Last night, my new puppy, Lucy, and I were heading out for an evening walk along the Hudson River, when danger lurked, just around the bend.
As we were moving into the lobby and toward the exit doors, Lucy mischievously broke away from me, her leash whipping out of my hand as she raced toward our dog-loving doorman Dave, her tail merrily wagging.
Lucy is the happiest, friendliest puppy imaginable–and one of the reasons she turned out that way is because she was socialized extensively from the time she was 8 weeks old. I exposed her to babies and kids of all ages, dogs of all sizes and breeds, city noises, escalaters, elevators, any and everything.
Anyway, as Lucy trotted over to Dave, one of the neighbors in my 35-story-highrise was entering the lobby from outside with his two Akitas, a majestic breed, known to be loyal and intelligent. They do, however, need to be socialized as puppies so they are friendly dogs and should have experienced owners.
In this case, the owner keeps these 100-pound plus dogs on a very tight leash because they look aggressive, not playful or friendly in the least. Having observed them many times, they frankly look as if they’re going to lunge toward another dog and eat them! Hostile is the word.
I’ve seen this many times–as dogs seem to divide themselves between the well-socialized ones–and those sadly filled with fear. (Not the dog’s fault!)
As my congenial puppy trotted over to these two dogs, one of them growled, and looked ready to pounce. I immediately pulled Lucy away and got a lecture from the owner about keeping my dog on a leash–“there’s a reason they have dogs on a leash laws!”–indeed, as the implication was that if his dogs were free, they’d be a significant threat to other dogs.
First of all, my dog accidentally got away from me, and she was on a leash. But the real problem is this: If you have dogs in a large residential complex that houses many others dogs–and kids–and these dogs are hostile, poorly socialized, or a potential threat to others–THEY SHOULD NOT BE LIVING IN THE BUILDING AT ALL. After all, what happens if one of these aggressive dogs accidentally breaks away on the leash just as mine did– what then?
Is a child or another dog going to be in danger?
As I told the owner, much to his displeasure–“If you have dogs who are aggressive and are poorly socialized, they should not be living in a residential building with hundreds of other dogs and people around them.” We are not running a zoo.
The sad part is that this is not the dog’s fault. It’s the owners–who did not properly socialize their dog.
In order to successfully do this, it MUST happen within the first 16 weeks. So while vets differ on whether or not you should keep your puppy away from adult dogs until they have all their shots, I can tell you that a puppy must play with other dogs from 8 weeks on. Lucy did it and she was absolutely fine–never catching anything–as most well-cared for dogs have had their shots, and are not contagious.
Remember, socialization is the window of time in our puppy’s lives that determines who they will become as adult dogs.
As I recently read in the excellent ‘complete guide to responsible dog ownership’ site:“The temperament, character and behavior habits of your puppy are developed during this socialization period – and will last a lifetime. It affects how your puppy will relate to his family, strangers, animals and the environment in which he lives.
“Puppy socialization stimulates the five senses of your young dog. It is the introduction, exposure and desensitization to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch of everyday life. The socialization period conditions your puppy to the many different situations he needs to be familiar with and comfortable around. It also prepares him to deal with the new experiences and challenges which inevitably arise throughout life in an appropriate manner.
“Puppy socialization is the crucial stage where you begin to build the close bond you share with your dog, one that will last forever. It’s up to you – any puppy can become a well adjusted and trusted member of society through proper socialization.
We owe it to our puppies to provide them with thorough socialization.”
And when we do–the result is a good canine citizen for life, a source of joy to kids, adults, and other dogs–the best possible companion imaginable, like my Lucy.