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Puppy Socialization Checklist: What is Most Important?

A Puppy Socialization Checklist should include the following..?!

People: babies, toddlers, young children, older children, adults, men, women, elderly, people of any age in strange costumes - hats - coats - suits, etc.

Dogs: other puppies, young dogs, male dogs, female dogs, old dogs.

Other animals: cats, horses, livestock.

Places: Parks, woods, towns, busy shopping centers, cities.

Everyday situations: Local sports events, family picnics, the vet's office.

The commonly accepted way to raise your new pup is to make sure you follow a puppy socialization checklist. By exposing your canine baby to a constant variety of people, places, other dogs, animals and situations, you surely will end up with a calm, safe, confident dog companion you can take anywhere.

Or will you..?

What if there is a BETTER Puppy Socialization Checklist?

For over 25 years, I raised my canine companions according to the puppy socialization checklist above.

Here, for example, is day one of my first German Shepherd's life with me over 25 years ago:

Mid-morning: Pick up 8-week-old Kiyla at the breeder's. Carry her to car and put her in wire crate in the back seat. Three minutes into her first ride in a car, she suddenly starts ki-yi-ing.

First stop - the vet's office for her first health check. Kiyla sits on the bench next to me on leash. Already bonding with me, she looks up at me in the most open and trusting way. When our turn comes, I carry her into the exam room and put her on the table. The vet gently pokes and prods, applies a stethoscope, takes a vial of blood and tells me Kiyla looks very healthy.

Next, I return home, gather up my massage table and lotion and head directly to the home of a client. I clip on a lead, let Kiyla out of the crate to eliminate, then put her back in the crate. I carry the crate into my client's house so Kiyla can be with me as I work.

Coming back home, I let my 6 year old male Doberman out and take Kiyla out of the crate to meet him. He growls a bit, is skittish and seems not to want to make contact with Kiyla. We walk around the yard a bit.

Relatives and a couple of friends come over to see the new pup. They ohh and ahh, clap their hands to get her to come to them, look directly at her and put out their hands to touch and fondle her.

Later, I put the crate on the sun porch, put Kiyla in and feed her some dinner.

From day one, I took Kiyla EVERYWHERE with me. As she grew, I went out of my way to hang out at shopping malls, took her to outdoor gatherings, parties, street festivals and more. Within a couple of weeks of getting her, I was training her to sit, lie down, stay and come. Using the best training method I knew, I established dominance over her at a tender age and did a lot of obedience training. We also played fetch, took plenty of hikes and long runs together. From 4 months of age, obedience classes were on the agenda.

How Did Following the Puppy Socialization Checklist Work?

Kiyla was from unusually stable and healthy old-time American bloodlines. No fault of temperament there!

However, following the puppy socialization checklist resulted in a nervous, hyperactive dog that sometimes exhibited inappropriate fear/aggression.

What Was Missing from the Puppy Socialization Checklist?

Two things - as a puppy, Kiyla's natural desire to connect fully with her owner (me) by using her mouth was crushed from day one.

'Oh, but if you let them put their jaws on you, that teaches them to be aggressive.'

No, quite the opposite, as raising two more much stronger temperament dogs (serious working line East German Shepherds) has now proven. One of them is a 2 year old 95 lb male. And I still have all my fingers and toes ;-)

You see, to a dog, gripping (safely) with their jaws - you notice I didn't say 'biting' - is akin to a child coming up and giving you a big hug. What if every time a child reached out to hug someone or hold their hand, they were pushed away, disciplined and reprimanded? What kind of person would they grow up to be?

Same holds true for a pup - if you block this primary drive to connect with their group members, you destroy their ability to function in full cooperation with their group. When a pup's drive to grip with the jaws is honored and channeled properly as they mature, you end up with a much safer, happier and far more cooperative companion.

The other issue is the emotional overload most puppies endure, with a social schedule to rival that of the British royalty. Too much and the wrong kind of socialization put pups in survival mode, ultimately making them more likely to bite. No need to follow a puppy socialization checklist.

There is much to be explained, and I am in the process of finishing a book and creating a new website where you can learn more about how my point of view came to be.

In the meantime, you might want to do a search on the man who is my trainer (since 1998) - Kevin Behan who developed Natural Dog Training. He has two great books out. Once I read his first book, there was no going back to any other training method.

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