office, a pet store, etc. And don’t stop there!

These recommendations are minimums – the more people and places your puppy/dog experiences, the more well-adjusted she’ll be as an adult. Keeping track of the people your puppy meets and the places she goes can be fun for young children and will ensure that you meet your goals. Be sure the puppy is put on her own four feet for these introductions and visits; holding her in your arms can send her the wrong signals and prevent her from experiencing the world on her own.

The wonderful end result is that, by seven months of age, a puppy whose owners have followed the Rule of Sevens has met and received treats, pets and praise from at least 196 new people and has gone to at least 28 new places! This lucky puppy will feel relaxed and happy around all types of people and at home almost anywhere. Best of all, whenever she meets someone new or goes to a strange place from now on, she’ll tend to assume the best, rather than the worst. For the next 12-15 years, she’ll truly be a companion to her family.

Short story:

Why is socialization so very important...

When Daisy was adopted at 8 weeks of age from a private party (a friend), she was a sweet puppy - a little shy, but friendly and bright. She approached her new owners readily enough at the friends’ house and bonded with them quickly. Almost at once, they considered Daisy a beloved family member. Two years later, Daisy was a large, powerful dog who had snapped at, even broken the skin several times. She was wary and defensive towards everyone outside her family, and often growled or bit if she thought strangers might approach her or her owners. Reaching out to pet her; moving through the living room; reaching over her fence; handing her treats: Daisy had come to view all these seemingly innocent activities as threats. What happened? Well, the simple answer is nothing. Daisy’s owners didn’t abuse her; in fact, they were exemplary owners in nearly every way. But between the ages of 7weeks and 1yr, Daisy just didn’t meet very many new people. It’s hard to imagine that this alone could cause serious aggression, but trainers see similar scenarios every day. The problem is that many puppies just never develop an extended view of their family "pack". Working owners may be too tired when they come home to take the dog to the park or to have guests over. Families with small children may be too busy. But the end result is that since the puppy doesn’t meet many people outside the family, she begins to distrust anyone not in her magic inner circle. This is normal for wild canids, such as wolves, who live in small, tight-knit family groups and reject outsiders. But it’s a sure failure for domestic dogs, whose behavior can signal their fates. The kindest thing we can do for dogs is to help them extend their concept of "family" to encompass any and all friendly people they meet. Even working people can do this by dealing with socialization proactively.

And what about Daisy? Since no effort was made when she was a puppy to ensure that she experienced as many new people as possible, Daisy ended up with a first class case of defensive aggression. Fortunately, she isn’t a lost cause, and she’s come a long way with behavior modification. Every new person she meets plays ball with her which is her favorite game. But as her owners now realize, what happened to Daisy could have been prevented if they had known about and followed the Rule of “many” right from the start. They’ll definitely be following it next time around. This is a fictional story based on 100’s of dogs I have worked with (this is a common occurrence of the many, many dogs and puppies that I have seen come into the shelter over the past 6 yrs..).

Whether socializing, play training, or just hanging out around the house, being consistent with your dog will make a big difference in helping you achieve your goals with your dog.

By: Dee Ganley CPDT

Bite Inhibition-an Essential Part of Socialization

Dogs must learn to use teeth properly as part of behavior development. By helping dogs learn bite inhibition early on you can help avoid bite incidents involving other dogs as well as people. This tipsheet contains information adapted from articles by Dr. Ian Dunbar in the November 1999 "Whole Dog Journal" and by September Morn in the April 2003 "DogFancy."

Dogs normally learn bite inhibition by 4 and a half months of age. Dunbar believes it's the single most important thing that dogs learn. So try to teach your dogs bite inhibition by age three months and reinforce throughout their lives.

Bite inhibition is a learned response in which the dog consciously inhibits the full force of his biting ability. Most dogs display bite inhibition when they are playing together, and even when engaging in a fight with another dog. If a dog does not have bite inhibition, he could injure and possibly even kill another dog.

Puppies which are properly socialized learn bite inhibition while nursing and playing. When pups bite while nursing, the mother dog will train them by standing up and walking away. When pups bite too hard during play with siblings, the bitten pup will yelp and stop playing with the rough pup. Or the bitten sibling might leap up and knock the rough-housing pup over with a loud bark or growl. This teaches a puppy that playtime ends if he bites too hard.

