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The Importance of Socializing Your Puppy

Socialization means exposing your puppy to as many new people, animals, environments and other stimuli as possible without overwhelming him. Over-stimulation of a young puppy can result in excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior, so knowing how much is enough is important.

A properly socialized puppy is:

  • Handled from birth and learns to accept touching of all body parts

  • Exposed to as many people, other animals, places and situations as possible

  • Encouraged to explore and investigate his environment

  • Allowed to experience a variety of toys and games, surfaces and other stimuli

  •  Brought along often on car rides to new environments with his owner 

Proper socialization will engage all of your puppy’s senses through exposure to the sights, sounds and smells of day-to-day life.

This exposure will desensitize and condition your pup so that he develops a comfort level with different and new situations.

Socialization also helps you train your young dog to handle new experiences and challenges with acceptable, appropriate behavior.

An unsocialized dog is unlikely to cope well with changes in his environment or situation, making him difficult to handle for his owner, veterinarian, groomer, pet sitter, and any visitors to the dog’s home.

If your puppy isn’t properly socialized, he can develop permanently ingrained fear responses and generalized anxiety. This type of behavior problem can ultimately make your dog unsuitable as a pet – for you or anyone else.

Almost half of all dogs turned in to shelters have at least one behavior problem -- aggression and destructiveness are among the most common. Both of these behaviors can be caused by the fear and anxiety that develops from improper or incomplete socialization.

Timing is Everything

The most important time to socialize a puppy is during her first three months of life. For most people, that means starting the process on puppy’s very first day home.

The first three months of your dog’s life are when sociability outweighs fear, and her brain is most inclined to accept new experiences. What your pup encounters during this critical time will shape her character, temperament and behavior for the rest of her life.

If your puppy isn’t socialized during her first three months, it can increase the risk of behavior problems later in life, such as fear, avoidance and aggression. These problems can be excruciatingly difficult to fix in an older animal.

The last thing you hope for when you bring home your adorable little bundle of love and energy is that she’ll end up an ill-behaved and unmanageable adult dog, banished to your backyard or the nearest animal shelter.

That’s why it is so incredibly important to properly socialize your pup before she reaches the age of 14-16 weeks.





Things that can be done at home to socialize you new Rhodesian ridgeback Puppy


Socialization is not about indiscriminately dragging your dog around to new locations or having strangers walk up and invasively pet your dog. Then thinking, after a few weeks, that your dog will be well adjusted and able to cope in every new situation for the rest of his/her life.

Socialization is about exposing your puppy gradually and systematically to different types of

people, places, things, surfaces, noises, touch (from you and strangers), other dogs and other

species of animals. Socialization is all about setting the dog up for success – introducing them to each new situation in such a manner that they will not be afraid.


You would have all heard me tell the story of soothing a frightened or anxious puppy. Once you have done this, you will FAIL at training this puppy dog, you will instill fearful behavior in this puppy, and it will stay this way for its whole life. It will be trapped by its fear, by soothing or petting a fearful dog you will reinforce to them that, that behavior is ok, when it totally isn’t, there’s a difference in submitting to an older dog (this is normal proper behavior) and acting fearfully at climbing some stairs or a 1st bath, you need to see the difference, and act accordingly.



Accustom your puppy to lots of visitors of both sexes and all ages. This will

develop its social experience and help to keep territorial behavior to manageable levels

in later life. Ensure your visitors only say "hello". Do not fuss over the puppy until it has

got over its initial excitement so as to prevent the development of boisterous greeting

behavior. Your puppy is going to get big so a dog that is 30 to 45kgs is not fun when

it is jumping all over company!! or if that human is elderly, disabled or a small child, you can foresee the problems that can arise. So, ask your visitors to greet puppy calmly.Visitors should be advised to let the dog make friends in his own time, without being rushed.



Accustom your puppy to being handled by children, but don't let them pester it

or treat it as a toy. Remain in a position of supervision. Arrange to meet someone with a

baby regularly, especially if you plan to have a family. This will help to overcome the

common worries about how the family dog will react to a new baby and toddlers. Kids

should NEVER be allowed unsupervised playtime with ANY dog. EVERY dog will bite, if

pushed far enough. The key is respect. You HAVE to understand that every dog can

bite, and you HAVE to teach your kids that fact. Most bites inflicted on children are either

territorial in nature or an act of self-preservation -- if you're not supervising, the kids (or

the dog) may decide that they need to take matters into their own hands (mouth).







Accustom your puppy to you and other members of your family adding food to

its bowl when it is eating. This will teach it that you are not a threat and prevent the

development of aggression over food when it is older. Your puppy should let you take

toys and food away from him without showing aggression, equally take bowl away, then return it, then same with high yielding foods such as bones, pigs ears etc.







Lead Breaking:

There are many different methods of lead breaking a puppy. Often times, even members of the same litter will handle the restriction of a lead and collar differently.

Note: It is best to lead break your puppy in the privacy of you yard where no one else can see you. It avoids the puppy playing his distress up in front of an audience.

I start my puppies with soft check chain show lead, but any type of collar will

work. I also use the buddy system. (if you have another dog) I will put leads on both the puppy and an older dog, hold both leads in one hand, say a little prayer, and start walking. Ideally, the puppy should start trucking right along with the older dog. You should be giving encouragement to both. Make several turns so that the puppy realizes that there is a limit to his freedom.

It does not matter what direction you walk, just make sure that you are choosing the path

rather than the puppy. Distribute treats liberally to reinforce this as a positive experience.

I also slip a tiny piece of liver in the pups mouth as I slip the lead over their heads, they must enjoy whats happening.

