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The Top 3 Mistakes Dog Parents Make when it Comes to Socialization- and 4 Ways to Fix that!

This blog post comes from our ED, jme's guest post on, illustrating the life and times of two little pups, meatball and little mouse, livin' the rock star rescue life!

"hi everyone, this is jme, meatball and little mouse's mom. i have worked with many animals over the last 13 years in rescue, many of them with behavioral or medical challenges- all of which have taught me a lot.

one thing i always knew was important- especially as the dogs i usually foster have not had much of it- is socialization. but very few people truly understand what it is, why it is so important- and how they could improve the quality of their dog's lives and their own, if they understood more about this concept.

running motley zoo's rock star treatment dog daycare & training has really given me insight into the socialization of dogs and puppies- especially during the formative period of 0-17 weeks.

this is the time when most people are having fun, thinking how cute the puppy is and not at all thinking about their pup's life-long development and training- which is usually where things start to go wrong. they think there will be time to train them later- meanwhile this window is closing and their dog will forever suffer the consequences of their mistake!

problem #1: not getting started on socialization early enough

this is the first place people usually go wrong, thinking there is time for "getting serious" later and this is the time to "enjoy" the puppy- but there literally isn't another time more important to put into socialization as during that initial time you've brought them home as a baby.

a dog needs to meet/ experience 500 new people, places and things by 17 weeks to have a solid foundation from which to develop their lifetime of socialization skills.

dogs that do not meet this criteria will forever have a handicap in this area and will constantly be at a disadvantage to one who truly received that investment.

this means that puppies need constant exposure to new, novel experiences during this period leading up to 17 weeks.

you may have adopted your new puppy at 8 weeks- and hopefully that puppy had lots of experiences already- for example, meeting people in a foster home, maybe other dogs and cats, kids and so on- but you still have a lot of work to do as you're almost halfway to this really critical window closing when you first bring the pup home!

problem #2: believing that just being in your home with your family is socialization

many people believe they socialize their dogs simply because they have them in a home with a handful of people- maybe even with another dog.

but think about this in terms of people: if someone said, "do you have any friends" and the only people you mentioned were your siblings, parents or even extended relatives, the person would probably say, "well, outside of your family"- because they mean with who do you interact in the world around you, not just who is in the bubble you were forced to interact with growing up.

while your family may be your friends, and your home may be comforting, there is an entire world outside your home and family with which you interact- and maybe even spend the most time in! think too about the way perhaps your family sees you and the way your friends do- perhaps those worlds don't even intersect.

now imagine you're a dog. they are fine in their home, fine with their one friend but suddenly when they get "old enough" for you to start thinking about training and socialization, they act like leaving your home is getting on a rocket ship to a different planet!

that's because it is: dogs cannot generalize. they cannot understand- until they have had enough experiences with each thing- to realize that each new place is not a different planet; each new person is not a different alien, each new dog is not an entirely new creature.

it is only through repeated, early exposure to this place and that can they recognize, "oh, it doesn't matter where i am, it's not that different to the last place i was". or, "hey i've met a bunch of people and they are all pretty much ok"- or, "i have played with many new dogs and new dogs are not scary".

the thing people forget is dogs have to live in that outside world too. frankly, isn't that a huge reason why people who have dogs have dogs over cats- because they can take them places? they can include them in their lifestyle and activities outside the home...

but you must prepare them for that; the earlier, the better!

problem #3: dog parks are not the only- nor safest- place to provide socialization for your dog

when we talk about socialization most people instantly think of the dog park. think about the dog park now however, when it involves people bringing their (now you can see are) ill-prepared, unsocialized dogs there and what does that look like?

it doesn't look like a safe place at all! that's before we discuss illness...

sadly, one reason animals suffer from a lack of socialization is because their veterinarian told the family not to have them meet other dogs- which is the worst advice and is very disheartening to us in rescue because it is the instant path to a fear aggressive dog.

the vet is really only giving you their strict MEDICAL opinion- which does not take into account socialization as a priority to balance with health. in their eyes, yes, in order to keep your dog healthy and not get infected with parvo, it means to keep them out of the park and away form other dogs exclusively...but what they aren't saying is socialization still needs to occur while keeping those health matters in mind.

it is critical you do not isolate your dog in an attempt to keep them healthy because that is like locking a child in a closet to keep them from getting sick. it isn't wise when it comes to kids but then people sadly make this mistake with dogs all the time.

you will never end up with the dog you want if you deny them socialization as a way to keep them healthy- so don't!

you can have both!

how to get it right!

