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!

The calm before the barking storm

I’m going to answer a Frequently Barked Question (FBQ) this week. A few people have asked me the same question: Why doesn’t my Pyrenean Mountain Dog (or Great Pyrenees) bark?

The subject of barking often comes up in connection with Pyrenean Mountain Dogs. At first I was a little surprised to be asked why they are not barking, I’m more often asked how to stop a Great Pyrenees from barking!

In each case, the dog I was asked about is still an adolescent. We are not considered mature until we are about two, or even three, years of age. We don’t generally bark very much, if at all, until we are approaching maturity. This is because our main reason for barking is when we perceive danger – something that doesn’t worry us at all until we start to feel protective of our families.

Once we do start barking, many of us are quite enthusiastic about it – some would say too enthusiastic! We discover that we like the sound of our voices and barking can be fun. I was more than a year old when I began to bark regularly, but other Pyrs may start earlier or later than I did.

Before I tell you about ways to prepare for the barking phase, I’d like you to watch this educational video. It contains a message for bipeds and for dogs. There may be a test later!

Bipeds, I’m sure you noticed that the dogs did have a very good reason for barking, even though the humans with them didn’t understand what it was.

Doggies, where do I begin? Many of you will already know that humans tend to think we’re just making a noise, but this may surprise you younger dogs. Barking louder and longer really doesn’t get our message across to them!

All is not lost, we need to learn to listen to each other better. This brings me to my advice to adolescent Pyrs and their bipeds, but these things could be useful for other dogs.

When we are barking it can be difficult to get our attention, so training with us to get and hold our attention will be helpful. This can be done by attracting our attention with a click of the fingers or a word such as “look” and giving us a treat, or use a clicker if you train together that way. When we are used to the idea of getting the treat for giving our attention, gradually make us wait a moment. This can be very useful to take our focus from whatever we’re barking at.

A Pyr who is barking at full volume may not hear you – we can be quite loud! My bipeds found it useful to get my attention by touching me, but I was already relaxed about them touching me when I wasn’t expecting it. This is fun to train, keep some treats handy and at odd times just touch the dog and then give a treat.

Socialisation is extremely important. The more experiences that a Pyr has had, the less things there will be that worry him, or her. Although he’ll probably bark at everything when he discovers his bark, with patience and consistency the barking can be reduced and this is a lot easier if the dog is confident and well socialised.

Training together and positive experiences through socialisation build a strong bond between dog and biped, which means we will trust you when you tell us there’s nothing to worry about.

I wrote about some techniques for when the barking begins in “To bark, or not to bark, that is the question“.

I have also written about reducing barking at night – “Why barking at night can be a good thing

See you next Wednesday!

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!

Surrounded

When I was a puppy, we used to go to Wimpole Hall for a walk quite regularly. It was a short drive away and we could walk near to grazing farm animals easily. My bipeds said that getting accustomed to being near cows and sheep without getting excited was part of my socialisation. I also had quite an adventure with a kissing gate there one day.

This particular morning I was with just one biped. We had walked along the track that went near all the grazing cows and I’d walked by them without paying much attention. I was a little over a year old and I’d seen them lots of times. We carried on and went for a lovely walk in the woods. When we returned we passed the main entrance to the house on our way back to the car park.

Wimpole Hall, main entrance - from Wikimedia Commons

Wimpole Hall, main entrance – from Wikimedia Commons

Continue Reading

Santa Pups for Christmas? Read this first, straight from the doggy’s mouth

I’m a Santa Pup – I’m not in Disney’s Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups and I’m not a puppy anymore, I’m an adult. But I am a Pyrenean Mountain Dog (Great Pyrenees) and I can tell you everything you need to know about those puppies.

I was 3 months old, the Tibetan Terrier was 4 months old

I was 3 months old, the Tibetan Terrier was 4 months old

They look really cute and lots of people want one. I can tell you that the cuteness is a cunning disguise! All puppies are hard work, but a Pyr puppy is really hard work. I can give you lots of reasons why they may not be right for you, but I’ll start with a few.

Continue Reading