Safe Puppy Socialization

by Caroline Betts

I am sharing a part of a conversation I am having with one of the new puppy owners because it is important for all of the new puppy owners. This is regarding a female puppy so just insert *he* where I have *she* if you are getting one of the boys.

When they get their first shot it actually wipes out all of their antibodies so for two weeks she’ll have no protection period. Then at our 12 week parvo and distemper the protection will start to kick in. It all depends on what dog and where as far as her being around other dogs. You would not want to do it out in public areas such as Parks or restaurants that are frequented by dogs. It is a risk you take during these early months. You need to take your pup out and about to see things but I tend to carry them. I go to Lowe’s and sit in one of their outdoor furniture displays and let the puppy watch the people go by. When they stop and ask if they can pet her the answer is always NO she is just beginning her socialization no patting. I bring a rectangular dog bed when I go to different outdoor restaurants for the puppy to lie on next to the chair. Again I don’t let anybody pet my puppies. You want to bring your pup to lots of different places and let her see lots of different people and hear different noises with no pressure for her to be approached by anybody. We have a wonderful coffee house here that is dog friendly. My bank is dog friendly. My car dealership is dog friendly, lots of dog friendly restaurants and Lowe’s lumber as well as some local Outdoor Clothing Stores and feed stores. Definitely do not put them down in feed stores because people bring their dogs all the time but it is a great place to take them and hang out and let her get used to things. Do not bring her to any big box pet stores! I would also take her out on short errands with you so she learns to ride in the car. One of my puppies favorite things to do is to pull through the McDonald’s fast-food where I get them a side order of bacon which is two slices. I will admit I eat one and they eat one.

It is very important to remember that these dogs are working farm dogs so going to new places with new people and new activities can be stressful for them. They are a breed that likes consistency and order. It takes a while for them to absorb new situations and process their role in them. This is where they will look to you for not only guidance but for protection from things that worry them. It is a very very wrong thing to think that socializing means letting everybody come up to your dog, get in their face and space and pet them and talk in high squealy voices. That is extremely disconcerting to a farm dog who is most comfortable at home on their own turf where they know who should be there, what is expected of them and what is going to happen next. It is our job to protect them from that sort of situation. It can be hard to say no but it is something you must do! They have to be able to trust in you.

It is up to you to introduce your puppy to things in a way that does not make them fearful. They will be starting their first fear stage when you get them and you must not let them get frightened because believe me English Shepherds don’t forget. If they do get frightened (because you have not read the situation properly) they are just a puppy, definitely console them but don’t make a big deal out of it. Get them out of the situation and get their mind on other things.

Ultimately when you are out and about with your English Shepherd you want their default behavior to be to focus on you. Accepting that they are reserved does not mean that you should be accepting of impolite Behavior. Ideally your dog will stay focused on you and be seen and not heard and not bother anyone else and no one else is to bother them. This includes people and other dogs.