solution #1: introduce them to many places, people and dogs

dogs need to go outside to new places- like the store, the park, a school, outdoor mall and so on. each new place is like a new planet to them, literally, so just consistently work to help them adjust to each new setting, take the time to allow them to get comfortable- reward good behavior and help redirect them if they are behaving poorly. just allowing them to BE in a new place is socialization- just take them a lot of places and often- eventually you will see they get that this is old hat ;)

they need to meet people of all kinds, wearing different clothes, hats and carrying things- or with different speeds, like runners vs those walking, or modes of transportation like bikes, skateboards, roller blades and so on. you can set up scenarios for them with friends and family- have your friends ring and knock and exhibit different behaviors or wear different clothes. have your dog walk up to wheelchairs, people with canes or other such unusual items.

help them overcome their fear of the broom through slow desensitization and rewarding the behaviors you like (which includes ignoring as that is a choice not to be reactive). introduce them to brushes and nail trimming early on; hold their paws and do all sorts of things to help them recognize new tools and things they will be asked to live with.

dogs need to meet other dogs- and lots of them. they need to have safe, fun experiences that can help them build self-esteem and that can help them develop and grow into "normal" dogs who understand dog social skills and play. remember, your dog will be the kid locked in the closet until 5 years old if you don't help them make friends!

solution #2: there is a benefit to your absence

one of the key things to remember is that YOU cannot socialize your dog properly if you are always there either!

part of your dog becoming comfortable and socialized is being able to exist in the world comfortably without you. this means socialization will only go so far if you are always there. you need to give your dog chances to be without you- because as much as you think they need you, one day you won't be there for them!

you will go on vacation or something and your dog will lose their mind because they never had the chance to experience the world without you. sadly this is most often because people make dogs dependent on them- and then can't seem to understand why their dogs can't cope without them later...but people so often seem so proud they are with their dogs 24/7 and never see the problem they are making for their dogs later. at the very least you may have separation anxiety and at the worst the dogs hurt themselves because of this.

be a good parent and give your dog a life away from you. this is for their good and for yours!

solution #3: dog daycare isn't babysitting, it's school!

dog daycare can be a GREAT way to socialize your dog safely and in a healthy way- and do the double duty of allowing them space without you. your dog will become more adaptable, less fearful, easier for others to manage and happier when he or she is not afraid of every new change- whether or not you are around.

your dog will meet new people and dogs every time they go there. the difference i have seen in dogs that have tried daycare and those that haven't is amazing. i knew our model of offering daycare services to the community would benefit the rescue and our dogs, but i had no idea what a difference it would make in the lives of dogs from our community too.

there is truly nothing better you can give your dog than to help them have a social life!

look for a daycare with high standards in terms of fecal and vaccine requirements and take a look around where you will be bringing them. the facility should not smell, should not be loud and should be very excited to tell you about their health and safety standards. some may even have streaming cams so you can see what's going on with your dog even when you're not there.

you can watch, but let them be dogs!

solution #4: your dog may need additional support

lastly, if your dog isn't properly socialized- whether this be because you didn't know and didn't do the "best" job at it at the time, or because you adopted a dog that was already older and you had no say in their socialization- it's never too late...they can still be happy and comfortable with your help.

you may need to adapt some of your plans and strategies; you may need to work hard with a trainer or behaviorist and enlist the help of friends and family. the key is to think like a rescuer and never give up trying!

we help dogs come out of their shells and overcome challenges daily in rescue- you can just have to recognize the need and start today!

you may need to consider too, your dog may also need support in the way of supplements or medication- and this you cannot ignore nor feel guilty about. if your dog cannot feel comfortable in their own skin, you need to intervene.

one of the best things we have found is CBD- but not all CBD works the same. unfortunately so many out there are crap- high priced snake oil designed to rip you off! but zoorenity is different.

after many experiences with inconsistent results, we formulated our own CBD that is not only effective but is also the most cost effective. our goal is to truly help you and your dog, not just to make a buck.

we have seen amazing benefits of zoorenity with so many motley zoo rescues and rock star treatment daycare clients. many come to us crying because they are so pleased at the results it provides- relief they never expected; peace they never believed their dogs would find.

zoorenity has provided a new start for many animals in need. do not be embarrassed or too proud to try supplements or medication- because denying your dog could be more inhumane than setting aside your human views so your dog can be at ease in their own skin.

lastly, zoorenity CBD saves more than just your pup- it helps save more animals in need! 50% of proceeds from sales go to support motley zoo animal rescue's mission."

do you have questions about CBD or socialization? ask me at!


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