The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – An Exposé on Socialization
By Lisa Kerley
Many people feel the key to a well-behaved dog is simply obedience. Although developing manners and polite behaviour is a vital part of any dog’s education, the early focus for raising your puppy should be good socialization. Socialization must occur during the critical imprinting period, which is over by 14-18 weeks of age. Failing to take advantage of this period will have a negative impact on your dog and can be very difficult to rectify. Dogs that “aren’t good with new people”, “need a few minutes to get to know you”, “aren’t good with men”, “get over-excited” or “take time to settle” are the direct result of a lack of early socialization.
What is socialization?
When you hear the term socialization, what do you think of? Many people think socialization means playing with other dogs and being pet and cuddled by people. Socializing your puppy well involves so much more:
- street noises and activities at all times of day
- walking at night
- experiencing different weather
- visiting other neighbourhoods
- walking on different surfaces
- being touched and handled in a variety of ways
- learning to wear a collar, harness, coat and being on leash
There are over 500 items on the hipPUPS™ socializing list. Wow! I bet you’re thinking there aren’t enough hours in the day to get even a fraction of it accomplished. Most people routinely walk their dog for 30-60 minutes. Instead of focusing on physical exercise, use the time to constructively socialize your pup. Take your pup daily to different places for different exposures and experiences. With a little planning you can incorporate multiple elements from the list in one exposure. For example, in a box store parking lot you can potentially expose your pup at a safe distance, to cars, trucks, motorbikes, lots of different types of people, shopping carts, automatic doors, forklifts, people pushing and carrying odd objects, voices over a loudspeaker and buzzers. Pretty impressive for one session that takes less than 30 minutes! And don’t worry; your pup will still be tired from all the stimulation!
Socialization with people:
Although all aspects of socialization need to be included to create a well-balanced, confident dog, proper and thorough socialization to people cannot be emphasized enough. If you have a pup that you would label as ‘loyal’, ‘protective’ or ‘good with one person’, a specialized socialization program is even more critical. Having a dog that is fearful of people outside the family or their core group can have a devastating impact on the quality of their life and yours. It will effect you having guests or visitors to your home, entertaining, having trades people in, your kid’s having friends over, being able to go out for walks with your dog or taking them anywhere. In addition to having to adjust your lifestyle and cause unnecessary stress, it can also be a liability. All this can be prevented by taking advantage of your pup’s imprinting period.
Creating Your Own Socialization List
Exposure to things that are already part of your life is easy. What’s critical is to include things your pup ISN’T getting exposure to – things that are not part of your daily life at this point. You also need to go places that are not part of your usual routine and ‘set up’ extra opportunities. By doing this, you will help prepare your pup for things that might happen later in their life. Perhaps your kids are already in high school. Make an effort to socialize your pup to younger kids to get ready for grandkids. If you live in a house, expose your pup to elevators. You or a friend may live in a high-rise in the future.
The time of year can also effect socialization. Summer-reared pups are often worried about people in bulky winter clothing or outings in the dark or rain. Winter-raised pups may be fearful of a house fan or lawn equipment. Keep these things in mind when creating your pup’s list.
Even though the best socialization program can’t cover all possibilities, the good news is that the more positive experiences your pup has during their imprinting period, the more confident they become. The more confident they are, the easier it is for them to deal with new experiences as they mature. Pups that are well-socialized will be more flexible and able to cope with novelty in general, not just the specific things that they were exposed to. No exposures are a waste of time as long as they are positive for the pup.
Not all Socializing is Good
Variety isn’t the only consideration in a good socialization program – the experiences MUST be positive.
Let me share something I witnessed recently. A gentleman had brought his young puppy to a large public event with the best of intentions, hoping to take advantage of the venue to maximize the pup’s socializing opportunities. Let’s see – crowds, a large variety of people, other dogs, horses, music, voices over a loudspeaker, large displays, flags, people carrying all manner of things, trucks, trailers… This guy had the right idea. The problem was the session was way too long and he exposed his pup too intensely. He was there for the whole morning. And on top of that, he did his best to have everyone notice his puppy and come over and say hi. When the pup looked overwhelmed he made him stay where he was and even expected him to sit. After a few greetings, the puppy’s enthusiasm was waning. The experience was too much for him.
Providing pleasant experiences is crucial in a good socializing program. Without them, positive associations will not be created and there will be no value in the exposure. Overwhelming the puppy or having an unpleasant experience can actually be damaging, because the pup will be taking away a negative association. Ever had an unpleasant interaction with someone? Now you cringe any time you run into that person again. And too much of even a good thing can leave you not wanting more anytime soon.
