The doorbell rings. As you open the door and allow your guests to enter, a flash of fur runs past you to jump, bark, and demand attention. It’s a classic case of bad manners. Socializing your pup is an important part of pet ownership. But not to worry, it’s not hard! With a little time and patience, you can properly train your puppy to greet guests in an appropriate manner.
During your puppy’s first month at home, you should be laying the groundwork for good socialization. By the time he is six weeks old, he has reached the half-way point of Critical Period of Socialization. The first three months are the most impressionable learning period for your pup. Unfortunately, you need to keep your puppy confined indoors until he is at least three months as he builds up immunity through the required shots.
This does not mean you should put off socialization. The phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is around for a reason. The older your dog is, the harder it is to break undesirable behaviors and replace them with new ones. Socialization helps to shape your dog’s temperament. While dog-dog socialization can be put on hold, dog-people should be started immediately.
Are Puppy Classes Good Options?
While most of us associate school with a time to learn new things, puppy school is the opposite. Classes for your puppy may be structured in a classroom setting, but your puppy will see this more like a play time if they do not have a little training prior to the class. Puppy classes are better for teaching your furry friend things like bite inhibition and therapeutic socialization with other pups. These classes should be put on hold until your dog is at least three months old and the basic training has been implemented.
Laying the Groundwork
The Calming Corner
- Relaxing in your favorite spot is comforting. The same holds true for your pet. The sooner you teach your pet to associate their spot as a calm spot, the easier it will be to implement the rules. Choose a spot in your house for your pup to call their own. Make this spot as comfortable as possible. Lay down a warm rug or blanket, or even a brand new pet bed.
- Next, build a positive association with this spot. Giving your pet treats or toys while he is in his area will help make a positive connection. If he tries to take his toy away from the area, take the toy and lead him back to the assigned spot. A toy designed to keep your dog’s attention could be very helpful. Toys that can be filled with treats will allow for a longer playtime in his special spot. Over time, your dog will realize this spot his special spot and will stay put.
Stay Calm, Train On
While your dog is making his mad dash to greet people, there is a high chance of misunderstanding. Raising your voice or rushing through your words could cause your pup to think you’re excited. This will further encourage him to continue the behavior. Instead, speak in a clear, calm voice. If you are calm, your dog will follow suit.
You may find it easier to create a barrier while you’re in the training process. This can be accomplished with a simple baby gate, a puppy playpen, or a crate. This is a short-term solution but could prove to be helpful if you’re having difficulty keeping dog calm around your guests.
Positive and Negative Reinforcement
Your puppy runs and jumps to greet guests. Your guest pets your puppy. This reinforces in your pet’s mind that running and jumping will be rewarded with attention. Dogs love attention. You can enlist the help of your guests by asking them to not acknowledge the dog when he greets in an inappropriate manner.
If this does not help to calm your puppy, you could isolate him in the nearest room, quickly and gently. After a few seconds, take your puppy back out to greet your guests. If the hyperactive behavior continues, repeat the sequence until he manages to leave the room in a calm manner. Once he leaves the room calmly, reward him with petting, treats, and lots of attention. This will help reinforce in his mind that calm behavior will get him the attention he wants.
Socializing Your Puppy
The more people you can introduce your puppy to, the better his socialization skills will be. As a general rule, your puppy will be properly socialized after meeting one hundred people. Take advantage of the time your pup is confined indoors after his shots by inviting people to your home. Have a puppy-meeting party, invite guests over to watch a sports game or have a movie marathon. The more traffic you can bring through your house, the better your chance of your puppy socializing in a proper manner.
First impressions matter. When your pup is meeting people for the first time, have them hand feed your puppy a treat or few pieces of kibble. If guests bring treats, your puppy will be inclined to like them from the start. Show your guests how to lure your dog with a treat to train him to come, sit, lie down, and roll over. Call your puppy over to your area. When he comes, praise him and reward him with a treat. Take a few steps back and do it again. Repeat until the puppy has learned to come when called.
To train your puppy to sit, raise a piece of kibble from in front of his nose to between his eyes while saying “Sit”. As the puppy raises his head, his hind end will lower and he will sit. If he jumps to reach the kibble, you’re raising it too high. Once the pup sits, feed him the kibble and praise him.
To train your pup to lie down, lower a piece of kibble from just in front of his nose to the ground. As he lowers his head, he will usually lie down. Once he follows directions, praise him and feed him the kibble.
Now, teach your guests to train your pup to roll over. Once the pup is lying down, say “Roll over”, and move the kibble from in front of his nose to his shoulder blade and slowly over his backbone. Once he does, praise him and give him the kibble.
The purpose of having each of your guests go through this process is to teach your puppy to reliably enjoy the company of people while approaching and sitting to greet them. An added bonus, of course, is that your family and friends have now helped train your pup.
Take note that many adult dogs are more afraid of men than women. Try to invite over as many men as possible to gently handle your puppy. This will help them create a fond bond with men.