Of course, your puppy may not be so amiable about losing from freedom. He may do the

door stop routine, or even worse; he may throw a full blown tantrum. My telling you to ignore this behavior may sound good here, but when your puppy is doing backflips, its a hard rule to follow. Be strong! The more you react to your puppy’s negative

behavior, the worse it will become. Simply stand quietly and let your puppy get his bad

actions out of his system. When he has settled down, tug lightly on the lead, show him a

treat, and try to encourage him in coming with you. If he has planted himself so deeply

that you swear he is growing roots, switch directions and walk with the buddy dog back

past him. Use verbal encouragement and treats to get him interested in moving, but do

not touch him as he will equate your touch with praise. Always end on a positive note.

Even if that means that you puppy only walked a few feet. Persistence is the key. If you

are having trouble lead breaking you puppy, work a little longer each session, several

times a day. Eventually, things will get better. Just remember, you will need to be more

stubborn than your puppy.



Veterinary Examination:

Every day examine your puppy's ears, eyes, and teeth, lift up its feet and check its paws and check under its tail. When your puppy is happy about this, get other people to do it .The

purpose of the exercise is to accustom your puppy to veterinary examination, very

important, especially if first-aid ever has to be administered. This is a good time to get

your puppy used to having his nails trimmed. Of course you will be bringing your pup in

to your vet to introduce him and have an initial exam within 72 hrs. Your vet will set up a

vaccination schedule. Its a good idea between those times to visit the vets waiting room,

walk in with the pup, let him greet the staff, feed him treats and leave. He should not

think every trip to the vet will result in a needle stick.


Domestic sights and sounds: Expose your puppy to domestic stimuli such as the

vacuum cleaner, spin drier etc. but don't make an issue of them. The puppy should get

used to them gradually without being stressed.


Reinforcing Good Behavior:

Puppies want attention. They will do a lot to get that attention -- even if it is negative!

Thus, if you scold your puppy for doing things you don't want it to do, and ignore it when it is being good; you are reinforcing the wrong things.

Ignore the bad things (or stop it without yelling or scolding) and enthusiastically praise it

when its doing what you want, even if it's as simple as sitting and looking at you, or

quietly chewing one of its toys. This can be difficult to do, as it is essentially reversing all

your normal reactions. But it is very important: you will wind up with a puppy that pays

attention to you and is happy to do what you want, if it understands you.



If you have one introduce you puppy to it. Keep the puppy under control and

reward it for not pestering. Be careful not to worry the cat, as it may scratch your puppy.

Pretty sure it will get out of the way pretty quick, the puss that is, they generally rule the roost.


Other dogs at home:

If you already have a dog introduce your puppy to it in the garden

or on neutral ground. Once the initial acceptance has been made by the older dog, the

two should find their own level and settle down without too much intervention from you.


Prevent play-biting:

In pack society once puppies become active they play physical

games with each other and pester the adults by pulling their ears, tails etc. In the early days puppies have license to do what they like but as they grow up, adults and litter

mates alike become increasingly intolerant, especially of their very sharp teeth. By

eighteen weeks puppies learn that hard-mouthing or play-biting is taboo and a reprimand

will quickly follow any transgression of the rules. When a puppy is introduced into the

family this learning process is normally incomplete. The family must take over where the

puppy's mother left off.




How is this done?

Whenever a puppy uses its teeth in play the person concerned should respond with a

sharp "No!(uhuhhh works too) and sound as if they have been really hurt. They should then walk off and ignore the puppy for about five minutes. In this way the puppy learns (a) to limit the strength of its bite in both play and for real and (b) that biting is counter-productive as an attention-seeking device.




Going solo:

Socialization is very important, but so is learning to be alone. Puppies who

are not accustomed to being left unattended on a regular basis are much more likely to

suffer from separation anxiety (i.e. become anxious when separated from the owner) in

adulthood. The three main symptoms of separation anxiety are destructiveness,

incessant howling or barking and loss of toilet control.

To help prevent your puppy from suffering from this very common syndrome, you need

to leave it unattended (i.e. in the house on its own) for over an hour on most days,

preferably in the area that it sleeps in overnight.




For your puppy's safety, to prevent it from toileting in inappropriate places, chewing

inappropriate items etc. ensure its area is "chew proof and free from hazards such as

electrical cables etc. You may need to construct or buy some purpose-built barriers to

make a pen. Indoor kennels and Crates are often used and are readily available. Leave

your puppy with some appropriate chew items, such as long lasting chews from the pet

shop, and fresh water.

Initially you should accustom your puppy to you sitting in another room, with the door

between you open. Over a period of time the routine can be carried out with the door

shut. Once your puppy accepts this you can start to leave the house; go next door for a

coffee, for example. Gradually extend the time you are away until you are absent for

over an hour on a regular basis. Do not go back if you hear your puppy crying. Return

when it is quiet. If a puppy thinks it can "call you back " it may never accept being left.

Be very matter of fact about going out and coming home. If you fuss your puppy before

leaving you will unsettle it and make it want to be with you every moment you want your

absence to be accepted. (There is nothing in dog language for "Bye-bye, see you later.

Any interaction means, "Let's go! ) Too much fuss on returning home highlights the

loneliness of your absence.


Things to do away from home

Go to all the environments you can think of that will help your puppy become "bomb

proof. Start in quieter places and gradually find busier ones. Get the puppy off the

premises. The amazing part is you only have to do it for 20 minutes a week. For 20

minutes one time a week, take your puppy to some bizarre, crowded, noisy place: flea

market, sit out the front of bunnings on a Sunday morning, local league game, walk down the main street of your town, past peoples homes mowing lawns etc. A trip once a month to the vet’s office doesn’t count. A puppy can be king of the mountain at home and a coward the minute it steps onto unfamiliar territory. 

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