Group dog walks can help your puppy be more adjusted, socialized and calm.
Some believe 16 weeks or older. Other dog walking services request 6 months, passing IQ test and scoring 2400 on the SATS. All kidding aside, some require a training test for admissions into their exclusive private school for dogs.
My philosophy is public school dog walking with the option to suspend. A “TK” or “Transitional Kindergarten” program offered for puppies. I believe the sooner the better, which means 8 weeks old in a puppy pack or sling (a device that allows you to carry the puppy similar to a baby bjorn) or 12 weeks following their third round of vaccinations. Research shows 4 to 14 weeks is the most important time in social development for a puppy BUT you must be diligent and careful ensuring positive exposure.
Just like humans, a negative childhood experience damages a puppy for life. Still recovering from my Great Grandma Dot’s fun game of kicking me across the room, I now fear old ladies with big feet. If done correctly, the benefits of early socialization are immense to a dog’s psyche. Dogs starting in a baby pack at 8 weeks or 12-weeks- old, are the most confident, well socialized and happy dogs I walk.
PUPPY SLING/PACK: When an owner contacts me about their adolescent pooch, I suggest a puppy pack walk. It tires them out with visual stimulation and allows observations of dog interactions. When the little guy has completed his shots, the introduction to group happens with no issues, problems or fears. Half pint will trot along with the other dogs displaying confidence as if he has been doing this for years. He knows which dogs will play and can recognize the Great Grandma Dots of the dogs.
You can even employ one of the dogs to the do the heavy work! Just kidding, don’t do that. It’s cute though isn’t it?
PUPPIES AT 12 WEEKS OLD: When a puppy starts at 12 weeks old, it is done carefully. A group dynamic of four mature gentle dogs guarantees successful socialization. These dogs teach by playing calmly building confidence and self esteem. Puppies learn how to behave in a pack. It is not a good idea to have another juvenile in the group as chaos will break out and the puppy will not pay attention to important learning situations.
SMARTER DOG: “Early socialization can make your dog smarter” says Patrycja Malinowska on puppy socialization. She writes about Stanley Coren’s book “The intelligence of Dogs” that psychologists at the University of California at Berkley have shown that animals reared in enriched environments that included lots of toys, a complex architecture, other animals to interact with, problems to solve and constantly changing sources of stimulation, actually had larger and heavier brains than animals that lived in isolated, laboratory conditions.
LEARN TO TALK DOG: Early socialization enables your puppy to develop proper social and communication skills with other dogs. Your puppy learns to “talk dog.” You might learn a few words yourself but refrain from sharing “wuff, wuff” with non dog people. You might find yourself with only friends with dogs, which actually is not a bad idea. Tell those annoying family members or non dog friends that you talk dog and then bark at them.
CONFIDENCE: In Matthew Gilbert’s book “Off Leash”, he writes about his puppy Toby. “Each time we went to the park, I felt as though I could see Toby growing up, growing more comfortable with in a social pack. I could tell Toby was getting the validation and self assurance from the other dogs that he would never get from humans. He started to develop a strut, a pop to his step, which intensified whenever he detected another dog nearby.” These are the exact observations I witness with puppies that start group walks right away.
CALMER AND HAPPIER: When I see a young overly enthusiastic dog approach another dog to the point he can barely contain himself, that dog was not socialized at an early age. He bounds over as if he has never seen dogs. Dogs socialized at a young age, approach in a civilized manner. Children who have not been exposed socially to other kids show similarities to the boundless energy of a dog not socialized. A child in my twin boys preschool class was a wonderful little boy but lacked social interaction outside of school. When the parents finally allowed him to play at the park, he wrestled kids to the ground innocently hurting them and not quit understanding how to interact with them. The parents stood there bewildered until I explained kids are like puppies and need socialization. They did not “talk dog” and never called me for a play date.
EASIER TO TRAIN AND BETTER LISTENERS: As a mother of twin eight year olds, when tired from socializing with friends, they are better listeners and easier to train. Dogs are the same. A tired puppy is not constantly looking for the next thing to chew or destroy but makes eye contact with you listening to directions. Unless they are a Golden Doodle, then talk quickly getting the directions or training done in minutes before their ADD kicks into action.
Whether it is through a dog walking group or carrying your puppy around the streets of your neighborhood, the best way to raise a confident, happy puppy and according to Cal Berkley a smarter one, is to expose them to other dogs and the world at a very young age.