What is socialisation?

I am answering a Frequently Barked Question today.

FBQ: What does socialising a puppy mean?

This is a very good question. It is a huge topic, but here is an excellent overview on the Kennel Club site. All animals, including little bipeds, need to learn the skills that they will use to interact with others and their environment. Animals generally learn what is normal in their surroundings at a fairly young age and then become fearful of unusual objects. Animals that live with humans need to accept being handled and learn to cope with all sorts of strange things.

The Kennel Club and Dogs Trust recommend the Puppy Socialisation Plan. There is a lot of information on the website, both for breeders and new owners. I found the section on the science of brain development fascinating – it explains all the key stages in development. I think the practical, weekly plans for your puppy’s socialisation will be invaluable regardless of your level of experience – you can sign up to see these online or go to the resources section and download them to print out.

Puppies playing and learning

Puppies playing and learning

Attribution: By Eva holderegger walser (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The plan covers all the important things that a puppy should become accustomed to. I would just like to say that you and the puppy should have fun doing this. Each positive experience builds your puppy’s confidence. It also increases your puppy’s trust in you, which consolidates your positive relationship with the puppy.

When you’re out and about with your puppy a little stress, or excitement, is a good thing – it’s part of the learning process. You should keep a close eye on your puppy and be prepared to cut your outing short if you see signs of the puppy becoming too stressed, or tired – it’s better to avoid problems by nipping them in the bud and try again another day.

Every time you take out a well-behaved and relaxed adult dog you reap the benefits of the time spent socialising your puppy.

See you next Wednesday!

After you

I had this conversation with my biped when she was helping me with my correspondence this week.

Biped: Someone has left a question for you, Clowie. This person asks, “Why does a Great Pyrenees, or Pyrenean Mountain Dog, always have to go through the door first?

Clowie: We don’t!

B: Okay…

C: I always wait politely for bipeds to go through first, unless whoever I’m with tells me to go first.

B: Yes, you do.

C: You said that as though I wasn’t always that polite.

B: Well, you did want to push through the doorway first when you were a puppy.

C: Oh, I remember now! But there was always a knee in the way when I was small and as I became bigger the door would close again so that I couldn’t go through.

B: Yes, it sometimes took a while for us to get through a doorway. But you gradually learnt to sit and wait patiently.

C: Sit was the first thing I learnt to do well. When I was a bit older and had learnt the ‘wait’ command you would say ‘wait’ to me. Now you hardly ever need to tell me.

B: Why were you so keen to get through the door first when you were a puppy?

C: I think it was a mixture of puppy enthusiasm and curiosity. It’s always nice to discover what is happening on the other side of the door. Why do you want to go first?

B: The main reason is that I don’t like being towed along! It is important for a large dog to have good manners. It is so much easier to open and close a door, or a gate, if you’re waiting patiently and not pulling.

C: Yes, I suppose it is. But you always want to see what is on the other side of a door before I do when we’re in a place we haven’t been before. I sometimes think it would be better if I saw first so that I can protect you better – I am head of security!

B: So we have another reason why Pyrenean Mountain Dogs might like to go through doorways first!

C: Yes, doorways are very important in terms of security. You may have noticed that I often choose to sleep across the door to the room you’re in.

B: It would be hard not to notice you when I have to ask you to move so that I can open the door!

C: True! But I always move straightaway.

B: Can you think of any occasions when it’s been a good thing that you’ve waited to be told to come through the door?

C: Yes, when we stayed at that hotel in the south of France where that big dog was always loose in the corridors. He didn’t like me, did he?

B: No, I don’t think he was used to seeing a dog bigger than he is. It would have been very difficult for us to protect you if you’d gone through the door first.

C: Yes, he allowed you to shoo him away if he couldn’t see me. There was also that time when we lived in that old, stone house when we first came to Spain. There were workmen resurfacing the track by the house and they’d removed the steps down from the front door, without telling us!

