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Just Whipperwhirl

Socializing a puppy for Disney Interaction

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Hello Disney Dog Fans - Below is a photo of our first puppy - she is a Boston Terrior / Pitbull mix.  She is a good dog - but I know she is going to need socialization lessons.  What is the first step?  Its the dead of winter here - we don't have and dog parks.  Our puppy gets its last round of shots on Friday and I want to make sure she is good with other dogs so we dont have any problems when we go to Disney this Fall. 

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Cute pup.  :monocle:

Don't forget to take a copy of her shot records with you.  :cheers:

Do you have any pet stores in the area that allow pups/dogs on leash inside?  Or any puppy classes?  Both of these would be a good starting point.  :moon:

Also ask your vet/clinic for suggestions.

If i didn't still remember puppyhood with Savannah, over 2 years ago, that pic would sway me to run out and get another. ADORABLE!

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ADORABLE (love the ears!)

These days most "experts" will tell you that the lifelong benefits of socializing your pup with people and other animals FAR outweighs the relatively low risk of disease.  Further, you actually have a pretty small window of true "socialization" for young dogs (6 mos?) - outside of that window you're now playing catchup and doing more "desensitization" than anything.  Which is a heck of a lot harder (oh boy do I know that one first hand!)

All interactions at this age are critical for your pup - and there are fear periods that they'll go through when this is even more important.  Bad experiences during these impressionable times can have lasting effects that are very hard to "fix." 

Example...

Our Bz is a pretty solid dog all around and virtually fearless.  She was born in rescue and raised by an amazing volunteer who did ALL the right things when it came to early socialization.

However when Bz was about 6 mos old we had her in a beginner agility class (which she LOVED) and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever nailed her one night.  Nothing super severe, but it did put a hole in the back of her neck.  Next week's class the same dog stalked her the entire time from across the room (I was keeping her as far away as possible).  She kept hiding behind me and when she got up on the dog walk she stopped halfway and just sat there and wouldn't come down.  A little while later, the Chessie broke free of her owner and charged at Bz.  I grabbed Bz up by the harness before the dog could get to her.  They were asked to leave class after that, but from that point on Bz's greetings with new dogs (especially medium sized brown ones) have been very tentative and she'll snap at them if they sniff her too long or get too much in her face.

So....supervision and making sure the other dogs are truly friendly is crucial.  All interactions between your pup and ALL other people/animals should be conducted/supervised carefully to ensure it's a positive experience that truly benefits your pup.

The local Petco/Petsmart can sometimes be a good place to socialize BUT... you need to be super careful about other people's dogs.  I find lots of clueless owners in those stores that either don't get that their dog isn't all that social, or just manage them poorly.  Don't let your dog be traumatized because they think just because their dog's tail is wagging he's "friendly and wants to play".  That's NOT always the case.  Sometimes a wagging tail means "happy to EAT you"  :dance:

Best case would be if you can fine a well run, positive reinforcement-based puppy class to attend.  That last bit is super important.  DO NOT bring your pup to a class/trainer where they insist on any of the following...

- choke/prong collars: what 4 month old pup needs to be yanked, pinched or choked for behaviors they don't even understand yet?

- absolutely no food treats allowed: you don't have to carry treats forever if you learn the concepts behind R+ and train well

- dogs aren't allowed to play: at this age you're there for the socialization, not getting your wee pup to heel like an obedience champion

If you can't swing a class (or don't have a good one nearby) try and arrange playdates for you pup with dogs of friends/family that you KNOW are truly friendly and good with other dogs. 

A really great resource for all things puppy is Ian Dunbar's "Before and After Getting Your Puppy: The Positive Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy, and Well-Behaved Dog"

http://www.amazon.com/Before-After-Getting-Your-Puppy/dp/1577314557

Good luck and enjoy your new friend!!!

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Well, we kind of let the Fort train both of our standard poodles.  We let both of them loose in the dog park when they were 6 weeks old and let them chase the big dogs... Yes the rolled down the hill and tripped over there own legs but they did fine.

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The most important thing about doggie socialization is for you to be relaxed when out with your dog.  I am a perfect example of how not to do it.  My husband commands the lease when we are in a new area.  I get worried/stressed and that worry/stress heads down the leash.  After that first trip, I am fine and the dogs are fine. 

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