The Golden Rule Way
There are multiple ways that we socialize our puppies.
- Starting when the pups are 3 days old, we go through a series of exercises each day that help stimulate the puppies. These exercises are called ENS or Early Neurological Stimulation and last until they are 16 days old. You can learn more about ENS here.
- At 3 weeks, we start working on developing their startle response. To do this, we will drop something on the floor, slam a door, or bang pans together to create a loud noise when it is otherwise quiet.
- Also at 3 weeks, we start bringing the puppies out of their whelping box individually. We will bring one puppy out at a time to spend time with us and the kids. We will play with the puppy, love on the puppy, and have it walk around by itself. This is very important for the puppy, so that the puppy can get used to be without it littermates for short periods of time and get used to individual affection.
- When the puppies start showing an interest in toys, we introduce one toy or object a day. We do this in order to create an enriching environment for the puppies. This is also important, as we are able to see which puppies go straight to the new toy/object and which ones are more shy or hold back.
- Once the pups are a little older, we use a toothbrush to brush them. When they are 5 weeks, we use a regular dog brush so they can get used to grooming.
- The puppies are handled daily and we massage their paws, ears, tails, bellies, etc.
- The puppies are socialized with kids. We have two kids that play/interact with them every day and we have cousins that come over to help with socializing.
- We play different sounds in our whelping room. These sounds include buses, door bells, lawn mowers, trains, motorcycles, horns honking, people talking, sirens, different types of music, and more.
- The puppies are whelped right in our living room. We used to whelp them in our puppy room, but we have found the change to have AMAZING results on our puppies. Now, they can hear normal household environment sounds. They experience our other dogs playing, people coming to our door, the kids running around, us cooking, the TV being on, etc. These may seem like small everyday things, but to a young puppy they can be very frightening.
- We take each puppy on several car rides to get them used to being in a car. We also go through drive-throughs and an automatic car wash. Weather permitting, we drive with the windows down occasionally so they can get used to the different sounds it makes and smells it may bring in.
- At 6 weeks, we take the puppies outside for a start at potty training and for them to play in the grass. They go outside to potty after every feeding/watering and every nap.
- We have each puppy get used to stairs before going home. It has been our experience that puppies are first scared of stairs and unsure what to do. We also have them experience different floor types, such as tile, carpet, linoleum, and concrete. We like to eliminate as many uncertainties as possible when puppies go to their new homes!
- Once the puppies are old enough, we introduce them to our other dogs (big and small). This helps socialize them with safe dogs. Our goldendoodle stud, Odie, absolutely loves the puppies. He is very gentle with them and will let them crawl all over him. He will also play with them, but knows he has to be careful and won't get too rough.
- We socialize the puppies to loud noises such as a blow dryer, washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, and vacuum cleaner. We run the vacuum cleaner daily because 1) we have golden retrievers and we need to 2) it’s good for the puppies to get used to it. It is also a good idea for them to get used to thunder storms, fireworks, construction machinery, etc. while they are young. It is easier to comfort a 10 pound puppy than a 60 pound dog.
- We socialize the puppies to different people with different features (beard, hat, glasses, elderly, etc.).
- We lay our puppies on their backs daily. This is a very vulnerable position for them and it is important for them to develop trust with their caregivers.
- We socialize our puppies around water so they are comfortable with taking baths. This typically isn’t an issue for golden retriever breeds, but we take turns bring them into the bathroom while we shower. This helps them get used to the sound. Then, when they are 4.5 weeks they have their first real bath.
- Collars and leashes. We put breakaway collars on our puppies starting when they are young. This helps us to tell them apart for eating, weighing, etc. A week before they go home, we put a tiny leash on each puppy so they can experience the feeling. At first, they walk around with the leash on and we leave it on while they have supervised play. Then, we hold the leash while it is attached to them and call them to follow us as we walk. The puppies love high, excited voices so they typically follow very easily using this method.
Please continue socializing your new puppy at home! The Pet Professional Guild provides a great socialization checklist here. We can do as much socialization work as possible before your puppy goes to their new home, but the socialization window is open until 16 weeks. That means we can do 50% of the work here, but you have to do the other 50% when you take your puppy home at 8 weeks.
PLEASE be careful with a collar on your dog when you take him/her home, as I know of too many people who have lost a dog due to suffocation with a collar. The type of collars we use are breakaway and the puppies are supervised.