by Ellen Landauer
Puppy socialization info: one of the most misunderstood aspects of raising a dog.
For the most part, accepted practices employed with more and more fervor these days have the very opposite of the intended effect.
PHOTO: The author with East German Shepherd pups, bred by Constance Krebs, Spartanville Shepherds.
"The most loving way to raise and train a dog is to not expose them to situations their temperament has not yet evolved a capacity to handle." - Kevin Behan
Raising your dog in a way that works in harmony with their needs and basic nature is ultimately easier in practice.
The greatest difficulty lies in having the conviction to often do the complete opposite of what we have been repeatedly admonished to do by conventional dog training institutions.
One of the biggest challenges of puppy socialization is to face our fear of how a young dog expresses their natural prey drive. In particular, this includes the desire to use their jaws to make contact.
PHOTO: The precocious one of the litter, (nickname 'Ears' because his ears are up straight at only 6 weeks).
Puppy socialization info for new owners should include insight into how a young dog perceives their interaction with humans.
Picture the world from a little pup's point of view, Even a large breed pup, such as a Golden Retriever, is only about 10 inches high at the shoulder at the age of 8 weeks. A child 4 feet tall would be more than four times the height of this pup.
Picture a creature four times as tall as you - maybe 20 - 25 feet high. Would a life form with the height and mass of a three-story building or an upended tractor-trailer truck be a bit scary for you?
What if that creature looked straight at you and reached out an 8 foot long arm to stroke you..? What if they were to grab you and pick you right up so you are hanging 15 feet above the ground? They make sounds that you totally do not understand - but they look like they expect you to understand. What must this be like for a little pup?
Unless you have the capacity to directly communicate on an emotional level with your new pup in a way that helps them feel safe and whole, they will find themselves in a very strange and frightening world.
For the benefit of all, we need to re-think puppy socialization info.
The price later extracted for not honoring the dog's true nature can manifest in many ways, both behaviorally and health-wise.
Fear biting, aggression, separation anxiety, excessive barking, running away, destructiveness and more are behaviors related to stress, including poor handling by the owner. When I say 'poor handling' it is with the understanding that the vast majority of owners are trying to do the very best for their pup.
There is already plenty of proof that stress increases the likelihood of physical illness. Would you consider a new way if it could spare your beloved pet some suffering, AND result in a bond that goes way beyond the norm??
The more you have studied conventional dog-training philosophies - as I did, the more likely you may balk at the idea that they are dead wrong! Coming from a conventional dog training background myself, I perfectly understand!
There is naturally reluctance to let go of the well-intentioned but misguided information we have all been programmed to believe.
However - my experience, starting in 1998 - with Natural Dog Training as taught by Kevin Behan - is that this method is in the best interests of you, your dog, and all humans and animals with whom your dog comes in contact.
Puppy socialization info that honors your dog's true nature benefits you, your friends and family, as well as contributing greatly to the health of your dog throughout their life.