I did have a chance today to sit down and write up my Socialization Tracker. You are welcome to use it or share it, if you think it may be helpful. However, I would exercise some caution when working through these. I’ve listed a lot of different ideas and options, some are important to me and I will make sure I do them a few times, others really aren’t. So I would prioritize what is important to you and your family; but be sure not to overdo it!
If the puppy isn’t having positive experiences with the socialization activities it can cause a lifetime aversion or fearfulness – just what we are trying to avoid. So proceed with caution! If you find your puppy is shy, nervous, or hesitant about some or many of these activities I would absolutely recommend you seek a professional trainers help right away, whether that is during puppy class or outside of it. A few tips now can save you a lifetime of management and frustration.
The items on the Handling tab are important to work through, especially if you have a touch sensitive breed. I don’t think the Curly is especially difficult, so while it is important for all dogs to go through these exercises I’m not too worried about this. The daily exercises I will try to do 4-7 times a week. For these handling exercises it is important to have other people do them as well, since the puppy needs to be used to having strangers handle them (vet, groomer, or judge). If you don’t have friends or family willing to help you, visits to the groomer, vet, doggy masseuse will cost you a bit but can help acclimatize your pup to being handled by strangers. It is important when doing these exercises to make sure the puppy finds this enjoyable. Try feeding the puppy some treats or one of his meals while doing these. It’s also important that you are in the right frame of mind, if you’ve had a bad day or are rushed to get somewhere and aren’t in a jolly mood, wait for another day.
The Feeding Games are important, again Curlies don’t have a particular reputation for being resource guarders so this isn’t something I will spend a lot of time on, though most of these games are pretty quick and easy to do. If you have a breed that has a tendency to guard more you may want to do these games more often. One of the most highly recommended resources on this topic appears to be Jean Donaldson’s book “Mine!” I haven’t read it myself but it is on my book list, and might be worth picking up if you have concerns.
I call sound desensitizing “Novel Sounds” for this next tab of the spreadsheet. Again I have listed a lot of ideas, but I’d focus on what is likely to be important to you. I plan on using this to help with socialization/desensitization with children. One way I’ll do this is leave Children’s shows on in the background while at home. I’ve found a few videos that have child actors (so actual children’s voices), think Home Alone, Olsen Twin movies, Goonies, etc (I am dating myself!). I’ll likely also put on one of the pop music radio stations since the DJ’s (in our area anyway) tend to have higher pitched voices and be younger themselves. Not children related, but one I found funny from my past experience with Tess was Star Trek – she hated the sound of the transporter machine and some of the beeping and shooting phasers! So I’ll play that for the puppy as well.
The New Locations tab is more of an idea board for me when I know I need to find a specific type of person to socialize the puppy with, or experience to have. I’ve also made it filterable (on the spreadsheet) so I can quickly look up some ideas after work when I want to work on something, or pick a park to go to. If you are using my tracker as a template feel free to delete what wouldn’t apply to you (likely most), and add locations and ideas of your own.
The Novel Surfaces tab should be pretty easy to work through about 90% of it. There are a few that might be more challenging so I’ve put some thought into where we can locate some of them. Again some of these are more important than others, even if you were just to hit 7-10 of the common ones it should help your new pup quite a bit.
The New Experiences tab again is more of an idea board. Will I do all of these? I highly doubt it! But it gives me a bit of a running list so I make sure I hit the important ones, or ones that have caused me trouble with Tess.
I’ve also set up a Daily Tracker and Weekly Tracker, again this is just to keep me on track and (hopefully) to help me document and remember the trials, tribulations, and great fun of puppyhood. It goes by so fast and I don’t want to miss a bit of it! Eventually some of the stories or issues might make there way into a photobook of the pup.
I doubt I will populate these completely, especially some of the daily items like house training and feeding; but I think initially tracking potty times will help us get on the right schedule for the puppy, hopefully reducing accidents. The feeding info is to help remind me to do the feeding games, and ensure the puppy isn’t getting too many treats. Since it won’t change that often or rapidly it isn’t something I’ll note everyday, but likely if something is out of the ordinary or when I make a change.
Is this overkill? ABSOLUTELY! And there is no way I will make it through everything on these lists. Again, it’s an idea board to help me take advantage of the 8-12 week old puppy’s socialization window. It is meant to be a cheat sheet I can reference to see what I have and haven’t done that are important to my life and the future activities of the pup.
To come up with these lists I have leaned heavily on a few sources:
Dr. Sophia Yin’s Perfect Puppy In 7 Days
Some Thoughts About Dogs (Blog) – Puppy Socialization Checklist
Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Before & After You Get Your Puppy
Softmaple Curly Coated Retriever’s (Cathy Lewandowski) Socialization Webpage
High Tails Pet Resort Blog (Jade Zwingli) – New Puppy, Now What?