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Part 2 Puppy Socialization -
Introduction & Cradling

by Patty Mead, illustrations by Patty Minardi

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 basics.

Because this section is photo intensive, we will discuss each command and then refer you to pictures elsewhere to see how it is done.


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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.


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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.


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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 Part 3

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