B: There was a drop of about four feet when we opened the front door!

They had taken away the step and dug away a lot of the track.

The finished version – they had taken away the step and removed a lot of soil where the track had been

C: I don’t think I would have noticed the steps had gone!

B: It isn’t every day that stone steps just vanish like that! If you had charged through the door, I would probably have fallen over the edge and landed in a heap on top of you.

C: I’m glad that didn’t happen!

B: Me too!

C: It is now perfectly natural for me to wait for you to go through a door before me. When I was a puppy, you convinced me to sit. Then we progressed to ‘wait’ when I was less pushy and didn’t need to sit. Now you never need to tell me because I’m polite!

See you next Wednesday!

P.S. I won a prize on Dakota’s Den – thank you Dakota! Do pop over and visit Dakota if you don’t already know him. And if you do know him, make sure you have his correct address now that he’s moved! It’s http://dakotasden.net/

My prize is a candy jar from DogBreedCartoon with a Great Pyrenees on it. My biped is going to use it for herbs! I’m happy about that, even though it’s really mine! If you click here you can see the design I chose – a Great Pyrenees!

Not the dog for everyone

It’s still so hot that the lizards need to cool off in the shade, so take care! This lizard was lurking on the windowsill on the shady side of the house yesterday.

Just chilling in the shade

Just cooling down in the shade

We’ve been having very loud thunderstorms almost every evening. I hear that my friends in England are getting a lot of storms and rain as well. We’ll all need these soon!

Webbed feet From Wikimedia Commons

Webbed feet
From Wikimedia Commons

The thunder has been so loud some of the time that you can feel the sound vibrating through you. That’s when the cats come and sit really close to me, if the bipeds are busy. The cats know I’ll look after them and protect them. I look after everyone in the household – I am the chief of security. My ancestors were bred to protect flocks in the mountains, so it’s my heritage.

My friend Flea at Jones Natural Chews wrote about the Great Pyrenees, or Pyrenean Mountain Dog, last week and she gave lots of good information and concluded, quite rightly, that we are not the dog for everyone. So I thought I’d tell you a little more about some of the things that mean we’re not right for everyone.

We’re often accused of having selective hearing and a very unreliable recall. I have to admit that’s true for a lot of us! It isn’t naughtiness, it’s a case of priorities. However well-trained a Pyrenean Mountain Dog is, our priority is to protect you, so if we hear a strange noise we’ll be off to investigate. We’ll do all that other obedience stuff to please you, when we’re not too busy!

We’re also accused of being escape artists, especially during adolescence. If we’re alone in the garden for even a few minutes, it needs to have a strong fence at least 5 feet high. If we can get over, or through, the fence we’ll probably take the opportunity to check out the surrounding area and make sure there are no threats. I took advantage of the gate being left open for a few seconds once – I didn’t get very far, but that’s another story! Dogs who are always taken in the car to the park and never walked from the house are particularly determined to explore the neighbourhood.

Flea mentioned how important socialisation is for us. It’s a crucial part of our development because it’s what helps us to be relaxed and calm as adults. The more experiences we have, the better able we are to make sensible decisions.

My bipeds say that I could be like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as a puppy during training sessions. I quickly became bored, if we were only doing things I thought I already knew how to do. And when I was bored I wasn’t very nice to know! My bipeds spiced up the sessions with new tricks to keep my interest and they became better at noticing the first signs of boredom. A Great Pyrenees doesn’t do something just because you say so. We need to feel it’s worthwhile and I don’t just mean treats – we don’t tend to be as motivated by food as a lot of dogs are.

There were days when I would put a lot of effort into trying to find ways of not doing what I was asked to do. On the odd occasion I avoided doing something, I thought I didn’t have to do anything I was asked to do. I would lead them a merry dance for days! I certainly did my best to keep my bipeds on their toes, while I was growing up. They say that there were times when they were pulling their hair out, but I’m much nicer to know now!

See you next Wednesday!

