Labrador Breed specific socialising.
Subheading ‘Don’t BLOW its mind, GROW its self control!!’
Second subheading – do NOT do lots of *the above*
Something that I’m very passionate about getting across to owners of the *vast majority* of well bred, socially raised dogs of our breed, is that the majority of dogs of this breed, raised by breeders who have bred from good natured parents, have handled the puppies a lot and showered them in love and attention, and who have had many visitors round to, again, cuddle and fuss them…. *tend* to leave with a huge amount of their canine and human socialisation already locked into their genes, and their minds.
By FAR, as a breeder and pet dog trainer, the biggest problem I see, in the response that most of these, well loved, well raised, well bred Labradors, have to seeing and meeting humans and other dogs, is that they believe ALL strangers and strange dogs were put on this earth to be run at or jumped on, and basically adored and played with… .
That is *delightful* in a 10 week old puppy. But this continues, and spirals, and is NOT delightful in a 10 MONTH old. It is fustrating and often embarassing.
They are ‘crazy in love’ with people and dogs in a GOOD way, but to the dogs and people… there is no GOOD way, a 10 month old, you only just met on a walk, covered in mud, CAN be ‘crazy in love’ with you.
Allowing your dog to become ‘people obsessed, attention obsessed and dog obsessed’, is a REAL danger. You don’t have to do MUCH of anything for it to start, increase, and then become your single biggest control and relationship problem.
Now I see socialising as having two themes:
1) Sights, sounds and situations. This is the whole going off down the high street as a babe in arms to see buses, and wheelchairs, and hear cars backfire, and doors slam. To maybe go in cars and learn about that. To go to the vets and see that vets are not always going to stick a big fat needle in your neck etc etc.
2) People and other canines.
This is the part that many people, totally indvertantly, get entirely wrong, in my opinion and experience.
Advice is given to have them meet people, and dogs and learn about playing and running, and being cuddled and so on…. and with a 10 week old puppy, *almost* everyone will love him! They WILL want to give him a cuddle, pick him up. They will want to ‘let him have a play with Monty, he LOVES puppies…’ So you do…… And yes, each and every time the puppy gets even bolder with other dogs, and people, and so, in a way makes his ‘bounce rate’ for the odd bad experience he has meeting other dogs etc, probably BETTER for the wide and varied experience.
A LOT of the problem is puppy training classes, vet puppy parties, ‘raising a puppy books’ etc etc are geared to ALL breeds. However OUR breed is different to so many. It was BORN social. It was BORN playing and understanding cuddles and love.
What the puppy actually needs to learn in the early days weeks and months is threefold:
1) You are NOT always the centre of attention. You are not always part of everything we do.
2) YES other dogs and people exist in this world, on walks, to and from them, and other places…….. but they are NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU
3) Yes I will teach you more about learning to use increasing self control, rather than strip you of it, inadvertantly, by making you believe all and sundry want you in their face.
A balanced relationship:
Pretty much the single biggest problem I have in my Puppy, young dog and beginner classes, are dogs who do not have a balanced relationship with their owner.
Their owner loves them, and they love their owner. But they are not used to having to use self control under almost any circumstance, and almost never look to their OWNER for entertainment and reassurance, they look to their owners HAND for food, and to the other dogs for entertainment….. or they look to the ENVIRONMENT for entertainment (hunting, sniffing, wildlife chasing etc).
So I’d like to explain how, maybe, whilst you can’t change up what is entirely cemented between an older dogs ears, you *could* change how things were done with your next puppy.
How should you view walks?
I believe that walks should be times that are spent trying to grow the relationship between your DOG AND YOU….. Not with anyone else. Not with other dogs etc etc. They are genetically hardwired to be social, and you can see that from the desire to BE in the face of other dogs, even strange dogs which is COMPLETELY not fitting with proper basic canine behaviour…..
Obviously at any point if your Labrador shows real fear of humans, or huge caution of other dogs, then you will relax these exercises and rules a little, and allow a bit more free interaction and positive experiences. That goes without saying.
Self control, the early days:
1) So… firstly. Self control. I strongly believe puppies, from day one should be let off the lead so it becomes ‘normal’. I also believe all dogs should have free runs daily in safe areas and this also should be normal.
However there is a ‘turning point’ as regards ‘free runs’.
A puppy is full of natural insecurity so will come back when called etc etc.
But the MINUTE you see that Puppy start to outgrow its natural insecurity and start to think about not coming when called so NOT responding …. this is the time to start to reattach yourself to it as regards a longline or training lead. SOMETHING that restricts its ability to FAIL and run up to people, dogs, wildlife… whatever is its ‘poison’.
At Home – Visitors and no visitors:
Self control needs building at home. Visitors may come. But before you open the door pup is away. Crate. Another room. Behind a baby gate. Pup doesn’t just jump all over whoever is at the door! Again its sweet at 10 weeks its HELL at 10 months!!!
Reschooling an older dog is not difficult. When someone comes to te house before the door is opened, the dog goes away. YOU then interact with the visitor for a while. THEN if they desire dog comes out to see them (and read that as pup too) ON A LEAD. You have control. You don’t just take oversocial dog straight up to visitor, you sit seperately for five minutes Dog does NOT have to sit like a soldier but hes not allowed physcial access to visitor. Then maybe you take dog on lead to see visitor. Your rules, and able to remove dog immediately if silliness happens.
At home, pup generaly needs putting in its bed area, crate or whatever sometimes EVEN THOUGH HUMANS ARE HOME. This is crutial self control stuff. They must not believe they are part of everything except when you are out, and at bedtime. They may not be part of stuff even WHEN you are around. This is priceless future stuff. PLEASE don;t be complacent on this.
Walks should be your private space if possible, your bubble with you and your dog to enjoy time with each other. They are NOT social times, unless VERY OCCATIONALLY you actually arrange to meet someone. Even then, limit mad playing time, and do a little minute or two or controlled walking with both dogs on a lead, then another period of playing.
Strangers dogs are NOT there to teach your pup a lesson, nor to exhaust your pup ‘so it sleeps’.
Please understand the failing of our gundog breeds are that they are play machines at 8 weeks old. Please use walks to politely, avoid other dogs, by way of having your youngster on a longline so YOU can call the shots and all its free access to anything……
They do not need social skills enhanced, they need self CONTROL enhanced!!!!!
Enjoy your walks. Shout friendly greetings to other owners. Occasionally stand when their dogs run up to YOU and let them come and collect their hound. But don;t fall into the trap of not seeing how the social scale works for a do of our breed. People AND dogs!!!
Avoid. Prevent failures by way of a nice suitable long line, and there are many on the market. Be unpredictable on walks with your routes, where you stand for five minutes and just view the vista! Where you march on Where you let the dog *off*, where you don’t even though you did yesterday…. etc.
Start young and you will programme them the right way. There is no upper age you CAN’T reschool this. You just need to change things up and be happy take control back, on walks and at home.