So how do you make the experience positive for your pup?
It’s always best to begin the exposure as minimally as possible and gradually increase the intensity as the pup shows they can handle it. In some situations you may be able to adjust the intensity (turn down the volume or slow the activity). Often your only option is to increase the distance away. More distance will lower the intensity and give your pup an easier experience.
So what’s a good distance? Well, that depends. It will be different for each puppy. Observe your puppy closely. If your pup is showing any signs of stress or insecurity, you need to add some distance. If your pup looks comfortable, then you can move closer. For information on body language and signs of stress, refer to the resources section at the end of the article.
- Give your pup as much space as they need to relax and be able to notice the object without worrying about it. Position yourself so can always move further away.
- Keep the sessions short. Long let’s-get-it done sessions will be taxing and unpleasant for your pup.
- Don’t force your pup to get closer or encourage them to investigate. Remember the point is to allow your puppy to explore and interact at their own pace. Praise any curiosity or desire to interact.
You may have noticed that we did not include information on socializing with other dogs in this article. Exposure to dogs of all kinds – size, colour, coat type, age, sex, energy level, play style – is a necessary part of your pup’s socialization. To keep your pup safe, both from a health perspective and a behavioural one, they should only be contacting or playing with dogs that you know. No dog parks or areas where large numbers of dogs hang out. All unfamiliar or new dogs should be treated as an exposure opportunity only and be experienced from a safe distance. Even with dogs you know, unless you’ve seen them with other pups and are confident they will make your pup’s experience pleasant, you should pass on the close-up stuff for now. That’s what puppy class is for – your pup will get lots of playtime and close contact with other healthy pups in a well-run class. You will also learn what safe, appropriate play is, which will allow you to eventually set up outside play opportunities. By keeping your distance from unfamiliar dogs in the meantime, you can safely start your pup’s socializing early and keep the experiences positive.
To raise a puppy well takes time and commitment. Ultimately you are responsible for supporting and educating your pup in a manner that will allow them to be safe and well-adjusted members of your family, and the community. Creating appropriate, positive socializing experiences for your young puppy will be one of your best investments towards creating a happy, confident dog that can handle day-to-day experiences throughout their lifetime.
Being able to read your pup’s body language and recognize signs of stress is invaluable in understanding how they feel and the quality of their experience. Doing it well will make the difference between effective, positive socialization and ineffective or even damaging experiences. For more information on body language, signs of stress and maximizing your pup’s positive experiences, please visit https://www.facebook.com/dogdaysnorthvan.
By the Sierra Club Canada
Food irradiation is a method of food preservation in which foods are exposed to gamma radiation from Cobalt 60, Cesium 137 or an electron accelerator. The gamma radiation can sterilize or kill insects, and kill fungi and some bacteria that live in foods. Smaller doses can prevent sprouting on potatoes and onions, and delay the ripening of certain fruits. Irradiation can increase the storage life of some foods, allowing importers and distributors to ship foods further and store them longer. These foods do not become radioactive, but contrary to the conclusions of Health Canada, we believe that there are serious risks and drawbacks to the use of this technology…
- Chemical by-products called “unique radiolytic products” (URPs) are created in foods by irradiation. Some scientific studies carried out on URPs link serious health risks with the consumption of irradiated foods.
- Irradiated foods are less nutritious than fresh foods because radiation damages some vitamins, amino acids and fatty acids. Normal cooking methods and storage of foods will also cause nutritional losses, but irradiation plus cooking and storage decreases the nutritional value even more. Many vitamins are obtained from fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Irradiation has been hailed as an alternative to pesticides. However, at best irradiation might replace some post-harvest uses since pesticides will still be used in the field. Studies have not been done to determine the consequences of irradiating the pesticide residues commonly found in foods.
- Irradiation will not replace many additives commonly used in processed foods. In fact, some additives need to be used in combination with irradiation to control undesirable side-effects.
- Irradiation of poultry is being proposed as a means for preventing salmonella food poisoning. In fact, less than 20% of salmonella poisoning cases can be traced back to poultry. A more effective solution is education about proper storage, handling and cooking of all foods which may carry the salmonella bacteria.
- Irradiation can actually cause food poisoning since treated foods may be contaminated but appear fresh. Microorganisms which normally cause meat to look or smell spoiled may be killed by irradiation, yet hardier bacteria, such as the one causing botulism food poisoning, may survive. Some organisms may even mutate when irradiated, forming new, more radiation-resistant strains.
- Aflatoxin is a toxic and carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substance produced by a bacteria which inhabits damp grains, beans and nuts. Aflatoxin poisoning is a major cause of death in Asia and Africa. Irradiation of this bacteria actually causes it to produce more
- aflatoxin. Building dry storage facilities is a more practical way to control this organism.
