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The Importance of Early Puppy Socialization

By Kathy Petersen of Rockland Aussies

As a hobbyist breeder, I look for new ways constantly to ensure that when puppies are placed in their new homes, the new owners will have an easy adjustment. To me, that means lots of new experiences and lots of human contact. The first few weeks are the most important for their development and shaping of their temperaments. I take this very seriously and feel this is my responsibility to ensure. Who wants a beautiful puppy that is scared of everything and everyone? Not me!


The definition of socialization in the Encarta dictionary is “to behave in a friendly way to others” and “to give somebody the skills required for functioning successfully in society or in a particular society”. So, don’t you want your puppy to be friendly with other dogs, cats and people? Don’t you want your puppy to behave well in society? Socialization helps ensure that your puppy will be well behaved with humans and other animals if they begin early in their lives. Puppies learn from what they see and from positive experiences as puppies. They do not understand the human language. We must teach them what the words mean by repeating and re-enforcing these words.

Puppy socialization is vital to all breeds but, is especially vital to Australian Shepherds. Aussies can be reserved with strangers. This is not to be mistaken for fearful of people. Being fearful of people is not acceptable. When dogs are fearful they can be fear biters and no one wants a dog they have to worry about biting their children or visitors.

  Puppy Socialization - Rockland Australian Shepherds
  Kathy Petersen– Rockland Aussies
Puppy socialization is vital to all breeds but, is especially vital to Australian Shepherds.

My very first Aussie was Jessie. She was not my choice for a dog. She was a red tri female, two years old. My ex husband found her and wanted me to come look at her. She was crouched in a corner of a barn. She was showing her fangs and growling like she would attack at any moment. Of course, I advised him not to get her. To no surprise, he did not listen and brought her home. That is where my love of Aussies originally came from. Surprising as that may sound, please read on.

Jessie was released in our fenced-in back yard and there she stayed. She would not come into the house nor would she allow anyone to come near her. She would hide constantly and rarely did we even see her. I would place her food out and she would not come out till I went back inside. I would see her carefully creep up to eat, ever on guard for a “human” to come out.

This continued for six weeks. I worked at winning her over at every chance I got. She finally would take food from me as long as there was a swing set in between us and gradually she would allow me to touch her. Her trust in me grew and I put a lot of effort into our relationship. The bond grew between us. She ended up being a fantastic dog and I enjoyed her tremendously. This turned out well but, who wants a dog you have to win over in a 6 weeks period?

That is what I want to avoid with my new owners. It is sometimes, tough to afford a nice puppy and I realize that money is earned and not grown on trees! When we have a litter of puppies, they begin listening to a CD from the time their ears open (usually 2 weeks old) that has various noises on them. The CD has thunder, kitchen noises, vacuum cleaners, kids, trains, skateboarding sounds, airplanes and more. They get used to hearing all those noises. This helps them have a “roll with the flow” temperament. It teaches them the “noises” are not going to hurt them.

My granddaughter, Leanna, who is with me a tremendous amount of time, is 3 years old. She handles these puppies frequently. She will not stay out of the whelping box no matter if we wanted her to or not. She holds the puppies up in the air, in her lap and lies down in the whelping box with the puppies. The mother’s almost feel like they have another “puppy” to care for. Leanna has even helped deliver puppies before.

I also have an 18 year old daughter, Holly, which loves on the puppies and helps socialize them. Our household is hectic most times. Loud TV’s are blaring, music, cooking in the kitchen and various other household noises. I must confess, not much gets done when we have puppies as we spend all our time with them. Puppies are out in the kitchen crawling over different types of toys in the floor and socializing with various other animals; such as cats and our spayed Yorkie. Pebbles, our Yorkie is a great socializer and loves romping with Aussie pups.

When we take our puppies outside, they get acclimated to climbing over ladders, through a tunnel, around agility jumps, in the woods and the field. We also start them on a grooming table to get used to being up in the air and getting used to grooming. We use various types of grooming equipment on them so they get used to being groomed.

Once you get a new puppy it is vital that you continue socializing the puppy to new experiences like riding in a car and a variety of people, noises and environments. Next article will be on things you as a new puppy owner can continue to do to help your puppy be acclimated to new experiences.

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