Children can be loud and scary to a dog that has never socialized with them. Even the most well-mannered dog could get into trouble since children tend to overly-excite dogs. Puppies and children can learn from each other how to properly play together.
If your household has children, this makes the process a bit easier. The children and the puppy learn together how to interact with each other with a little guidance. Puppies that are successfully socialized to interact with children generally have more well-adjusted temperaments in the long run.
For households without children, this could be a bit more challenging. You will need to invite guests with children to visit your house during the training process. Try not to overwhelm your puppy by inviting too many children at once. One child is best, but two is acceptable. Three or more children with a puppy will quickly erupt into a giant ball of energy that could become incredibly hard to manage.
Constant supervision is absolutely required during puppy-child socialization. Start with children belonging to relatives and friends, along with other children your puppy is likely to meet on a regular basis. Next, invite over neighborhood children. Dogs are less likely to be worked up by children, and subsequently, children are less likely to tease and pester dogs, if they have been properly socialized. Give your puppy ample opportunities to meet with neighborhood children.
Similarly to socializing with adults, have children carry a tasty treat to reward your puppy. He will soon learn to love the presence of children. For the first week, make sure interactions are controlled and calm. After the first week of interactions, however, it’s a wonderful time to acclimate your pet to the noise and activity of children. A puppy party will help prepare your dog.
Puppy Parties and Games
What’s a party without balloons and noisemakers? While it may seem odd to decorate for a puppy party, it is a key component to socializing your puppy. Dogs who have never been properly socialized with children will want to chase the first child they see running and screaming in the park. However, puppies that have hosted a variety of puppy parties, complete with balloon popping, screaming children, laughing, running, and jumping, will find it old news. It’s doubtful anything in your pup’s life will be as odd as what they have now deemed boring at the puppy parties.
Round Robin Recalls and Puppy Tricks are wonderful games for the children and puppy to play at their party. Have the children sit in a circle. The first child will call the puppy over to lie down, roll over, or sit up three times in a row. Once completed, the child will give the puppy a treat. The child will then send the puppy to the second child who repeats the process. Biscuit Balance is another wonderful game. Have the children see who can get the dog to balance a dog biscuit on his nose for the longest time.
Generally, your puppy should meet at least twenty children by the time he is three months old.
General Tips and Guild lines
“Ruff” housing With Your Pet
Puppies are high energy and love to play. How they like to plays varies from pup to pup. Some find light-hearted teasing and roughhousing to be fun and enjoyable. Others find it terrifying. There is a fine line between positive roughhousing and negative. If done correctly, this will help build the puppy’s confidence and desensitize him to the weird things people do. Malicious teasing, however, is abuse and will cause psychological issues to your puppy.
Confidence-building teasing can include playing temporarily hugging or restraining your pup, odd noises and weird faces, or strange body movements and mannerisms. Always follow up with treats and praise to teach your puppy to accept the strange things you are doing. If your puppy refuses a treat, he is stressed and needs a break. Sit with him and feed him a few treats in a non-threatening environment until he has calmed down.
Children love to run and chase puppies. To a pup that has not been trained and desensitized to these actions, it is a scary and traumatic ordeal. Following your puppy around the room while doing strange walks and making odd noises helps prepare for playtime with children. Dogs love being chased when they view it as non-threatening.
When the line is crossed from good-natured playing to malicious teasing, you teach your puppy to distrust people and he will act defensively as a full grown dog. To test whether the puppy is having a good time or not, stop the game, move across the room, and call your puppy to you. If he comes over right away with his tail wagging and sits with his head held high, he is having the time of his life, so continue playing. If he approaches in a timid manner, excessively licks your hand, or lies down and rolls over when asked to sit, he is scared and no longer trusts you. You will need to immediately stop the game and rebuild his confidence by starting at the basic ground level training. If your dog refuses to approach you, you have taken the game entirely too far and he doesn’t like you any more than the game that was being played. Reflect on what you have done and repair the damage by tossing treats until your puppy will confidently and happily sit with you.
Physical games, like tug-of-war and play fighting, will help with bite control and will motivate adult dogs during obedience training. In order to work, the rules must be strict. You must always be in control. To ensure you’re in control during the game, you can stop playing and have your dog lie down. If he does it calmly on the first command, you can resume playing. If he does not listen to the command, do not continue the game.
Your puppy may be the exact opposite of the hyperactive bundle of joy described above. You may think this means you’re off the hook and have a naturally well-socialized canine. Unfortunately, if your puppy is slow, or will not, approach guests, his is frighteningly under socialized. It’s not normal for a two or three-month-old puppy to not approach people. If you do not take steps to rectify this now, it will only get worse.
If he takes a long time to warm up to strangers, then he will more than likely be intolerant and scared of strangers as a fully matured dog. The easiest way to resolve this issue is to have a different person your dog has not met come over every day for a week to feed him. If your puppy has to rely on strangers to feed him, he will start to associate strangers with positive feelings.