American Dirus Puppy Socialization

This is Part 2 - Puppy Socialization Training

Go to Part 1 - Puppy Behavior

So if you should not bring your new puppy all over the place, seeing a myriad of people, and doing a bunch of activities right away, what should you do with your new American Dirus puppy? Give yourself some peace of mind and allow time to slow down. In fact, weeks can go by without taking your American Dirus puppy anywhere but your house. Reflect on all of the things that your puppy can learn in your home alone. You have rules in your house. The puppy may sleep in its crate, but not on the rug in the bathroom. It may be allowed on the couch, but not the bed. It may be allowed in the living room, but not in the kitchen. Your puppy may play with its plush toy, but not the couch pillow. It may eat its pig’s ear, but not the electric cord. Your puppy can go out the back door, but you can’t go out the front door. Your puppy may be vocal when its daylight, but not at night. Your puppy must learn how to stay, be calm, respectful, and quiet. Your puppy can play with your more energetic Boxer out in the backyard, but not in the house. When you go out into the backyard with your puppy, there are boundaries and rules there, too. 

Next, think of all of the things that your puppy may be hearing. It is hearing the TV, the vacuum cleaner and the washing machine. It is exposed to your friends coming over or other dogs that visit. Your puppy is exposed to sights and sounds of your neighborhood when it is outside. At some point, you might bring your puppy out to the front porch or maybe to the sidewalk. You might walk your puppy a couple of houses down the street. While you are walking, your puppy sees other dogs walking, people, strollers, animals, cars, trucks, or whatever else is around at your house. When you learn to watch your puppy and be its companion and protector as it begins to learn about all of the sights and sounds outside of your home, you and your young puppy can choose to stroll leisurely down the sidewalk and take the time to experience everything that is around your house. Allow the appropriate time it takes, even months, before you venture out anywhere else with your puppy. 

Again, this is because an American Dirus puppy is not just a dog. That is the difference. You have adopted a thinking, intelligent, smart, gentle, calm, mellow, willing, devoted, sensitive animal that can be overwhelmed by too many things all at once so it looks to you, its companion, for guidance and reassurance. It yearns for a connection to you that goes beyond any other ordinary dog’s companionship.

So, a month goes by and your puppy knows how to sit and stay. It knows where its kennel is, where its ex-pen is, not to jump on the kennel or the ex-pen, not to eat your wires, but it can play with its toys. It knows how to be quiet, how to sit nicely and patiently in lap therapy. It knows how to go outside to go potty and not in the house. It is confident when it walks down the street while hearing all the sights and sounds around your house. It can go in the crate safely, without becoming upset about it. When it understands the rules at your house and is confident, clear, happy, and doing everything it is supposed to be doing correctly at your house, then your American Dirus puppy can take another step. 

At this point, you and your puppy might be ready for a little road trip. You can put your American Dirus puppy in its crate and take it to the park, for example, where there will be completely different sights and sounds. When you get to the park, as before, your American Dirus puppy isn’t going to be the typical large breed puppy. It is not going to run around the park vigorously to check out all of the smells or play with the frisbee, a ball, or a tug toy. First, American Dirus puppies are going to want to sit by a tree and observe all the things that are at the park. It is always fascinating to me how much time one of our puppies will sit, watching and listening to things going on at the park. It is going to want to watch the kids playing basketball on the basketball court. It is going to want to watch the ducks at the duck pond and experience what those are. And, for that matter, what is a pond and all the smells around the pond. It is going to watch other dogs and what they are doing, how they are walking, and what kind of energy they have. Just remember that when you go to the park, it is not an interaction between everybody at the park and your American Dirus puppy. Instead, it is an observation and a time for your puppy to absorb, watch, and learn about everything that there is at the park, all the while having a real experiential connection with you, the human, its one desire. This is the beginning of a good puppy socialization foundation. 

