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Puppy Socialization

Puppy Socialization

€¦Plus, acclimating a dog once it's beyond the socialization stage.

I have read your articles for some time and enjoy them greatly. Also, I have learned quite a bit even though I have been involved with retrievers for quite a while. We breed and raise golden retrievers and Labs. Recently, I have had people wanting to pick up pups at five or six weeks of age. I am sure I read something in one of your articles about the importance of socialization within the litter, etc., which occurs about that time.

I won't let my pups go until seven weeks, and prefer 10 if possible. Do you have a reference I could look up about possible problems resulting from taking a pup away from the litter and home at five weeks of age?

Thank you for the nice words about my articles. The one you refer to is, "Why Not Seven Weeks, the 49th Day Revisited." You can get a copy of that one and three other puppy articles I wrote from the following Web site: When the screen comes up, click on "Pup's First Year" in the menu on the left. When that screen comes up, scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see the articles listed, including "The 49th Day."

Several references are listed there. Actually the most definitive work ever done on the subject was published as a book called Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog, by John Paul Scott and John Fuller. It covers 20-plus years of work on the socialization process in dogs. That was the title of the first edition. The title was changed slightly in later printings. All printings of the work were published by University of Chicago Press.

I can't imagine why anyone would want to take a pup from litter at five or six weeks. I consider eight weeks to be the minimum age to take a dog from litter and prefer to wait until 10 weeks. But there are as many myths about dogs floating around as there are about horses. Though not all the advice you can get there is bad, the dog behavior chat rooms are about the worst place to pick up nonsensical information--especially from self-styled behavior experts. Perhaps that is where the five- or six-weeks suggestions are originating.

My shepherd is going to be a first time mom. How will I know if she needs help removing the membrane from her pups when they are born?

Also, she barks and acts like she is going to tear up any dog that gets near her (wags her tail). Then she wants to play after the initial "front."

How can I keep her from going nuts when company arrives? She wants to jump on them and brings them her toy to play. This dog is 21„2 years old.

Answer and Questions
Your first question: Usually the bitch will lick a newly born pup and that will remove the membranes. You might need to hold pup's head down to be sure the pup's mouth and throat are cleared of fluid. Sit down with a veterinarian well ahead of time and have him/her run through the birth process.

The other questions I can't answer without knowing a lot more about your dog. I don't know whether the hyperactivity is a result of genetics, improper primary socialization or very lax training. For example, at what age was the pup taken from litter? Did you and the pup go through a good obedience training course? Is your dog generally overly puppy-like? What do you do when someone is arriving? Is she kennel (crate) trained?

If you give me a complete behavioral, training and general history of her I could better advise you. With the info you have provided I would only be whistling in the dark.

Another major question is, why was she bred? What reasons can you give me for breeding her? Can you think of any for not breeding her?

Sorry I can't be more specific, but I look forward to hearing from you.

Reply to Questions
She was from a breeder (who has been breeding dogs for 40 years) and there were only three puppies in the litter. She was six weeks old when I took her home. She did go to obedience class at about one year old. She went to doggy daycare about once or twice a week for the first year or 18 months.

She is good with my grandkids and loves everybody. She acts aggressive with other dogs for about the first five minutes and then is great (even at daycare). She was taken to a "dog park" and had a great time after she acted tough. Perhaps I don't get her out enough, i.e., walks, car rides?

I decided to breed her because a friend wanted a pup and I wanted her to have one litter before she is spayed. I thought that might help calm her down a little. She was bred to a very docile male.

Suggested Solutions
The first thing I want you to do is access the Web site mentioned in my response to the previous question in this column, Follow the directions above to find the four articles I wrote about puppies. You can print them out and should read them thoroughly. The articles all originally appeared in Gun Dog and they will tell you a whole lot about how to treat pups. Included are things the breeder of your dog didn't know or you would not have taken your dog home at six weeks.

Part and maybe most of your dog's lack of social skills with both dogs and people is due to her not being allowed to remain in the litter long enough to learn how to be a dog. She doesn't understand the social amenities because she was deprived of a valuable part of her primary socialization. Add to this the fact she is a bit hyperactive and you get the results you describe.

She also has a misunderstanding regarding people in that she treats them as though they were dogs or as though she is part person, part dog. I don't think she had a good secondary socialization early on, either. Acting aggressively and simultaneously sending mixed signals is the result of the insufficient primary and confusing secondary socialization.

The bad side is the window for socialization ended when the dog was about 12 weeks old. You can never totally fix this problem; you can only mask it with a good obedience program.

She should have at least a half hour of brisk walking every day. That will keep the edge off a dog that is normally active. If she were a coursing hound or a hard working hunting dog she would require more exercise.

Having a litter will not do anything to make her calm, nor will spaying her. A friend wanting a pup is not a good reason for breeding her, either. What if she has eight or 10 pups? The expense of raising a litter that size until the pups are eight or 10 weeks old will be close to the thousand dollar level, if everything goes well.

If there are any complications, that amount can double very quickly. Let's hope she will have a small litter and you can find some more friends who want a pup


Please read the articles I suggested to you, and if there are any questions or if I didn't make something clear enough, please e-mail me right away and I will do my best to explain it to you or at least elaborate on it.

For solutions to your dog's behavioral problems or behavior related training problems, you can contact Dr. Ed Bailey at:

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