Socialization Tips

Discussion in 'Bernese Mountain Dog Training Forum' started by Bear'sMama, Feb 14, 2011.

  1. Bear'sMama

    Bear'sMama New Member

    I have a 15 week old Berner named Bear. My husband and I have had him for a little over 2 weeks, and Bear has been great. He has already learned how to sit, lay down, give his paw, give his other paw, and to come. He did have a few accidents in the beginning but has been really improving on his potty training - only an accident here and there. My concern is finding the best way to socialize him. When we are out for walks, he seems to be fine greeting people but he runs behind my legs anytime he sees other dogs. I know he is past the fear impression phase, but I don't want to do anything to cause him to be permanently scared of other dogs. I don't tense up when we see other dogs and try to act like it's no big deal but he panics almost every time.

    We plan on doing an obedience class in a couple weeks to get him around other dogs, but the class starts when he is around 22 weeks (far past the crucial development stage for socialization of 8-16 weeks). Some friends suggested taking him to a dog park and just letting him go because he will be forced to interact. So do I take him to the dog park and keep my fingers crossed that he doesn't go into panic mode or wait for the obedience class where he will only be around other puppies (which I feel will help ease him into being around other dogs).

    I should also note that he was with all of his littermates and parents until he was 13 weeks old - and interacted fine with them.
  2. sa1821

    sa1821 New Member

    With molly we made sure we socialized her first with dogs we knew were nice, not so much that she would be scared, but she was VERY playful so we wanted to make sure a dog would put her in her place gently :)
    My thoughts would be to find dogs you know ae nice and be really positive with her and encourage her. I never let Molly go under my legs, I would pull her out on her leash saying 'you're ok' in a really upbeat voice- making sure I never touched her or rewarded her scared behaviour. They need to develop confidence and making them do things can be uncomfortable but pays off in the end- they trust you and need you to show them they can do things!
  3. BrnrMom

    BrnrMom New Member

    Dog parks are notoriously horrible for socializing young puppies. I can't stand them in general, because they're usually full of ill-mannered, poorly socialized dogs, with owners that aren't paying the least bit of attention to what their dogs are doing.

    Taking a puppy to a dog park in the name of forced socialization is among the worst suggestions I've ever seen. Ugh. Just.. ugh. If you do that, you will regret it for the rest of your pup's life. Even if the puppy comes out physically intact, it's highly unlikely that you'll ever be able to repair the mental damage or the damage to your relationship.

    Wait for the obedience class so that you can socialize him in a controlled environment, with the support of an instructor who can monitor and respond appropriately to your pup's body language. If you really think you can't wait and need to try to introduce him to other dogs sooner, pick a trusted friend who has a well-socialized dog and set up a 1-on-1 play date.

    Also, your puppy has passed the first fear period, but is going into the flight instinct period, which usually begins around 16 weeks old. While it's not as crucial as the first fear period, you still want to avoid trauma during that time and it can account for some quirky behavior.
  4. Bear'sMama

    Bear'sMama New Member

    Thank you so much for the responses! I didn't think taking him to the dog park was a very good idea either, so it's extremely reassuring to hear your response.

    Unfortunately, we do not know any dogs or friends with dogs in the area since we just moved here a couple months ago (to Switzerland actually). Since we have been looking at BMDs for a couple years and our housing is appropriate, my husband and I figured this is the right time (and place) to get one.

    Bear has gotten much better in the last couple of days when we are out. I have been using the upbeat and happy "It's okay" when we see other dogs or people approaching - which has been improving his anxiety slowly. There is a little terrior that we see on walks sometimes; they have greeted each other and sniffed briefly then the owner goes along with her walk - at least that is a litte interaction. We also had some friends meet us on a walk for a couple days now and after they greet me and Bear is calm, they give him a treat(trying to associate good things with guests) so his fear of people is dwindling fast. I'm going to just wait on the obedience class as suggested for the controlled setting.

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