Just so you know, puppy socialization training does not mean that your puppy needs to physically meet and greet 200 dogs and people by the time it is nine months old. That is not correct socialization training for a sensitive American Dirus puppy. That type of training was touted, and probably still is touted, by the majority of dog trainers around North America, but it is not appropriate for an American Dirus puppy. Instead, puppy socialization training means that your puppy learns respectful behaviors in order to live successfully in our human environment. When your puppy is very well socialized that means that it understands social rules and social behaviors. It is able to be respectful in our human environment. So, a very well-socialized American Dirus puppy will be calm and collected and respectful to anyone: child, person, or other dog that approaches you. It will not cower away and it will similarly not go up enthusiastically with its tail wagging and being a nuisance. Either way, a well-socialized American Dirus dog will not be a nuisance in public. 

In order to achieve this, you must help your American Dirus puppy develop confidence in the many different environments in which it will frequent. And the way that you develop confidence in an American Dirus puppy is that you allow that puppy to experience without fear. The more fear your American Dirus puppy shows you, the less socialized your American Dirus puppy will be in the end. The opposite is also true. If you have a super confident American Dirus crossbred puppy and it is bold and outgoing because it may be a first generation from an Alaskan Malamute cross, the more it is allowed to be bold and overexcited when it meets other people, instead of being calm and collected and understanding the respectful rules of the community, the worse socialized your American Dirus puppy will be. This is because puppy socialization training is not about how happy your puppy is to meet and greet strange people and dogs, but about how respectful your puppy is around strange people, places and dogs. 

Typically, though, American Dirus puppies are sensitive, calm and collected, especially in unknown environments and so they must have positive experiences in those environments, never overwhelming experiences. That is one of the reasons why we adamantly decree that no stranger ever pets your American Dirus puppy, ever. You may experience some really great strangers who understand dog behavior and who understand when a puppy is becoming too overwhelmed. But, then, you may also experience a stranger who may not have any idea what it is like to be an overwhelmed sensitive baby dog and they overwhelm your puppy even more. Unfortunately, that negative experience will never be forgotten because American Dirus puppies have great memories. They seem to have the memory equivalent of elephants. So, it is very important that they do not have negative experiences. You want to avoid negative experiences as much as possible with strangers. The way you do that is by never having experiences with strangers outside of your controlled environment. When you cannot control the environment, then you cannot control what is going to happen to your puppy. You must always be in control so that you set up the situation for your puppy to be successful. In order to do that, you choose the people with whom your puppy is going to interact and make sure that the people understand your needs for socialization training. 

Once you have established all of the things about going into the car, being respectful in the crate, getting up and down from the car, being on a leash... that’s a lot of training all in itself, before even going anywhere other than the park. You could simply train your puppy for your house, your car, and going back and forth to the park for another month until it becomes really comfortable with all of those things. Only then should you add on something else. For example, perhaps you want to tackle PetSmart. PetSmart is one of those places that is extremely stimulating. It is like going to Disneyland for a dog and if you have a little puppy, it is going to be a challenge for that little pup. So, if you are going to go to PetSmart with your puppy, set it up to make it less stimulating or challenging so that your puppy is successful. For example, you can put your puppy in the cart. That gives it a boundary and a way to be contained. Or you can attach it to a leash and make sure that you avoid the areas where there is a bunch of activity. Or just go in and out of the sliding doors without actually going all the way into PetSmart for the first few times. You can set all of these scenarios up for your puppy to be successful.

After your puppy is good with the car, good with the park, good with being in different places, understanding the rules at home, then you can add on another layer and another layer.  And then, pretty soon, your puppy is walking right with you when you are downtown at the folk festival. Thousands of people can be mulling around and your puppy is well behaved, respectful, and is not fearful. That is the beginning of excellent puppy socialization training for your new large breed companion dog. 

Darla and Triton enjoying a beautiful spring day.
Darla (Topper/Saigon) and Triton (Harpo/Shennara)