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Socializing Your Puppy

The puppies are now almost 7 weeks old (CRAZY!) and are doing so well!! They enjoy playing with their toys, playing with our visitors we have every week, and playing with each other! And their food, they really enjoy their food. But today I want to talk about socialization.

Ellie visiting the beach in Mississippi at 12 weeks old.

I have had a few different families come to me with some concerns that this particular breed can be very timid, as they have witnessed an Australian Labradoodle, (from a different breeder) that seemed to frighten easily, or a puppy that wasn't even willing to come say hello to an interested family. Puppies, in general, are very outgoing and curious creatures, it is odd to find a young puppy that would be scared to come say hello to a new visitor, but it does happen. There a few reasons dogs can become timid or frightened easily. One of them being abuse, and one being lack of socialization. We knew, when we decided that we wanted to begin raising Australian Labradoodles, that we would do it in our home, with our dogs a part of our family. Our puppies are raised in our home with us, and are handled daily. They hear noises like vacuum cleaners, babies crying, kids playing, garbage disposals, garage doors opening/closing, the TV playing, radio, blender, ice dispensing, people arguing, chairs being scooted across the floor, cameras flashing, phones ringing, doorbells ringing, etc etc etc. They experience other dogs, (as we have four adult dogs in our house.) So they hear growling (as our adult dogs play with each other) barking, sniffing, eating, etc.

(The red dots are things the puppies have already experienced at our house! Try to check off as many as you can the first few weeks they are home with you as well!)

Our dogs also experience frequent visitors to our house, last week alone I had 30+ people here that all held and handled our puppies over the course of five days. The puppies have visited our neighbors house and also taken a car ride over to my friends. They have been outside in our backyard and will be visiting a school and camp at the end of this week.

Our last litter visiting a summer camp

All of this socialization is vital to a well rounded and behaved dog. But, although we do our best to introduce our puppies to as many things as we can before they go home. The real socialization begins with YOU. That's because the most vital time for socialization for a puppy is between weeks 8-12.

By the time Ellie was 12 weeks old she had, flown in a plane from Washington to us in Iowa. Rode in a car with us for 20 hours to Mississippi, spent two nights in a hotel, visited the beach/ocean, and lived in a high-rise condo. Obviously this is not something that is "normal" socialization, but today, Ellie is not fazed by anything! This photo is her sleeping in our car during our 20 hour car trip!

Socialization can be as easy as walks around your neighborhood or public parks. Trips to the groomer, vet, pet-friendly stores, and visits to friends houses.

It is important to note that socialization is not a positive experience for your dog unless they are ENJOYING it, so bring along treats or toys for your puppy while they are exploring new territories, and be sure not to force them to do something if they don't want to. The entire purpose of socialization is to teach your dogs that new experiences do not have to be scary or traumatizing things, but if you are dragging your puppy along by its leash, or pushing it into a room where it does not want to go, it will begin to associate new things as scary or stressful. The hope is that every time your dog experiences something new, they go into the situation thinking, "Well this is something I have not experienced yet, I am unsure if it will be fun or scary.." And as they experience the new situation and learn that it was not in fact scary or hurtful, they will leave thinking, "Well that was new, but it was fun, and I am not hurt at the end of it," The more times your dog experiences new situations, they will begin to associate that new, does not in fact equal scary, and they will be more willing to try out new things in the future. (Like getting dressed up in pajamas!)

So, when you get your new fluff ball home, as much as you might be tempted to sit in your nice warm house and snuggle with him all day long, it is so very important to get out, and about, and show your new puppy the world! The more socialized your dog is, the happier you both will be.

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