Are You Working On Your Puppy Socialization Skills? We Are!

As guide dog puppy raisers there are three main things we try to accomplish while raising our pups.  First, we work on their basic obedience training teaching them all the basics including commands like “Sit”, “Down”, “Stay”, etc.

There are only nine basic obedience commands we teach our puppies in training.  If you want to see a list of all nine commands then check out this post on guide dog training.

Second, we teach them good house manners…basically we are letting our pups know what they can and cannot do in the house.  Some of these things are:

  • Potty training
  • Crate training
  • Staying off the furniture
  • No jumping up on people
  • No barking
  • No begging
  • No counter surfing
  • No digging through the trash

The third and final thing we are constantly working on with our pups is socialization!

Puppy Socialization For Guide Dogs

I’ve been organizing our puppy raiser outings for the past two years and I try to do my best to give our puppies many different experiences similar to ones they may encounter when they become working guide dogs.

Puppy socialization is a little bit different for puppy raisers versus your average pet dog as our pups get a yellow Guide Dogs of America vest that have the words “Puppy In Training” written on the back.  This gives us the opportunity to enter many different places that regular pet dogs aren’t allowed to go including office buildings, grocery stores, movie theaters, shopping malls, amusement parks, buses, trains, and many other public places.

Puppy In Training Vest

Toby wearing his yellow puppy in training vest

Getting our puppies out of the house and socialized in these different situations is an essential part of our job as guide dog puppy raisers.

Socialization Is Not Just For Guide Pups

Guess what?  Socializing your puppy or dog is not just for guide dogs.  It’s a really good idea to socialize your family or pet dog as much as possible too.  You won’t have the same privileges as a guide dog pup, but some businesses like pet stores, hardware stores, and outdoor malls allow pet dogs.  These places present great opportunities to socialize your pet.

I know many of you are excited to get your puppy some socialization skills, but be very careful if you’re puppy is not yet fully vaccinated.  We usually avoid places heavily frequented by other dogs until after our puppy’s final round of vaccinations.  Consult your vet for more information on the dangers of disease and your puppy.

One more thing we always keep in mind is whether an outing is age appropriate for our puppies.  Over exposing or over socializing your puppy can sometimes do more harm then good.  If you notice you’re puppy getting fearful during an outing you should be prepared to end your outing short and take your puppy somewhere where he is more comfortable.

Socializing Our Puppies At Irvine Park

This past Saturday our local guide dog group had a nice little outing at Irvine Park.  It gave our guide dog puppies in training a chance to socialize with different distractions in a park setting.

Puppy socialization at Irvine Park

Stetson is in this picture. Can you guess which one is him? Hint: You can see my leg on the far left.

You may have noticed Stetson and some other career changed guide dogs in the panorama picture.  This is one of the few guide dog outings where we are allowed to bring our well-behaved family dogs.

While at the park we didn’t just work on proper dog on dog interaction we also worked on some basic obedience skills in a fun and social way by playing a few games.

GAME 1
Game 1 had us working on loose leash heeling as we went to different stations holding a tray full of food and water.  If your pup pulled on his lead then you were in danger of spilling a tray full of food/water.

GAME 2
Game 2 required us to put socks on our dogs in a fun relay race.  Handling our pups paws is something we do on a regular basis to teach our pups that it’s okay for people to handle their paws.  Putting socks on our pups was a perfect way for us all to handle those big puppy paws.

Every year around this time Irvine Park sets up a cool Pumpkin Patch for the kids.  There’s also a petting zoo, trains, kids running around, ducks, peacocks which are all good distractions and help us puppy raisers teach our guide pups about self control.

How do you go about socializing your puppy or dog?  Do you have any fun activities you like to do when working on dog or puppy socialization?  Tell us about it in the comment section below.

Comments

  1. says

    I agree, socialization is so important! We really started looking for places to take Kuster when we brought him home, because he needs to have all that experience, and because we live with a dog who wasn’t socialized as a puppy and it shows!

  2. says

    Hi Colby,

    You guys sure have lottsa fun!!

    My family socialized me from when I was little so I could become a Therapy Dog, I love going wherever I’m allowed and you’re right, we sought out places like Hardware stores and Pet Stores, especially on hot or rainy days, and events where there were lots of people so I could get used to people petting me…..

    Now not a lot phases me – Yay!! :)

    Big Wags to all,

    Your pal Snoopy :)

    • says

      Hi Snoopy!

      We’re lucky we get to go almost everywhere with our guide dog pups. We don’t like going out as often when it rains because of the doggy smell…ewww….

      I bet you’re an awesome therapy dog!

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Colby

  3. says

    The day after I brought Blueberry home I started her socialization. It was a great way for us to bond and for her to learn to trust me as she encountered new situations. She had been bounced around from a home, to the shelter, to a foster home, to another foster home and finally with me. So she was a little worried about each new place I took her to at first. That list is long that guide dog puppies have to learn!

    • says

      Blueberry was lucky she found you. Socialization is so important especially for dogs who have been bounced around as much as Blueberry.

  4. says

    Hey Stetson, Hey Toby, Jet here. Hi Mr. Colby.

    Great reminder, although Mom has been so busy, she basically works on the basics.

    Toby, Mom asked me to share that you are BEYOND CUTE!

    • says

      Hi Jet,

      Toby is probably pretty big now, but I’m sure he’d appreciate the comment. I’m glad you and your mom are working on the basics.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Colby

  5. says

    I got all my dogs as adults so I didn’t have to work too much to socialize them. They do need reminders now and then though. Because…they’re dogs.

    • says

      Hi Jan,

      I’m glad your dogs are well socialized. A lot of the adult rescue dogs we come across need more work on their socialization skills then the puppies especially when they haven’t been properly socialized with their former owners.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Colby

  6. says

    I love the sock game. That’s a terrific way to remember to practice foot handling.

    You’re so right that all dogs need socialization. Gentle exposure to all kinds of things when they’re young makes every puppy grow up into a happy dog.

    I feel we did a good job socializing Honey as a puppy. But we did miss out on some opportunities that made us have to do extra training with her as an adult. I wish I had known when she was twelve weeks old that we’d be looking at moving aboard a boat when she becomes 4 years old. :)

    • says

      Hi Pamela,

      The sock game was a lot of fun. It was hilarious watching our dogs walking with them on. Most of our dogs weren’t used to wearing the socks, but it was good to get them all a little experience since some of our guide dog pups will end up wearing booties when they start their working careers. My last guide dog pup, Dublin wears booties in Arizona during the summer to keep his pads from getting burnt.

      I’m sure Honey will do great once it’s time to move onto the boot. You have been doing a lot to get her prepared.

      Take care,
      Colby

    • says

      That would be cool if you potty trained your turtles! You could have taken him home. He’s actually with another family now working on his guide dog training skills.

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