Good morning.  I had Luke at the vet the other day and I have to say that he was amazing.  Many of you know that he turns into Cujo at the vet to keep everyone away from him but we only had a couple of growls.  My vet is wonderful and immediately assumes the appropriate body posture; sideways and close to the ground.  Then all is good with him.  He is after all a lover not a fighter and when people understand that the big bluff growling is a defense mechanism they get to see the lover inside.

As we waited to be called for his appointment I chatted with a woman who had a 9 week old boxer puppy (who Luke really liked).  She was adorable but noticeably timid.  I explained to her how very important socializing was and as I anticipated we got onto the "what about the shots?" discussion.  Her vet (who is not my vet) told her not to take her anywhere until her shots were done.  If you wait until all the shots including rabies are done that is four months of age.  You will have missed lots weeks of socializing time.

I cannot emphasize the need for socializing enough.  Early socializing is of the utmost importance; training and all the other stuff can follow but the socializing must get done early.  About a week after the first set of shots you need to get out there.  It can be as simple as going to a coffee shop and keeping the pup on your lap.  Visit an outdoor mall and do the same.  It is the sounds and sights that the puppy needs; being on the ground will come in time.  When you do head out to social choose places where not a lot of dogs go.  DO NOT GO TO A DOG PARK OR DOG BEACH.

When Elsa was young I use to take her many times a week to a strip mall near us.  There were people of all shapes and sizes, shopping carts, automatic doors, cars and all sorts of things to acclimate to.  But do not overdo it; puppies get tired and over stimulated easily so short and sweet is the way to go.  A little bit every day will take you leaps and bounds through the optimum socializing stage.  Keep it positive, always positive.  After the second set of shots you can venture to more areas; NO DOG PARKS OR BEACHES yet though.  Save the dog beaches and parks for after the last set of puppy shots.  Rabies can follow.

There are many other things that you can do for very early socializing.  Head into your garage and introduce strange but safe items.  The vacuum, hair dryer, washing machine and dryer are all good things to introduce.  Anything that might be a part of your puppies life should be introduced early on.  I remember taking Penny into our garage when she was brand new here.  I rolled a big plastic Christmas ball around as she barked and carried on.  She quickly realized that it was not a monster and we moved onto the next thing.  We visited the side yard where there are big scary garbage bins and strange smells.  Then it was up to my room that is filled with Luke and Elsa's scent, it was all a part of the socializing and learning curve.

It doesn't have to be huge but there should be something new everyday.  But remember to quit while you are ahead and more is not always better.