Raising Puppy Valley-Style: Eating Crow and Socializing Via Facebook Playdates

This is the latest column from North Bend resident and pet trainer at Miss Lola’s Academy for Wayward Dogs, Melissa Grant, who is taking you along the journey of raising Bee, her new puppy.


Melissa Eats Some Crow

During labor, women get a surge of a hormone called oxytocin, which gives them an overwhelming feeling of happiness, making them forget the agony of childbirth. Basically, your body makes a drug that makes you want to do it all over again despite the pain.

I’m beginning to think the same thing happens to people when they raise puppies. I’m coining the term ‘doggie-tocin,’ because boy did I forget all the pain of puppy raising.

First off, let me apologize to all the new puppy owners to whom I said it was easy. “Just do this this and this and your life will be perfect with a docile cute puppy sitting at your feet.”

Yeah, right, Melissa. Shut your smug face.

Maybe I had that stereotypical perfect first child, Lola, and now I have the hell raising second one, Bee. Or maybe I just plain old forgot how difficult it is having a little peeing, biting, whining animal in your house.

At any rate, this is your friendly neighborhood dog trainer publicly eating a little crow. Please accept my puppy mea culpa.

The Fun and Importance of Puppy Socialization

Now.  On to the fun stuff. My first order of business was to socialize this little five-pound ball of fluff. When trainers talk of socializing your pup we mean teaching her to be comfortable being a pet within our human society. We typically do this when they are at the age when accepting new things is most comfortable for the pup, between 3-12 weeks of age.

Most puppies ideally are with their mothers and littermates until about 8 weeks, so we have a very short window of time after adoption to get a great deal done. After this period of time dogs become naturally a bit more suspicious and less curious, and socializing them becomes more difficult. At about 18 weeks it becomes VERY difficult to get pups to accept new things, so this little window of opportunity is critical.

Vaccination Monkey Wrench

One monkey wrench that gets thrown into this process is the whole vaccination schedule. We are told to be very careful about where we take our dogs until their shots are finished. That typically doesn’t happen until the dogs are around 12 weeks of age. So many folks hide their pooches away during this critical period of time, only to wonder later why they have a spooky pooch. The reason is that they didn’t take advantage of the pup’s easier, more accepting tendencies when they had it. You can properly socialize an unvaccinated puppy; you just have to be safe and careful.

I decided to follow The Puppies Rule of Twelve which was written by a trainer friend Margaret Hughes  She gives you a list of all the things your puppy should experience before 12 weeks. It includes such things as 12 people, 12 dogs, 12 surfaces, 12 places, etc., so that your dog will become a happy, self-confident adult dog.

My first order of business was to find as many safe, friendly, vaccinated dogs as possible. After all, Bee is hopefully going to be a trainer’s assistant like her predecessor Lola. I need her to be comfortable around all ages, sizes and types of dogs.

Facebook Puppy Playdates around the Valley

So I used a tool not available to me 14 years ago when Lola was a puppy: Facebook. I went on a popular Valley site, asked for available playmates, and the response was great.

Our first playdate was with Liz and Aiden Schomber and their 12-week old Cocker Spaniel puppy, Luke. He was a perfect first playmate. Similarly sized and aged, they got on like a house afire and she actually slept for the rest of the day! I greedily asked for another playdate the next day and we watched with delight as they rolled around Liz and Aiden’s backyard.

bee lucky
Bee and Luke

Next, came Cindi Bowles, Ian, Miles and Lucky. I had a little trepidation going into this one as Lucky is a larger two year old with a very enthusiastic personality. I needn’t have worried. Formosan dog Lucky was very sweet and played very appropriately with Bee. Again, Bee actually slept that day and I found myself willingly babysitting 8-year-old twins Miles and Ian just to have a tired pup again (Typically, I am not the human-puppy type of gal).

Ian, Luke, Miles and Bee

Now came the real test, a large sized dog. I chose training client Jeanne Spreen and her Golden, Rex. I’ve written articles about Rex’s reactivity before, but was confident Rex would be kind to a puppy. I was right, and Bee worships the ground Rex walks on. I regularly beg Jeanne for playdates and she is now the designated “Beekeeper” when I have to be gone too long for a puppy-sized bladder.

bee rex
Bee and Rex

Amanda Higley and her four dogs kindly responded to my Facebook request also and I trekked out to her house for a playdate. We managed to successfully play with Balcom the Beagle, Reggie the Cavapoo and the Schnoodle duo Lola and Tucker. Okay… not so much with her fellow Schnoodles, but all in all a good time was had by all. Hey, we only lost her out the fence pickets once or twice so I call that a success. I hope she didn’t scare the goats too badly. We’ll talk about “coming when called” in a future blog.

Bee and Balcom
Bee and Balcom

Next came Jeri Jorgenson and her three dogs. Penny Lane and Brady, both Cavaliers, and Dakari, the mixed breed (probably Husky/Shepherd). We originally thought Penny Lane would be the right fit for Bee but Brady stepped up and wore the Bee out for me. Thank you Brady.

Brady and Bee
Brady and Bee

Lastly came Robin Forman and her Westie, Daisy. I hadn’t found a female dog who was inclined to play with Bee so I was delighted when Daisy and Bee got along like they had known each other forever. I’ll be coming for Daisy again, Robin. Bee slept for the rest of day.

Bee and Daisy

Importance of Socialization

Socialization is essential for helping your puppy develop into a happy, fun and safe companion. You can take a puppy class from a reputable organization like the Humane Society, or you can go your own way like I did.  But please. Do the work to ensure that your puppy has the greatest chance possible to develop into a dog who is comfortable in his environment and a joy to be with.

Your efforts will last a lifetime.

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