Part 3: So How is Puppy Socialization Different from Flooding?
Puppy socialization is about introducing your young dog to new things in a gradual and neutral way, and ensuring that the experience ends very positively. These experiences are intended to build your puppy’s confidence in himself and you, and to make him believe that pretty much anything new will end up working out great for him (this won’t always be true in life, but instilling that belief in your dog will make him very resilient in the future when/if something doesn’t go so well). Rule of Sevens Something that can help you ensure that your puppy has a well-rounded socialization experience is the Rule of Sevens. The Rule of Sevens is a guideline only, and basically states, “let your puppy experience at least seven types of things in each of these categories” (I recommend more!):
1. Surfaces, Textures, and Heights
Stainless steel, plastic, sandpaper, gravel, mesh (like a crate door), water, linoleum flooring, towels, tarps, etc. Get creative!
2. Foods and Food Containers: for example puzzle bowls, slow feeders, steel bowls, ceramic bowls, clear plastic containers, carrots, apples, cucumber, blueberries, sardines, etc.
I LOVE puzzle toys for dogs. Go to Amazon and go nuts. I recommend letting your puppy conquer one puzzle toy at a time. Once he’s really good at it, put it away and rotate in a new puzzle toy. By the time you get to the end of your collection, you can start over and add some difficulty to it: if the toy is adjustable, make it more challenging.. if not, place the toy on or in or under something (like a cardboard box, or on a wobble board).
I like to use essential oils but be careful! Oils like teatree can kill your dog. Do your research. Oils dangerous for dogs include (but are not limited to): Cinnamon, Citrus (d-limonene), Pennyroyal, Peppermint, Pine, Tea tree (melaleuca), Wintergreen. ** Note: Often the “smells” section will be taken care of while tackling the “places” section.
One or two new people at a time. People you trust and can direct. People who will stay neutral if you tell them to. People who love and respect dogs enough to NOT pet the puppy if that’s what is appropriate.
Introduce your puppy to other dogs with extreme care! Ask if you need help. While your puppy was with me, he met several dogs, all under supervision. He only met dogs I know well, and can control. I not only hold my dogs accountable for how they interact with a puppy, but
I hold the puppy accountable as well! If he is rude (jumping onto, or chewing on) the other dog, I will correct him or allow my dog to correct him, and reset the scenario. THIS IS IMPORTANT to prevent creating a disrespectful and overly rambunctious dog!
Safe, neutral places where dogs are welcome. Novel places, such as a pond/lake, or a playground at a park (at a time when it’s empty, preferably). I like going to Lowe’s/Home Depot. At such a visit, I can introduce a puppy to a rolling surface (the big metal carts, or a shopping cart), some heights, mulch bag obstacle courses, etc. It’s awesome! But BE PREPARED during those visits to say “no, you may not pet the puppy” or “please leave my puppy alone, thank you” far more often than you allow any interaction. Learn to advocate for your dog. If you can handle telling someone they can pet an adorable little puppy, you will be well-prepared for advocating for your adult dog.
Set up fairly simple to gradually more challenging obstacles and exercises for your puppy. Use your imagination! The sky’s the limit here. You can accomplish MUCH with items in your home and garage. Just be sure to watch and gauge your puppy’s feelings about things. Some frustration or uncertainty is fine! But too much means you should lower the criteria.