- Increased use of food irradiation will increase occupational and environmental hazards. The level of gamma radiation inside an operating irradiation facility is anywhere from ten to hundreds of times the level that would kill a human in a single short exposure. The gamma source for irradiation must be replaced regularly, so the risk of transportation accidents increases with time. Spent gamma sources also become radioactive waste, and there is still no acceptable method of long-term radioactive waste management.
From Behind The Till
By Neal Cooper
When new people walk into our pet health food store Growlies® they are usually looking for an easy and similarly priced fresh food alternative to the kibble they are feeding now. I usually start out by letting them know that the basic premise we work from is that fresh foods are always healthier than bagged, processed foods. The less processing that is done to the food before it is served the better. While there are many schools of thought on the different ways you can or should feed fresh food diets, ie: Prey, B.A.R.F., S.A.R.F etc, if people want to dive into the different feeding methods that is just rawsome, but those many different feeding models are not how people start feeding fresh foods. Commonly people start by looking for healthier alternatives to the commercial processed pet foods available at most pet food stores and grocery store shelves and they then see the benefits and dive into the subject matter of the varying styles from there.
The next thing we often discuss is that in kibble we are trained by the large pet food manufacturers that variety is bad and that what is in their one bag is balanced and complete. They also tell us we don’t know enough to feed our pets and without great education we should just trust them. Have you noticed that they never say balanced and complete in human foods? That is because they are not allowed to make that claim in any human foods. Why? Because it is not possible for a single food product to be balanced and complete when it comes to a complex topic like nutrition. We then go on to discuss how none of our single flavours, packages or manufacturers are to be considered complete diets; they are all just food. That means that through a variety of meals we get balanced and complete nutrition, never from just a single product or manufacturer. Each manufacturer has a different recipe and a different source for their products. With modern day farming practices being what they are we believe that farm animals cannot provide micronutrients they were never provided with in the first place. So switch it up on a regular basis, try different products and brands. Your pets will thank you. You will learn that your pet has some personal preferences and that’s good to know but all animals enjoy variety more than eating the same thing day in and day out.
One of the things I occasionally see with people new to feeding fresh foods is that they have this aura of negativity or concern around the foods. Believe me when I say our pets mirror us. So if you, the pet guardian, are repulsed by meat then so will your pet, however if you act excited to offer this fantastic new food, watch out it will be gone in seconds. Thankfully in our store we have many people who come to us who are Vegan or Vegetarian but recognize they own a type of Carnivore whether facultative like dogs or obligate like cats and ferrets. I like those critical thinkers. I have had to tell some people in a very direct manner, get out of the way of your pet and allow them to enjoy the food, stop getting in the way. Often pet owners get caught up in the complexities of fresh food diets and make it more difficult not only for the pet but for the pet owner too. This behaviour is one of the excuses some people use to stop feeding healthy foods. “It’s just too difficult” is a cop out, it is just food and you’re making more of it than you need to.
Fresh food diets are easy. Offer a variety of fresh foods from a variety of brands. Feed foods with bone-in at least 4 days a week and something with lots of muscle meat the other two or three days a week. If your pet’s stool is soft they need more bone, if it’s firm or white they need more muscle meats. One of the most important things is that your pet carnivore also get the chance to masticate through raw, soft bone bearing meat as this is a perfect toothbrush for them. Chewing is not only good for oral hygiene but it is good for their mental health too. Have you ever seen a dog or cat sitting there with their eyes rolled back chewing contentedly? It’s almost meditative. Your pets teeth are their most important tools and they are indicative of overall health. Healthy teeth often equals a healthy pet. In the wild when their teeth go they’ve lost their most valuable resource. Feeling guilty about not brushing your dog or cat’s teeth is ridiculous, just feed them what they are evolved to eat, a bone in fresh food.
We do recommend two very basic supplements for all dogs and cats. They are both fairly inexpensive and offer great benefits. One is a basic Kelp based supplement for a healthy source of iodine and a broad spectrum of minerals. We ask people to consider this because as I mentioned earlier we don’t believe our modern food animals are always given a full complement of micronutrients and so, it goes to reason, they cannot pass on what they were never given. Second is some kind of omega oil supplement. We prefer a salmon, pollock or sardine oil. For special needs dogs there are many other things available but for a normal healthy dog or cat these are the only two we ask people to consider.
