Puppy Essentials 101- Body Language & Socialization

< A version of this article was published in the Summer 2021 issue of Humanely Speaking, the newsletter of the Bangor Humane Society >

< Updated 11JUL21 >

< A short link for this page – https://bit.ly/BHS-SocBdyLang >

Every puppy has a critical socialization period that starts when we bring them home and ends between 12 and 16 weeks of age. After this period ends, a puppy will likely view anything new as a threat. Therefore, we must socialize our puppies by exposing them to new things in a planned and controlled manner while creating a positive association.

Before beginning socialization, you must first understand canine body language, so you recognize when your puppy is uncomfortable. Incidentally, we see the same signals in adult dogs. Signs of anxiety can be as subtle as; avoiding eye contact, licking their lips, a tightly closed mouth, yawning, and scratching. If these signals do not cause the scary thing to go away, the puppy may give more emphatic signs such as looking away, panting, and trying to hide. When a puppy is terrified, it may growl, bark, lunge, or they may freeze in terror. Unfortunately, many people misunderstand the “freeze.” Since the puppy is not reacting, they believe the puppy is “fine” when in reality, they are terrified. NEVER force a puppy to interact with a living thing or object if they show any hesitation or signs of fear.

Body language indicating your puppy is comfortable includes; a loose wiggly body, an open mouth with their tongue hanging out, and a desire to investigate and move towards a person or object. Unfortunately, most people do not understand how dogs communicate. It is your responsibility to teach family, friends, and all other people who will interact with your puppy how to do so.

The best way to greet a puppy is to squat sidewise at a distance from the puppy and allow the puppy and person to approach you at their own pace. Alternatively, you can slowly move towards the puppy, avoiding direct eye contact and keeping your arms still. At the same time, the person with the puppy will feed them tiny, high-value treats. If the puppy shows any hesitation, stop and try another day. The puppy ALWAYS gets to make a choice.

Between 8 and 12 weeks of age, you need to gently expose your puppy to everything you anticipate they will encounter during their lifetime in a planned and controlled manner. That includes people of all ages, sizes, races, smells, and wearing a wide variety of clothing. Socialization also includes exposing a puppy to other animals and non-living things such as; cars, lawnmowers, boats, snowmobiles, brooms, snow shovels, and more, all in a planned and controlled manner.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com  )

Essential Handouts On Body Language, and Canine and Human Behavior from Dr. Sophia YinPuppy – https://bit.ly/YinBodyLang

Socialization and Habituation – http://bit.ly/SocializationPuppy

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful? – http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear

Especially for New Puppy Parentshttp://bit.ly/EspcNewPuppyParents

Alone Traininghttp://bit.ly/AloneTraining

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/ )

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 1http://bit.ly/WfMw-Esp_Pups1

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 2http://bit.ly/WfMw-Esp_Pups2

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 3http://bit.ly/WfMw-Esp_Pups3

Don Hanson and Dr. Dave Cloutier on Puppy Socialization and Vaccinationhttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/Pet_Tip_-Don_Hanson_and_Dr._Dave_Cloutier_on_Puppy_Socialization_and_Vaccinations.mp3

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( shockfree.org ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©11JUL21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Shared Blog Post – The Deferential Equation – The Importance of Learning Boundaries by Diana Logan

< Updated 03DEC20 >

< A short link for this page – https://bit.ly/SHRD-Boundaries-Logan >

The Deferential Equation is an excellent article by my friend Diana Logan of Pet Connection Dog Training that appears in the November 2020 issue of Downeast Dog News. Diana addresses the importance of a puppy learning that not all dogs will appreciate or tolerate an exuberant puppy greeting. I had one of those puppies, my Golden, Tikken. As a puppy, Tik was miss congeniality++++, and her “in your face” overly-enthusiastic greetings towards other dogs were not always well received. I still remember the day she went charging towards my friend’s dog Rey, an older dog who was a card-carrying member of the “Go Away You Obnoxious Puppy” club. What happened next occurred in a couple of seconds. As Tikken was a puppy, she still did not have the training for me to intervene successfully. Tikken was running at full speed, and Rey started showing teeth and growling when Tik was about 10 feet away. Tik just kept charging, flipped on her back when she was about 2 feet from Rey. With her forward momentum slid Tik into Rey like a baseball player sliding into home base. Rey went tumbling and responded with several choice canine expletives, and thankfully, due to Rey’s restraint, no injuries occurred. This is a lesson puppies need to learn early on, before the end of their socialization period at 14 to 16 weeks of age.

Recommended Resources

The Deferential Equation – The Importance of Learning Boundarieshttps://downeastdognews.villagesoup.com/p/the-deferential-equation/1876252

Articles on Don’s Blog
( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com  )

Especially for New Puppy Parents – http://bit.ly/EspcNewPuppyParents


Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/ )

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 1 – http://bit.ly/WfMw-Esp_Pups1

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 2 – http://bit.ly/WfMw-Esp_Pups2

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 3 – http://bit.ly/WfMw-Esp_Pups3