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Sunday, September 29, 2013

What Every First-time Hovawart Owner Should Know: Socialization with Dogs

This is a series of blogs about "What Every First-time Hovawart Owner Should Know", in which each subject is selected - and contributed to - by Hovawart owners.

Socialization with Dogs

To socialize your Hovawart is one of the most important things you will do.

Puppies have a “critical period” that spans roughly from 8 – 16 weeks of age. This period marks the time when your puppy is most impressionable, and they learn best.

The good news is, socializing a Hovawart puppy is not a whole lot different or more difficult of how you would socialize any other puppy, from whatever breed or mix.

It is a matter of having as much of good meetings with other dogs in all sizes and ages, so your Hovawart learns, how to interact with dogs. And the emphasis is on good meetings, so only with dogs you know are friendly and balanced. Puppy class is a good way to kick-off a proper socialization as well.

And there is more good news. Socializing a Hovawart will take longer then that initial puppy period, so you will have more time .... alright then, it takes a little more effort as well, true.

Hovawarts like to play rough. So rough it can overwhelm other dogs - when you have never seen a Hovawart play, it will probably overwhelm you too, when you see it for the first time - and when your puppy grows and gets stronger, it likes to assert its strength to their playmates with the risk they turn into bullies, and play-mates turn into play-toys:
Min I.: "Socialization is so important for a Hovawart. Vaccination delays can cause real problems, as vets advise keeping them in quarantine till they are fully vaccinated + two weeks. Far, far too long for a Hovie. Get them out and about. Hovies usually go through a second 'I'm scared' period around 15 to 18 months, it's almost as if they regress to childhood, forgetting training that they could do before, or being scared by odd things for no obvious reason (to us). wait this out and gentle handling gets them through."
Verena S.: "We tried to bring our Hovie together with other dogs from the beginning. But what I learned soon is that a Hovie's way of playing is with too much power and enthusiasm for some other dogs."
Ine C.: "When there is a group of different dogs together, and a quarrel starts, it is very rare the Hovawart is not part of it. Their play is very wild and loud and may sound or even look like fighting to many other dog owners."
Kelsey M.: "We were no longer welcome to take part in 'free play' time in puppy class. She had just become too big, too fast and too exuberant to interact with the other dogs. With time and continued off-leash walks through a park, meeting a handful of other well-socialized dogs, she learned excellent doggy manners."
Karina J..: "When we meet some of our playmates, my Hovawart tries to 'own' them. She doesn't allow other dogs to play with her friends, and demands to be in the center."
Loes K.: "I can say that he plays very well but he chooses one dog to be his friend on a walk and can be a bit pushy for that dog. When they keep running and playing there are no problems, but when they stop he keeps challenging (barking) him to keep playing."

One of the best things you can do is, from day 1 - before they start bullying - to reward them for every time they play and meet in a proper way. This video of Dr. Ian Dunbar is giving some great advice on how to do just that:



And if the bully comes out of the closet anyway, you will have to step up and intervene. Communicate you are not pleased, and don't let them get away with it. Training "contact" exercises from early on is therefore your best ally, as you are ensured you can stop whatever they are doing that is not appropriate.

Their rough play can be overwhelming sometimes, and you shouldn't despair. You share your headache with many other Hovawart owners, who all would like to help by sharing experiences if you need it. Just reach out to us. Through your club, your breeder, in Facebook groups like Hovawart's Family, or any other way you like.

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Coming up next: More socialization!

A big thanks to Africa, Jan Wolfe, Evelyn B., Peggy S., Yvonne B., Anna N., Katja K., Sascha L., Björn S., Loes K., Flora B., Verena S., Heini A., Dave H., Maria E., Judith L., Lone A., Mary A., Hester O., Ine C., Min I., Silvia I., Karina J., for your contributions in selecting and contributing to the subjects.


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2 comments

  1. How true! Excellent post--socialization at a young age is so, so important along with reinforcement at any age.

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    1. And thank you for that precision of terms, what I just called a "longer" socialization period, is indeed socialization through puppy-hood, post-socialization through adolescence and life-time of reinforcement!

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