This is one reason puppies should go to puppy kindergarten or socialization class, where they can play and mouth while carefully supervised. They will learn that while gentle bites might be tolerated, hard bites will stop the play session.

People can use the same idea to teach their puppies bite inhibition.

* Sit down with the pup to play, bringing his attention to your hands. When the pup tries to bite your hand too hard, yelp or say 'Oww' firmly and stop interaction. In addition to stopping interaction, some canine specialists advise to pull your hands back and freeze, and to avert your eyes or look to the side, away from the pup.

* Do not make your response sound like wincing or whining, or the pup may think it's part of the game. The pup needs to learn that fun stops when he bites.

* Give the pup a toy to chomp on instead of your hands or clothing. If he does not take the toy and instead nips again, stop interacting. Turn away, cross your arms, do not look can even walk away.

* After time has passed, face your pup again and offer your hand. If he tries to bite, repeat the process.

* When your pup is gentle, pet and praise him calmly and resume play.

* If he bites again, say "Oww" as you did previously, and give him a 10-minute time-out. Leave the room, or better yet, place your pup in a time-out area. This area can be a separate room with no people or animal occupants, or in his crate. But avoid making this action seem like punishment -- you do not want the pup to learn to fear the crate or associate it with punishment. Time out is not the same as punishment. It is a suspension of playtime and fun.

* As you practice, the pup will use less and less pressure as he comes in contact with your hand.

* Keep in mind that the first goal is to teach the dog to actively inhibit the force of his bite, and THEN reduce the frequency. If you never let the pup put his jaws on you at all, when it does happen (say, an accident during which the dog's paw gets stepped on), the dog will probably react with an over-strong bite.

* Do not tap or smack the dog's nose as punishment for nipping -- instead of discouraging nipping, this tends to trigger instinctive biting in self-defense.

* Do not tease a pup or dog by flashing hands around his face or tapping his face. This can scare or startle the dog and trigger biting behavior, whether in play or self-defense.

* However, as the bite inhibition training progresses, you can gradually begin to incorporate some sudden movements into your play with the dog so he learns to be less spooked by human movement. If a dog is afraid of objects, you can help desensitize him by slowly incorporating hand-held objects into play.

* Daily grooming helps a dog get used to human touch. Teach your pup early on to allow you to touch his face and open his mouth. This will prepare him for activities like vet exams and tooth brushing. Start by gently raise the dog's lip and praise. You can also give a treat. Gradually lift the rest of his lip and examine the inside of his month.

Dunbar explains that no matter how hard you try to socialize a dog to people or other dogs, there may be times when it is not sufficient. For example, someone shuts the dog's tail in a door, or your dog is attacked by another dog. In these cases, your dog will instinctively respond by biting, whether it's out of provocation or self-defense. Whether or not your dog does damage depends on the level of bite inhibition that was established, usually before he reached age four and a half months.

Puppy Rules of 12...

Puppy’s Rule of Twelve: By the time your puppy is 20 weeks old, it should have:

  • Experienced 12 different surfaces: wood, woodchips, dirt, mud, puddles, deep pea gravel, grates, uneven surfaces, a table (ie. Vet.) etc.
  • Introduced to 12 different objects: toys, big and small balls, hard toys, funny sounding toys, metal items, statues, balloons, etc.
  • Experienced 12 different locations: front yard (daily), other peoples homes, school yard, shopping plazas, lakes, pond, river, boat, basement, elevator, car, moving car, garage, laundry room, kennel, etc.
  • Met and played with 12 new people (outside of the family): include children, adults, elderly adults, people in wheelchairs, walkers, people with canes, crutches, hats,sunglasses, etc.
  • Exposed to 12 different noises (ALWAYS keep fun and watch puppy’s comfort level-don’t want it to be scared): garage door opening, doorbell, children playing, babies screaming, big trucks, Harley motorcycles, skateboards, washing machine, power boat, clapping, loud singing, pan dropping, horses neighing, vacuums, lawnmowers, birthday party, etc.
  • Exposed to 12 fast moving objects (don’t allow to chase): skateboards, roller skates, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, people running, cats running, scooters, vacuums not on, children running, children playing soccer, squirrels, cats, horses running, cows running, shopping carts rolling, etc.
  • Experienced 12 different challenges: climb on, in, off and around a box, go through a cardboard tunnel, climb up and down steps, climb over obstacles, play hide and seek, go in and out of a doorway with a step up or down, exposed to an electric sliding door, jump over a broom, climb over a log, bathtub (and bath), etc.
  • Handled by owner (& family) 12 times a week: hold under arm (like a football), hold to chest, hold on floor near owner, hold in-between owner’s legs, hold head, look in ears, mouth, in-between toes, hold and take temperature, hold like a baby, trim toe nails, hold in lap
  • Formal GEB Body Massage done in 12 different locations
  • Eaten from twelve different shaped containers: wobbly bowl, metal, paper, plastic, Kong, paper bag, from your hand, etc.
  • Eaten in 12 different locations: back yard, front yard, crate, kitchen basement, laundry room, bathroom, friend’s house, car, school yard, bathtub, up high (on a cardboard solid box no more than 1 foot off the ground) etc.
  • Played with 12 different puppies (or safe adult dogs) under supervision.
  • Left alone safely (in crate) away from family and other animals (5-45 minutes) 12 times a week.
  • Left alone safely (in crate) near family members (5-45 minutes) 12 times a week.