We also recommend probiotics for pets who have been on commercial dry for diets for years or have had a recent prescription of antibiotics. Be sure to use ones designed specifically for dogs and cats. Some dogs and cats need digestive enzymes when their pancreas has been taxed from years of hard to digest foods. Digestive enzymes can offer immediate relief while probiotics are a long term solution encouraging healthy gut life for your pet. The last thing I want to mention about digestive aids is raw green tripe, not canned, dried or freeze dried tripe but raw green tripe. This is not the tripe you buy at the grocery store that’s been cleaned and bleached, it is stinky and alive with healthy gut life. I like to think of the smell as similar to the smell of a barn. It is like yoghurt but for dogs and cats. Feed raw green tripe as if it is a muscle meat. A healthy gut helps your pet pull out all they need from the healthy foods you provide.
Remember it does not take a degree in science nor nutrition to feed you or your child and it doesn’t for your pets either. With some basic rules and common sense you to can provide your pets a healthy fresh food diet that you feel good about giving to them. If you have any questions and are in Victoria, BC. drop by our store and talk to us, we’re happy to help.
For more info on our pet carnivores please see:
http://felinenutrition.org – I know this is for cats but it is a great site.
http://youtu.be/VMzXLdtAro – I really like Dr. Beckers videos, look for more, they are great.
http://rawfed.com/myths/ – old style site but great info.
http://rawmeatybones.com/ – Dr. Lonsdale the father of prey model pet diets.
For more info on our store see:
http://growlies.ca Our website.
http://facebook.com/Growlies – Our Facebook page, join us there.
Http://twitter.com/Growlies – Our Twitter feed, we’re happy to chat.
http://youtube.com/Growlies – Our youtube channel, please subscribe.
By Valerie Barry, KPA-CTP
In Partnership With Dogs
Have you had those moments where the 4-legged, furry, angelic light of your life is happily cuddling, snuggling and gazing adoringly into your eyes with sleepy contentment . . . . . . . then suddenly Piranha Puppy appears?!! Abruptly super-charged with mad energy – rolling, growling, kicking, head thrashing about and mouth whipping around grabbing and biting at anything and everything it comes into contact with! It’s a startling and alarming transformation and happens in our house at least twice every day.
Having turned 1 year old recently and physically looking like an adult, our young dog Quincy is still very puppyish in much of her behavior. Because we didn’t have her as a very young puppy, we are making a big effort to focus on her mouth manners before she gets too much older. We need to help her make good choices about how and when to use her mouth as well as help her develop good bite inhibition.
One of the most challenging aspects of adolescence for puppy parents is the continuation of the nipping and biting behavior as those puppy teeth fall out and become adult teeth with adult strength behind them. An important part of raising your puppy, then your adolescent and finally your adult dog is teaching them what their mouth is for as defined by us humans. It’s important that these lessons are taught in a thoughtful and non-confrontational manner. Using forceful and punitive training methods will only make matters worse and risk having a dog who may choose to use his mouth in a dangerous manner.
I see many clients with a dog – often one they have had awhile and know well – who has never previously bitten but suddenly finds himself in a situation where he think using his mouth is necessary and ends up causing damage as his first bite. This is exactly what we are striving to prevent when we teach our clients how to manage and train when their dogs first start using their mouths. The goals are: a) your dog learning when using his mouth may be appropriate; and b) learning how to use his mouth by developing good bite inhibition.
Seems like it would be simpler to not let them use their mouths at all, right? Definitely not. Instead, we need to teach our dogs how to properly manage those shiny, white “weapons” they possess. It’s vitally important to do so in a neutral and consistent manner so the focus is learning the skill not being concerned about “getting in trouble” when they use their mouths. Dogs need to learn to be cautious and thoughtful with their mouths, what things are appropriate to put your mouth on and what things are off limits for any mouth contact. I remember a client I had many years ago who thought it was sweet that her Rottweiler mix would run over and “hold” her daughter’s hand in her mouth as they ran around the yard together. It was very difficult to convince this woman what a bad choice this could ultimately be!
All good training is a combination of Management and Training. Here is some of what we are doing to teach Quincy how to use her mouth:
We can generally predict when Piranha Puppy will make her appearance – often after breakfast or dinner or early evening after a day of relatively low activity. If we decide to join her on the couch for a cuddle or engage her in a rousing game of fetch, we come prepared and have a plan!
For cuddle time, I always make sure that I have several good soft toys close by that I can quickly grab and wedge into a thrashing mouth if Piranha Puppy makes an appearance. If she won’t take that toy or it gets tossed away by the thrashing, I always have another one ready.
