Socialization of a Wolfdog
Indigo Mountains Socialization Presentation
The difference between a companion and a sanctuary animal. Click on the thumbnails to view the photos.
Most of the animals in rescue are as a direct result of improper socialization. Often times the animals were loved, but allowed to be wild and as they matured they became wilder still. An unsocialized animal all too often becomes shy, reclusive, fearful and can become aggressive. A well socialized animal readily accepts a variety of situations and people. It can be an excellent companion animal in a human environment.
Socialization should begin at a very early age and must be carried on for the life of the animal. It is not enough to bottle feed it, help it through its development, introduce it to new sights and sounds and then stick it in the backyard to be used as a “Status Symbol”. The animal needs attention and interaction to reinforce the trust on a daily basis.
It needs to be introduced to new people, new situations and a variety of environments gently so that it can build confidence. We are also very careful to instill in the pup that nothing bad will happen to them in these new situations and essentially give them a “Get Over It” attitude. They are never forced into any situation. Instead, they are gently and patiently guided through them.
So how do we do it? How do we teach them that it’s not the Big Bad World out there? First, you need to think through what your lifestyle is like. Will the animal be a house pet or outdoor dog? Do you live in the country, in a small town, the suburbs or a metropolitan area? Second, make a list of all the things that make noise in your everyday life. Then, list all the things that you would like to do with your companion. Then go to work.
It’s always best to start the socialization process as early as possible. Some people believe a wolf or wolfdog puppy should be pulled at 10-17 days while others prefer to wait until they are 4-8 weeks old. Regardless of when YOU obtain the puppy, the breeder should begin the socialization process by gently touching or holding the pup as soon as the mother will allow.
As the puppy’s eyes and ears open it is important to begin socializing it to a variety of sounds. If you plan to have the animal indoors at all begin to socialize the pup to sounds found in your home.
We make sure the puppy is in the kitchen to learn the sounds of the microwave, the blender, food processor, espresso machine, electric knife, and dishwasher. We graduate to banging pots and pans once they are taking some of the noisier items in stride.
Then we introduce them to washer and dryer, the TV, the stereo and the vacuum cleaner. We have found the vacuum cleaner to be the toughest obstacle of all and generally hold the pup on the other side of the room as it is started. Then slowly work our way to the stationary vacuum.
By the time the pup is 4 weeks old we generally being taking them outdoors in a snuggly sack. We never let them touch dirt until they have had their first puppy shots. Because we use a lot of power tools and equipment we socialize the puppy early on to the sound of generators, jack hammers, lawn mowers and tractors. We also stand next to a vehicle as it is started. Then we get in and start it again. We will even sit in the vehicle and honk the horn. Usually this is no big deal for them. They feel safe and secure in their snuggly sack. We also climb aboard the ATV with the puppy snug in its sack.
Throughout their development I will take them for rides in the pickup and in our cargo van. The acoustics are so much different in the two. The van seems to make them nervous & since that is the primary source of transport it is important that they get comfy with the noise.
After we get some shots in them they are taken to swap meets, fairs, festivals & we walk the streets with them. There they almost always get accustomed to strollers, motorcycles buzzing by & lots of people. Fairs are always great for getting them accustomed to the sounds of squealing kids and clapping. We haul them into Petsmart, Petco and other pet stores. It’s important to get them accustomed to grocery carts. Essentially, they go with us everywhere.
As they grow we get them used to all sorts of substrates. Early on in the house they get carpet, tile and wood but they need to get used to astroturf, concrete, asphalt, decks, sand, grass, dirt, high weeds and rocks. The pup needs to learn the feel of stairs and elevators. Some will spook at the sight of an open stairway so make sure you get them used to both open and closed stairs.
Fireplaces, candles and BBQ grills and the smell of smoke can spook a puppy so we spend time socializing them to the smell, heat and sight of fire. We saw first hand some years ago how scared a wolfdog can become at the sight and smell of smoke from a forest fire. To reduce the panic in the event of a fire, we gently get them used to it in a safe manner. If you want to take your canine companion camping it will also help to reduce it’s anxiety around the campfire.
One of the toughest situations for many canines is a visit to the veterinarian. It is so crucial to socialize your companion to the smells, sights and sounds of the vet’s office. If you live close enough to your clinic take the pup in to visit often, even if it is only there to be weighed or walk in to say hello. The more it feels safe at the clinic the better off you will be in the case of an emergency.
It is important that you socialize the puppy to a variety of people. It should grow to trust men, women, children and the elderly equally. Too often, we see animals brought into rescue that are petrified of men. Have friends greet your puppy with hats and dark sunglasses to get them accustomed to meeting people on the street.
Lastly, I believe it is important that they know what a cat & a dog are. Everywhere we go people want to see what their dogs will do with the "Big Bad Wolf". So, I feel it's extremely important to get them used to different dogs & to understand dog behavior. The wolfdog needs to learn the wolf world and the dog world equally if they are going to be a companion in our world.
Here is a chart of some of the situations we socialize our animals to:
Banging Pots & Pans
Acoustics of Gym
Acoustics of Cafeteria
Acoustics of Auditorium
Truck Starting While Standing Next To It
Truck Starting While Sitting In It
Stairs - Open & Closed, Carpet & not
Out Door Fair
Out Door Fire Pits
Dogs - Other Wolves
Climbing - Getting Up High
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