A sit in time saves nine

Before I tell you this week’s tale, I want to tell you about two cats that need homes.

Leo has been nursed back to health by Savannah and her family. He now needs a home of his own in the California area. So head on over to Savannah’s Paw Tracks and read about him. He has a special page on Savannah’s blog explaining what he needs from the people who care for him.

Leo, in need of a home

Leo, in need of a home

Basil, in Yorkshire, England, is still looking for a home for a young cat called Mary – more information here.

Mary needs a home

Mary needs a home

This week’s tale

One of the very first things that one of my bipeds taught me as a puppy was to sit. She held a treat close to my nose and, before I could take it, she lifted her hand slightly and moved it above my head. My nose was following the treat and, as I tilted my head back, I sat. She gave me the treat and told me how clever I was. This was such an easy way to get a treat!

We repeated this quite a few times over the next few days. When she could tell I knew what she was going to do and what I needed to do to get the treat, she added the word ‘sit’. I soon remembered the word because I liked the treats. I then began learning lots of other things, but every training session started and ended with a sit. I was also asked to sit at odd times during the day. I didn’t get a treat every time, sometimes I was given a fuss or we played a game for a few minutes. But I always knew it would be worth my while to do as asked, they seemed to like sit a lot.

I decided I could use this to my advantage. When I wanted something I would sit. They told me I was very good and encouraged me to do this. I soon discovered that when I heard them say ‘sit’ to me I no longer had to consider whether I should comply or not – it was always worth it! It became an automatic response, my bottom would hit the deck before the thought had registered in my brain.

But now I come to the downside of sitting so readily. This is a warning to any puppies reading this – make sure that the rewards are worth it because there will be things it stops you from doing.

If only we hadn't been told to sit! (From guzer.com)

If only we hadn’t been asked to sit!
(From guzer.com)

I told you last week about when I was trying to chase some goats – I was asked to sit and I didn’t get to chase them very far. I’ll give you a few other examples of things I haven’t been able to do because I was asked to sit. If I’ve ever been on my way across the kitchen to investigate what’s on the counter, I hear “Clowie, sit!” before I can get there. It’s the same story when visitors arrive, “Clowie, sit!” – how’s a dog to give bipeds a proper greeting while sitting? It’s impossible to leap all over them and lick their faces! If they’ve left the front door open while they’re bringing in some shopping and it occurs to me it would be nice to pop out and investigate – yes, you’ve guessed, “Clowie, sit!”

One day, just after I’d been asked to sit when there was something exciting to do, I heard one of my bipeds say, “Isn’t ‘sit’ wonderful? There isn’t much mischief a puppy can get into while sitting!”

That was obviously their cunning plan all along! They have used ‘sit’ to modify my behaviour. But I have also worked it to my advantage. I have perfected a really pretty sit that they find very hard to resist. When I hear them open the fridge door, I can get there from anywhere in the house in less than five seconds. I’m usually right behind them, in my pretty sit, before they can close the door again. I don’t always get something, but sometimes I do and there’s never any harm in asking! My lead hangs on a hook and if I sit with my nose touching the lead, I usually get a walk. I think it’s worked out fairly well.

See you next Wednesday!

P.S. If you were wondering about the title, there’s a saying “a stitch in time saves nine” and it means that a timely effort will prevent more work later.

The first time I ever saw a cat

I came in from a lovely, long walk with my bipeds recently and Pippin, the cat, came to greet us as soon as we arrived home. He walked around the bipeds’ legs and they stroked him. Then he came to greet me and we sniffed noses. He stayed with me and walked around my legs, as I headed across the room to settle down for a nap. As soon as I was spread out on the floor, he started sniffing my paws – he likes to do that when he thinks I may have been somewhere interesting. I was soon drifting off to sleep, while my little friend continued to savour the smells on my paws. The thought struck me how different it was from our very first meeting.

Pippin on the terrace at home

Pippin on the terrace at home

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