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Puppy Care and Training Basics

"Early Socialization Skills For You and Your Puppy"
By Crystal Simoneaux

Most dog owners desire to have a pet that is pleasant for friends and strangers to be around. The first step (and most important one) to reaching this goal is teaching your dog acceptance. Acceptance of everything from other dogs, to other people, and even to other types of animals. This is socialization. In order to teach your puppy to learn acceptance, you must first learn from your puppy! How is that you ask? Well, no two dogs are the same, like no two people are the same. Each puppy starts out with its own personality. This personality is molded by genetics, the type of breed and the environment it was in prior to reaching you.

A major factor that will determine what the puppy's personality will be like is where the puppy sat in the pack order with the other littermates. Dogs are social animals, that use a 'pack order' to determine what they are able to get away with. The pack order is a 'chain-of-command' system with the most dominate puppy in the litter, called the "Alpha", being the one in charge. The "Alpha" is one who calls the shots (no other puppy picks on the "Alpha", but the "Alpha" can pick on all the puppies below it). Next in chain of command is the second most dominant puppy. He or she can pick on all the puppies below it, but not the "Alpha". This order continues down the line until every puppy has a place in the pack system. The last on the chain of command is the least dominant and usually can pick on no other puppy. This is the "Omega" puppy.

When choosing a puppy, heavily consider where your puppy stands in the pack order, because not all puppies' personalities will fit their new owners lifestyle and personality. The more dominant puppies are more outgoing, driven and tend to be a little bit more difficult to train. They like to challenge the members of their family for dominance and if they feel you or members of their family aren't "pack leader material", they will move in on the position and display that move to you by not obeying your commands are by barking (sassing) at you when you try to correct them. Recessive puppies may be more timid than their littermates and tend to be easier to work with. They respect their family members and want more to please them rather than to dominate them.

The situations you introduce your puppy to once you have received him or her help you to mold and shape your puppy's personality and temperament into what you want. The first situation you want to socialize your puppy with when you receive it is learning that they're not the dominant one in your family's pack system. The puppy has to learn that he or she is the "Omega" family member and that all the humans in the family are "Alpha" to him or her. Because dogs use body language to communicate, you will have to do so also. It's quite simple and the puppy will understand what you are trying to do far easier than trying to verbally tell it. Dominant canines, to ensure their position, will stare another canine directly in the eyes and the recessive one will turn its head to show submission. You can do this your self by holding the puppy in front of you and staring him or her directly in the eyes until the puppy turns away. Some puppies avert their eyes almost immediately, some will challenge you, bark, or growl. If they attempt to do so, give them a stern "NO" and squint your eyes a bit to let them know you mean business! NEVER let the puppy win this staring contest! This exercise will then let the pup see that you are establishing dominance over them. When they turn their head, tell them "Good dog!" Another physical display of submission is when approached by an "Alpha" figure, the recessive canine will lay on it's back exposing its belly to show it is not a threat to the "Alphas" dominant position. You can show your puppy you are dominant by rolling him or her on it's back and patting their belly and telling them "Good Dog". In some cases the puppy will try to wiggle away; this is because they do not like being held in a submissive position. What you can do in that case is gently hold them there on their back or hug them so they cannot squirm away from you. Eventually they will stop trying so hard to get away, and you can praise them. These exercises must be done repeatedly and daily. Puppies tend to forget things quickly and short repetitive sessions will ensure that they will catch on. Also, any teasing, taunting or provoking of the puppy to get it to behave rambunctiously or aggressive should be strictly prohibited. Any nipping, gnawing or biting at a human should be corrected immediately. Even if it is just for play or for teething purposes. Have toys for your puppy to chew on accessible to them in their sleeping quarters, play area and on you so they do not feel tempted to take a bite out of your fingers, shoes, or hand. Your puppy should know that biting and rough housing is completely unacceptable behavior. Little snappy dogs grow up to be big snappy dogs.

Other considerations for socializing your puppy are other animals and people. Under socialized canines can develop dirty preferences that can get both you and your pet in trouble. If not socialized well with people, they can develop a preference towards one person, one sex, certain sizes, ages or even certain races. They do not know to accept all people if they haven't been exposed to different ones. The best way to do this is to take your puppy everywhere you can (be sure that you are up to date on your pups vaccinations because there are many viruses and diseases that are fatal to your puppy if it is not vaccinated against it). Socialize your puppy with friendly people from all walks of life, ages, sexes, sizes and races. Let the people you and your puppy encounter pet and love on him. This will teach your puppy that people are friendly and acceptable. Also bring your puppy places to socialize with other animals such as cats, horses, cattle, chickens or anything that you can (be sure the animals you are socializing with aren't "dog aggressive"). Your puppy will naturally be inquisitive, some will go right up and try to play. Some may be timid, but using a soft voice to reassure them will bring their confidence up. Correct any aggressive behavior that your pup displays. Another important socialization step is to socialize with other dogs. Under socialized dogs develop preferences to only humans and have no tolerance for other dogs. Some prefer dogs of the opposite sex, some prefer only smaller dogs and some prefer only certain colored dogs or dogs of the same breed. It is your job to introduce your pup to other dogs. Make a play date, go to a park, or just take a walk. Encounters with other dogs will teach your puppy how to interact appropriately around new and strange canines and the play time is a good method of releasing some of that super puppy energy.


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