Dog trains man

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hovawarts and socialization

Kenzo in puppy days
It is always nice when you know your blog is being read. Even better - for us - when we hear it is actually used by visitors to form an opinion on Hovawarts.

Kelsey M. used our blog when she researched dog breeds and decided to get a Hovawart. She found it an "indespensible source of real-life information". No need to say, how flattered that makes us feel. After a long time selecting the right breeder, Kelsey's pup was born 2 weeks ago. And then there is also Linda T. - who is getting her Hovawart puppy at the end of this week and asked for some advice through Facebook. I promised to both Kelsey and Linda, to write something about our experiences when we socialized Kenzo.

Socializing your puppy is by far the most important thing you are going to do with your puppy. It will equip your pup to handle the world around him in the future. A puppy's socialization's period is usually between 8 and 16 weeks. During this period they are most impressionable and it is crucial they are exposed to as many positive experiences as possible. Positive experiences with people, other dogs, city and/or outdoor life, traffic and everything else they will encounter in life.

The good news is that socializing a Hovawart is not very different than you would do with a puppy of any other dog breed. And exactly this week Animal Cafe is featuring Socialization: starting puppies off right. Go and have a look, listen to the podcast, and follow the links. You will find all the info you need for proper socialization.

Back to Kenzo's socialization. One thing we did was to go to the entrance of our local shopping mall a number of times. While my wife was shopping inside, I was just outside with Kenzo. We met a lot of people going in and out. Cars were driving in the parking lot. A perfect setting. People came up wanting to pet Kenzo, after all who can resist that little fur ball. I let them give him treats as well. He met so many people and kids that way, he doesn't feel threatened today when people come up wanting to say hello. For every dog, and especially for a Hovawart, it is crucial.

We also went to the city center of Copenhagen. But that was so busy, he was quickly overwhelmed with all the people so we sticked with the local shopping mall. We even illegally sneaked inside and introduced him to stairs, elevators and all those fun things you find in a mall. Always staying neutral in voice and giving him lots of treats to make it a good experience.

To socialize Kenzo with dogs we let him meet some of the local dogs we knew were friendly. My dog skills during those days were not so great, and I misjudged some of the dogs, but always made sure Kenzo closed with a positive dog meet. Don't ask the other owner if his/her dog is nice and if they can meet, as they will usually say their dog is alright, make up your own mind well ahead. When you do meet another parent with a nice dog, see if you cannot make an appointment for a new "doggy meet". A lot of people will advice you to go to the dog park with your pup. Don't. The risk of things going wrong is just too high.

Unfortunately in Kenzo's case we were too late reserving a spot in puppy socialization class. It would be definitely something I would recommend. Not only would your puppy meet other puppies under supervision, you can also get great advice of the dog trainer.

Kenzo shredding the mailman's deliveries ...
One of the things we didn't do and regret until this day, is having Kenzo as a puppy to meet the people that go by the house. The mailman, early morning joggers, etc. After a while, his Hovawart guarding instincts also kicked in and he doesn't allow anybody close by the house. Let the mailman come by and give him a treat. Sit with him on the doorstep and look at joggers running by, maybe they stop and want to give your pup a treat as well. It will save you a lot of trouble later on.

My last advice would be to follow Smart Dog University. Socializing your pup doesn't stop at week 16. Laurie Luck is a trainer of service dogs and she blogs of all things she does to further train and socialize her dogs to human life, also after week 16.

Socializing is so much fun. I took a week off from work as well, and I can still remember it as a one of the best weeks of my life, and I know Kenzo would concur.


  1. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to write this! We are so looking forward to bringing home our new family member and this will certainly help get us started off on the right foot.

    I feel like we're not only bringing a Hovi into our family, but also joining a big worldwide Hovi family. Many, many, many thanks!

  2. My advice to Kelsey & Linda is to take the puppy everywhere that they go, and your advice about no dog parks, is excellent! There are too many people that DO NOT watch their dogs, so it's just a disaster waiting to happen.

    The from the first week that I brought Jersey home, I took her every two weeks to a horse auction. It's noisy, very loud, has lots of very large animals and many, many people.

    Doing anything dog show is also an excellent exercise for dogs. They get to meet all kinds of dogs in different shapes and sizes, get used to strangers touching them AND they have to learn patience. There were times where Jersey & I had to wait an hour for our class to start.

    Taking random car rides to fun places is also a must. Too many owners only put their dog in the car when it is time to see the vet, which leads to a stressed dog if you have to go on a road trip.

  3. @Kelsey
    You are most welcome. Enjoy the time ahead with your puppy and hopefully we can keep in touch to hear how you are doing.
    And welcome to the Hovi family :)

    Great advice Karen. Especially about the car trip, it should absolutely be on every socialization shortlist.

  4. Good advice. I wish I had understood what socializing was and it's importance. So now we are working on that slowly with the dogs. Regardless it is never too late to start.

    What cute pics!!

  5. @24Paws
    We all learn. At least you don't give up like many would have done and take it as your responsibility to socialize - the hard way. Kudos!

  6. I've never had a puppy so I can't offer any advice, unfortunately. But I'd like to thank you for passing on these links and resources. You never know when I will be brave enough to take on a new challenge!

  7. What a great post!

    I only have a few things to add--see if you can bring your dog to work. My boss gave me permission to bring Honey to work for the first few months to help with house training (and he's not even an animal person!) and it helped so much with socialization.

    Second, anticipate things that your dog will be exposed to in different seasons. Honey's prime socialization period was in the spring so we forgot to expose her to our clankety, push lawn mower and flapping canvas from a camp site. Both are things she has been fearful of as an adult.

    You can get CDs of fireworks and thunder. We were lucky to have some mild spring storms while Honey was a pup and she has no fear of storms, fireworks, or gunfire. Hooray!

  8. @Pamela
    Thanks, those are some very helpful additions!


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