Housebreaking & Crate Training

Puppy Food & Feeding

There are few things as important as good nutrition for your puppy. We feed only 4 and 5 star dog food per this rating chart:

The majority of the 6 star dog foods are very high in protein and fat levels so we do not feed 6 star food to puppies.

Your puppy is currently eating: Kirkland Signature ADULT Chicken & Rice.

You can change the food to a comparable brand if you choose as not all foods are easily found in different areas. Whatever food you do choose to switch to be sure it is under 24% protein-you may have to feed an adult formula to have the lower protein level. If the protein levels are too high bone growth may be too rapid and multiple issues including Panosteitis*, Bowing Out and Knuckling over* might be seen.

The puppy is also on these supplements: K9 Puppy Gold, Full Fat plain yogurt-one tablespoon a day.

Puppies should be offered food 3x a day until 12 weeks of age and twice a day after 12 weeks of age. Our typical feeding schedule is 8am, 1pm, 6pm. Once the puppy turn 12 weeks old we remove the 1pm 'lunch'. We offer the food for 20 minutes and whatever is not eaten after that time is removed until the next feeding.

Be sure to allow the puppy to exercise on carpet and grass (not just hardwood/tile/laminate floors)-they need to grip provided by carpet to allow the ligaments and tendons to form correctly and prevent bowing and/or knuckling over.

*Panosteitis is a bone disease of dogs that is characterized by bone proliferation and remodeling. It is often painful and can last as long as 18 months, though more commonly it lasts from 2 to 5 months. It is characterized by lameness that often comes and goes and changes from leg to leg. It is a common problem in several large breeds. This condition is self limiting, meaning that it will eventually go away, with or without treatment. Pain control can go a long way towards helping your pet feel more comfortable and should be used, though.

* Bowing or knucking-over (carpel flexural deformity) causing uneven growth patterns between the bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. This is not genetic, this is a nutritional/management problem and caught early enough it can be repaired.


Doberman Pinschers are at an increased risk of developing Parvo as "black/tan" breeds are more susceptible to the virus. Until your puppy is fully vaccinated at 16 weeks, care needs to be taken as to where your puppy goes. A puppy should not be taken to a dog park (really ever-we do NOT recommend dog parks) , petstores where puppies are sold, "meet and greets" with other strange dogs etc. The chance of a puppy coming in contact with Parvo or other diseases is so high in those areas and without the full series of vaccinations your puppy will be susceptible to coming down with a potentially deadly disease. While we take every precaution to ensure the health of our dogs and puppies, we are very careful to not over vaccinate either. Below is the vaccination schedule we follow:

6 weeks Duramune Max 5

8 weeks Duramune Max 5

11 weeks Duramune Max 5

16 weeks Duramune Max 5

6 months Rabies

1 year Duramune Max 5

1.5 year Rabies (3 year)

After the 1 year booster of Duramune Max 5 we do titer tests yearly to check the level of antibodies in the blood. Recent research has shown these vaccinations do not need to be given yearly for most dogs and the level of antibodies typically stays at high levels for 3 years or more.

We DO NOT give vaccinations with Lepto to our dogs. The Lepto vaccine has the highest allergic reaction rate of all vaccinations and provides coverage for only 3 out of 120+ strands of Lepto.

As every region is different, you will want to talk to your vet about any additional vaccinations they might recommend (Bordatella, Lyme etc).

To read more about the growing trend of titer testing:

Spay & Neuter

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