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, I see a greater problem in the response most of these, well loved, well raised, well bred Labradors, have to humans and other dogs in terms of believing all were put on this earth to be jumped on, played with… and basically adored by.
That is *delightful* in a 10 week old puppy. But this continues and spirals and is NOT delightful in a 10 MONTHS 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.
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, indvertantly, get 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.
However pretty much the single biggest problem I have in my puppy/beginner class, 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.
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.
Obviously at any point if your Labrador shows fear of humans, 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.
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, I believe that rather than allowing rough play with another young dog you meet for 5 or 10 mins, a far more beneficial use of those 5 or 10 mins, would be, firstly, not to let the puppy drag you up to the other dog. Walk the other way, walk in a wide circle around the other dog. Ask for a sit then, eight times of ten, have the person walk their dog away again and play with your puppy… have them know its GREAT to be with you and they don’t need that dog that they thought they were going to play with at ALL…. they have YOU, and your great game and cuddles and fuss….. and off you walk in another direction.
2) I believe that going to a park or more crowded place, and having short periods of just sitting up on a wall, a bench, etc etc, with the puppy onlead and actually asking that the world and his wife walks PAST and doesn’t interact with your puppy is hugely useful. And every 15 or 30 seconds, encourage your pup to turn and interact with YOU instead. Of COURSE if someone elses dog breaks and runs to you, just calmly take its collar, and stop it hooliganing with your puppy till its owners claim it. Be polite, be calm, take it TO the owner if they don’t come. Explain yoou are just doing some self control exercises and if you are not cross and ratty 99% of owners will shower you in ‘Oh i wish we’d done more of that, look at this mad one! Sorry to disturb you!’ A brilliant one for this is outside a supermarket, where few dogs will be, but lots of humans. Just sit on the quiet side of the busy part (there is always is one) and smile at everyone who makes to come and fuss the pup and just ask if they wouldn’t mind you are just teaching it self control. And maybe they wouldn’t mind not just this once. The breaks to focus on you and get fuss and play with YOU are very important. You don’t just sit for twenty mins with a whining straining dog. You take it to its current patience point maximum when it starts to make a noise or not be able to sit still any longer, and then break it with a minutes game and little gentle playfight.
Later on maybe the third or fourth time, pick and choose having ten people walk past, and then the next person who approaches to fuss the puppy, let them. Then have ten people go past again…. etc etc.
3) Dog play. Ok especially in a single dog household it is important. However, genuinely, you know what? Its not *that* important. Its not a dogs *right* to throw itself around a park with another likeminded dog till they are a dilated pupils panting muddy slobber covered pair of wreaks.
Its always considered ‘boring and prissy’ but genuinely, if this situation arises, fine, go with it for maybe a couple of minutes. Then extract the puppy however that is possible, get its lead on, and get its focus back on you! That might be you needing to walk well away from the other dog to do that, but a combination of silly voices, tickles, treats and so on, will pull it back to you. Calm it down, then ideally either have it just have to heel past that dog it was playing with, or find another even if it doesn’t *know its being used*. If several dogs are playing it would be SO beneficial, to extract the youngster, move away, gets its focus on YOU, then at a distance sit it up for a short time, 15 – 30 seconds even just using self control watching. If the response is ‘bark bark, lunge’ then walk away, get focus on YOU again and sit further away and try again and for a shorter period.
Dogs MUST grow self control to be good family pets. Some are born more laid back and with the need for less social contact than others. But there is nothing worse than seeing a young dog arrive at class, throwing itself about at the end of the lead, barking and yelling to the other dogs, obviously ABSOLUTELY BAFFLED as to why if there are other young dogs there, why its not being, as it usually is, allowed to jump and bite and gallop and lunge.
This sets the owner back weeks in trying to get any sort of control in class, especially off the lead, and infact you could say that most will probably remain unpredictable and hard to shift in their thinking and grow self control in, for the rest of their lives. The rules that all dogs are to be jumped on and approached, go in VERY fast. Which is why I say, you *almost certainly* have them already ingrained at the breeders, in the litter. You certainly do if you own a Wylanbriar dog bred here at Sompting by US ourselves. Thy get masses of dog and people contact. Self control for those is FAR more important than canine and human interaction thats all pretty much a done deal.
Please consider with your next puppy HOW you socialise it. HOW you actually are firmer, teach it YOU are the fun provider for a lot of the time, even on walks, NOT other dogs or humans, and then the problems that HAUNT so many Labrador owners:
* Jumping up at everyone who comes to the house
* Jumping up at people on walks
* Running up to every dog they see without even checking the body language of ‘will they be welcome’
* Blanking commands and setting themselves back at training
………..can be vastly improved, or never really break in the first place!
I can catagorically say, the folks who look to the end of my training class to take the first opportunity to ‘for goodness sake let him relax and spin round with some of the other class dogs’ almost in some cases might have well saved their petrol, because all the good calm learning has just shot straight out the window and the dog learns far more quickly to anticipate that ‘end of class’ play. You will always see many folks leaving the class at heel, dog on a lead, straight to the car and in. Those dogs tend to progress more quickly with all the right things going in and staying in.
(Even more negative is a chase and hooli BEFORE class) as the dogs go IN beliveing ‘any second, any second, any second, they can do it again….’ and when that second doesn’t arrive, with the slightest encouragement, they will set that chain off themselves by charging off to orchastrate it).
So please have a ponder, ask questions, and try and picture your dogs most irritating habits or faults. And ask if they were because it has a complete lack of patience and self control AND if it constantly looks to others to entertain it, and you just drive it around and hold its lead.
Di – March 2015