For playtime, we try and keep our energy fairly low so as to avoid building up her energy until she has learned better impulse control. I make sure that I keep her at a distance by using two toys and throwing one at a time across her path well before she reaches me which generally interrupts her forward motion and distracts her. If I wait for her to come to me and drop her toy when she has a full head of steam I may get an unwanted visit from Piranha Puppy at this stage in her training! I also tend to keep constantly moving around trees, chairs and deck railings as we’re playing so she has to focus on where I am which helps prevent potential launches as she’s busy ducking around things to find me.
Another aspect of good management is the use of relevant consequences. Being proactive and preventive is always the best first choice rather than relying on consequences to do the job. However, when necessary, consequences can help with training if applied properly and fairly. A consequence that would be relevant to our dogs is one that temporarily removes whatever it is that’s motivating the behaviour. So in the case of Piranha Puppy, if we run out of toys to use during cuddles or if we fail to avoid a sudden launch during a game of fetch, we can simply make ourselves or the play temporarily end. We can direct Quincy to her crate for a brief time out (a minute or less is often enough), or simply freeze in place and stop play for a short period until her energy becomes calmer. It’s important that the consequence is neutral – we don’t say anything or have any angry energy behind our actions. The intention isn’t to frighten or force her into better behaviour but rather to have her thinking “What happened to make the fun stop??” As soon as her behaviour changes, the fun begins again. If we’re consistent, she very quickly learns that using her mouth is what causes play to end. Because she’s highly motivated by play and even cuddling and attention from us, she works hard to control her mouth in order to keep the fun coming.
A really important lesson I usually work on right away with a new dog is how to take treats nicely. I prefer not to teach a cue like “Gentle”, but rather create an expectation that anything I give you must be taken with a careful mouth. I don’t want to have to remember to say “Gentle” for the rest of my dog’s life whenever I hand over treats or toys. I want to put the responsibility on my dog to be thinking about how to use her mouth nicely in order to get what she wants to have.
“Take It Nicely”:
- Make a fist with a treat inside and hold it out to your dog.
- As soon as she quits licking, biting or sniffing and makes the tiniest pause in her interest in your hand, Click or Mark and open your fist for her to take the treat off the flat of your hand while you cue “Take It”.
- Keep repeating this step until there is an immediate pause as soon as your fist is presented.
- Now begin to add a small pause between when you open your hand and when you cue “Take It”.
- If your dog tries to get the treat before your “Take It” cue, simply close your hand and temporarily withhold access to the treat.
- Once she gets the hang of waiting for her cue before taking the treat, begin to vary the time of the pauses – shorter and longer.
Because we are offering the treat off the flat of your hand, there is no opportunity for your dog to use a hard mouth. The next step in the exercise would be to begin to offer the treat in stages working up to a normal treat position between your fingertips. A next hand position might be to hold the treat mostly in your fist but partially sticking out so you can pull it away if the mouth is too hard. Next could be several fingers holding the treat, palm facing down; then palm facing up; then fewer fingers until finally you are using just two to hold a treat. You still need to be able to withhold the treat if your dog’s mouth starts getting too hard, so it does help to use larger and harder treats that are easier to pull away without relinquishing any nibbles.
This is a good exercise to work on with adolescent dogs. Not only does it help you build mouth awareness and softness for treat taking, but it also provides a good start to the games of Tug and Fetch – the “Take It”. Another benefit – it’s a good impulse control exercise for puppy: “You can’t have that item until I tell you to Take It.”
An important aspect of learning to manage her mouth is helping Quincy develop good bite inhibition with dogs as well as people. Bite inhibition is learning to have very precise control over her mouth pressure and placement. Thankfully, she’s friendly with dogs so she can learn some important “how hard is too hard” lessons by playing with appropriate dogs. Quincy has developed a really nice relationship with her BFF, Frankie, who happens to be the same age. They both play very well together with minimal intervention. Together, they are learning good lessons on the proper use of their mouths and the give and take of proper play. She also spends time in daycare playing with many other types and ages of dogs for well-monitored periods so she can learn that not every dog plays the same way and some dogs are more sensitive than others. It’s a great lesson if you are careful to monitor things so a young dog doesn’t get a chance to be a bully or get bullied. The use of relevant consequences is important here too. Temporary removal from play is a powerful motivator to teach her to be more careful with her mouth during play as well as teaching her to tone down her play style. Again, the removal is done neutrally with no words or angry energy and it’s very brief.
Putting in the work now to teach Quincy good mouth skills is well worth the time and effort so that as an adult she can be relied upon to make good choices when she’s interacting with dogs or people. It’s all just part of the process and part of the fun of raising a good dog. In the meantime, we get to have our fun with Piranha Puppy from time to time – but those times should soon start to become less frequent until Piranha Puppy bids a final farewell!