Day 2 has been full of new experiences for Autumn!
Outside Experiential Learning
New Surfaces - I want Autumn to be comfortable on every type of surface she may encounter, so today we worked on grass and a gravel road. That way, if we are out on socialization opportunities, she won't be set back by alarm at a foreign surface.
Tricks - Spin and Over - Autumn's first experience of generalization, which is important for when she will be asked to perform behaviors out and about.
Inside Experiential Learning
Teaching of the "over the head" pat - Well meaning strangers will always try to pet an AKK over the head, and I like to teach this right away, and keep practicing it. Right now, I am patting her head while on the floor with her, but I will eventually increase that to standing up.
In this breed, the topic of socialization comes up quite a bit. You can easily read threads about it all over the various groups on Facebook, and documents detailing the importance of socialization go home with every puppy buyer. Breeders are adamant about socializing because you need to do that with this breed. An unsocialized AKK is an AKK that struggles during a veterinary exam, fears strangers, displays bursts of reactivity, and more. And yet, threads keep popping up about well socialized AKK displaying fearful characteristics. Their owners are confused, and feel helpless. They took their puppy to classes, parks, family gatherings - what went wrong?
Not all socialization is good socialization. Often, I read of well-meaning puppy owners who took their AKK pup to their kid's regional softball game with hundreds of people...on the puppy's second full day at his new home. Have you ever taken an AKK puppy to a softball game? Or really, to a pet store? Heck, just down to the end of your driveway? You are mobbed. People cannot resist the siren song of the "husky puppy", and must crowd around you in droves to admire the gorgeous bundle of fluff as you repeat "K-L-E-E K-A-I" over and over.
Eventually, a properly socialized puppy is ready for a crowd. But in my opinion, socializing your puppy is no different than teaching your puppy to stay. In order to teach your puppy to stay, first you must teach them to sit. Then to sit and watch you. Then to sit and watch you while you take a scant 1/2 step backwards. Then to sit and watch you while you take a full step backwards. Then two steps. Then three. Any puppy owner would be filled with doubt and incredulity if they were told to just sit their puppy and walk away, expecting a proper stay. So why do we assume that socialization should be something we just expect our puppy to jump into?
Personally, I have found success in growing a puppy's socialization training in small, measurable exercises. The first day of bringing a puppy home is spent encouraging bonding. Above all, a puppy MUST have trust and faith in their owner in order to be successful in socialization. Your puppy needs security in you in order to feel confident enough to branch out and meet new people.
Once a puppy and I have fostered a bond, I like to ensure that they have new experiences every day for 100 days. Each day, I find at least one new experience for them inside the home, and at least one outside the home (obviously, experiences outside the home need to be safe during their vaccination series). The first day of 100, the experiences are small, easy, and confidence boosting. As the days go on, the experiences become larger, more complicated, or more challenging.
Now to introduce Autumn - my keeper puppy from my Ozzy x Summer litter! Autumn is recently 8 weeks old, and the perfect guinea pig to show in detail what I mean by creating sensible, attainable, and supportive socialization for an AKK puppy! We are embarking on "100 Days of Autumn", and she and I are delighted to share our socialization journey with you all!