Part 2 Puppy Socialization -
Introduction & Cradling
by Patty Mead, illustrations by
The second and subsequent puppy socialization classes will
start with off-leash time so the puppies can learn to interact
with dogs and humans, and so they can greet each other and burn
off some of their energy and excitement. The puppies are excited
about being back with their friends and generally wiggle-butt all
over the place sniffing and tumbling and begging pets or treats.
The trainer may ask a few people to circulate, especially if
their puppy is staying mainly near the owner and not interacting
with other dogs. Other people may find the trainer is working
with them to tone down their puppy's aggressive behavior. Mostly,
owners share puppy stories and ideas on how to make problem areas
less of a problem. After the 5-10 minutes of a free for all the
class is then called to order and people will be asked to
retrieve and then cradle their dogs. The trainer, and any helpers
this person may have, will go around and touch the puppies
(belly, paws, head, mouth, etc.) while they are being held in
this submissive position.
This touching by strangers while submissive is good for your
dog to experience, especially for show dogs that will be touched
by many strangers (judges). Remember judges touch the dogs mouth,
body, and genital areas and look into the dogs mouth and in some
cases ears. By starting the puppy off early, it will become
accustomed to strangers touching it and will hopefully not react
negatively in the ring. Likewise, the dog that is a pet will also
learn to allow strangers to touch it without fear. No one wants a
shy dog who snaps at strangers whether it is in a show or
obedience ring, or walking around the neighborhood.
The trainer will review what was learned in the last class and
talk a little bit about puppy behavior while you are continuing
your cradle exercise. The next commands you and your puppy are
going to learn are the basic obedience trilogy of
"sit", "down", and "stand". People
who are into Obedience may focus on "sit" and
conformation people may focus on "stand", but having
the dog understand and perform all three on command is important.
While I will describe in narrative form how to teach these
three basic commands, and we will have pictures showing the
sequence, keep in mind that the class and trainer are crucial.
For new puppy owners it really takes someone who knows what they
are doing to show you how to do these commands for the first
time. And for long time dog owners already familiar with teaching
these commands I have found that we may know how to do them but
without the structure of a class we put off teaching our dogs the
Because this section is photo intensive, we will discuss each
command and then refer you to pictures elsewhere to see how it is
Using a food lure*, call your puppy to you and with the lure
right in front of the dogs nose issue the command
"sit". Then move the lure right above the dog's head
until it naturally ends up in a sit position. If the puppy backs
up while doing this exercise, then do it with the puppy in a
corner. If the dog jumps at the food, you are holding the food
too high. The basic mechanics are as the dog's eyes follow the
food, the dog will move its head back, and the rear-end ill
naturally go down. Make practicing the sit command part of your
every day routine. For example, make the puppy sit before you
provide a treat or dinner.
Once the puppy is sitting, and with another food lure in front
of its nose, issue the command "down". Move the lure
straight down close to the dog's chest and to the floor between
the dog's paws. Then, as the dog starts to bend its head over to
nibble the food, move it away slightly so the dog has to really
lie down to get the lure. Praise the dog for the effort. Because
the "down" position is the most submissive posture, in
my experience, and training this command is most difficult. Once
in a down position have the puppy sit again by using the food
lure to bring it back up to a sit.
Once again, using a food lure, get the sitting puppy
interested in the lure and issue a command "stand". Put
the lure in front of the puppy's nose and slowly move it straight
away from the puppy. As the head moves forward to follow the
treat, the rear-end will lift up into a standing position.
Some trainers will teach you how to hold the food lure so that
moving from a voice and food lure to a voice only command, and
eventually to a hand signal command will be an easy transition to
make. Hand signals come later, right now you are focusing on
teaching you little puppy certain behaviors to certain commands
using your voice a lure.
Homework is to continue cradling the puppy every night working
up to 10 minutes. And the practice the sit-down-stand trilogy.
Keep your attitude light and do not make this a major chore.
These are only puppies so doing something for a few minutes each
night is enough. Being consistent and firm (NOT demanding) and
praising with voice and a food treat will be enough.
* Food Lure: a small piece of something edible that your puppy
loves. Do not make it too greasy or use too much food for it can
lead to a puppy getting indigestion and vomiting. But make it
just enough to make the puppy want more. This too is where a
trainer is helpful, they can give you ideas of lures and show you
how much is enough.
To previous article Socialization
Part 1 or to next article Socialization