Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hunting Dog Socialization 201

As you learned in the previous socialization article (Hunting Dog Socialization 101), socialization is crucial to your dog’s training. In the simplest of terms, socialization is introducing your dog to new people, places, and experiences. This process teaches your dog to be comfortable and confident in new situations. The socialization process begins the very first day the dog is in your home. The first article detailed the best way to start socialization within your home. Here we will look at introducing your dog to new places and people.


Regardless of what you will be showing your puppy, it is very important that you not allow the dog to become scared or hurt. This will negatively color the socialization process, which can be difficult to undo. A puppy that has adequately bonded with you should feel comfortable with most new situations as long as you are nearby. You have developed a trusting relationship where the dog should be able to trust you to protect him. This next step of socialization cannot happen effectively if this relationship has not been built.

It is natural for a dog to be curious about new places. You should certainly encourage this, as long as it is proper and legal. Be aware of any safety issues as you bring your dog to new places, and look into local laws regarding leashes. If possible, the dog should be able to explore freely, off-lead, in many areas. Even if your area has strict leash laws, it is likely there are areas that are created for unleashed dogs. Allow the dog to take rides in the vehicle with you, even if you are just running a quick errand. Take the dog with you to parks, lakes, woods, and friends’ homes. Dog parks are ideal in that they expose puppies to other dogs and to other human owners. Be aware of his reaction these situations and be ready to intervene if the puppy is acting inappropriately. As for other humans, kindly ask them not to offer your dog treats. In this stage, it is important that you are the only person in charge.

You should always remain in firm control, keeping the dog safe and secure. In a situation where the dog leaves your side to explore, call him back every so often and reward his obedience. In this you are building the trusting relationship where you are in control, but still encouraging his natural curiosity.

Beginning commands can be taught as you are building this relationship and teaching socialization. Between eight and twelve weeks old, the dog should be able to learn the basics like: no, sit, come, heel, and stay. Early training will ensure the success of later, more specified hunting training.

In a puppy’s life, nearly every moment holds potential for training. It will take concentrated effort, but your time and energy will be well worth it when the time comes for more in-depth training. At that point, the dog will be obedient, receptive, and ready to learn.
Friday, July 02, 2010

Hunting Dog Socialization 101

Long before you can tackle the art of training your hunting dog, you will start the necessary process of socialization. In a nutshell, socialization is introducing the dog to new people, places, things, and experiences in an effort to help the dog adjust to new situations well. We have all seen the dog that become skittish whenever you enter a new environment. The goal of socialization is too avoid behavior changes that accompany new places or events and build your dog’s confidence. It also establishes a foundation upon which all other training will build. In the end, this process will have created a companion that can roll with the punches on and off the hunt.

Bringing Home Puppy

Your brand new puppy will arrive to your home excited, but wary. More than likely the pup will feel out of sorts and lost. However, most puppies quickly realize your home holds new adventures. Keeping a close eye, allow the dog to explore his new surroundings. Keep in mind that puppies can be destructive (in many ways), so it is important to take precautions with valuables. Also, although you will be watching, keep a bit of distance to allow the dog to experience the surroundings without your constant shadow. The puppy will return to you soon enough, at which point you should shower him with love and affection. Any attention should be calm; stick with back or head rubs and using his name while you are petting. At this point, playing competitive games (like a tug of war) or rough-housing is not recommended, simply because it can send a message to the pup that you are buddies on equal footing, instead of establishing you as the boss.

Going Outside

In the outdoors, give the pup plenty of freedom to explore, as long as it is safe. Allow him to explore as you watch from a distance. Right away, you can begin using his name and calling to him to come. If he obeys, reward him with a small treat, and then allow him to return to his exploration.

Puppy Place

Your new puppy needs to have a space that he knows is his. It may be a crate in the home or a kennel of some sort outdoors. It should be a place where the dog feels safe and secure. It should not be a place where the dog is sent after misbehavior, but instead it should be associated with good things. Many owners choose to feed puppies within the crate for this very reason. It is important to train the dog to sleep at night within the crate. Whining should not be rewarded with your attention, as it teaches the dog to whine again whenever he wants or needs something. It is certainly not easy to listen to the whining, but it should last just a few nights before he realizes the whining will not work.

Introducing the Family

Your family needs to know the process of socializing and training the pup. It is very important that they expect the same behavior from the dog as you do. In most cases, misbehavior can be followed by a calm, but firm “NO.” At some point, you or a family member may be tempted to yell, but this can often confuse a dog and make them more excitable. Also, hunting dogs will need to become comfortable with loud noises, so do not clap or use other loud noises in discipline. Instead, grab the skin between his shoulders and lightly shake the dog. This motion is uncomfortable enough to be unpleasant to the dog, but does not hurt him or make him afraid.

Related Gundog Articles:

Introducing Your Puppy To Hunting

Crate Training A New Puppy

How to Choose a Gundog Puppy From a Litter

Training Your Hunting Dogs and Kids

Retriever Puppy Training Tips

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