Monday, October 30, 2006

Socialize Your Chow Chow

Socializing your pup isn’t something you do one fine day and then not again till you get the urge. It is an on-going process that begins when you bring your pup home and ends with his death.

To begin the process, right from the time you take him home, encourage visitors to come over and visit you and your new Chow Chow. Ideally, these people must belong to different races and cultures, be in different age groups and to both sexes. Let him go forward and be friendly, and respond to your friends’ toys, treats and gestures.

Once the vet certifies he is well and healthy, take him out with you on errands. When you meet a friend, let the person hold him or give him his time, attention and a treat. Your "dog friendly" friends could be good for such occasions. Socializing him means taking him out to as many places as possible so that his breadth of experience is wider and he mixes with people better. So, take him to the convenience store, park, supermarket, mall or playground, hang around for a while till he soaks in the environment.

If, however, you don’t socialize your Chow Chow for some time, he will go back into his earlier unsocialized state and turn his earlier shy self. Immediately resume the socialization process with him. You’d know he’s regressing if he tucks his tail behind him when he sees a stranger or barks while backing off.

Socializing your pup: Pups need a lot of positive experiences to become confident and well adjusted adults. This is why they need to be exposed to a variety of people, dogs, children and people and to sights, sounds and smells.

Adjusting to people: Your dog is a part of your family comprising human beings, so it is necessary he get along with people. He needs to be in the company of a lot of people and earn praise or rewards for good behavior from them in order to be well behaved.
To do this:
Ask your friends over to meet and play with your Chow Chow. Make them crouch down and meet him at eye level.
Ask your kids or the neighbor’s kids to come in and play with him, if they know how to be gentle with him. If a pup doesn’t know what it means to be with a kid, he can be aggressive towards them when they’re older.
If kids run around squealing and shouting, it sets off prey instincts in dogs if they are not familiar with them.
Gently but firmly correct bad behavior right from the start.

Gelling with other dogs: If dogs cannot speak the way we do, they have their own means of communication—through body posture, facial expressions and vocalization, they get across their message of fear, anger, aggression, submission or playfulness.

If he learns canine language, he will be able to put his feelings across effectively but if raised in isolation, he may misinterpret cues from other dogs or send wrong signals that will result in anger in other animals.
Like us, they too must learn acceptable norms of behavior such as when not to nip a friend or when to jump on Mom and when not to. So, from play behavior too, they learn to live by the code of their society.

How is your Chow Chow with other pets? For many dogs, getting along with other house pets is more of a problem than dealing with other dogs. So, if you have small animals beware, since hamsters or rabbits elicit prey instincts in dogs.

Fortunately, cats and larger pets aren’t at that much of risk. If you have a multi-pet home, introduce your pets to your pup at an early age. Supervise them when they are together, and reward them with praise or treats when they behave well with your pup.

When dogs and cats are raised together, the former usually accept cats. But considering your Chow Chow has strong hunting instincts, any cats in the house are in danger.

Why is your Chow Chow shy? Your Chow Chow may be shy if:

One of his parents is shy: Shyness in dogs is a dominant genetic trait. So, if one parent is shy, half the litter will also be so.
He’s badly socialized: Your pup should ideally be socialized between the ages of five and 12 weeks of age. If they are left unsocialized, they are probably timid and need a lot more effort to be well adjusted.

How to deal with shy dogs: Two winning techniques to deal with such dogs are: the flooding technique and desensitization and counter-conditioning. Flooding involves exposing the dog to a frightening situation until he is no longer scared of it.

Desensitization and counter-conditioning refers to gradually exposing the dog to the stimulus that brings on fear in a low-intensity form so that he doesn’t get frightened. By counter-conditioning, we mean that you add a reward when he proves he’s no longer scared. As he shows his confidence, gradually increase the intensity of the stimulus without bringing on fearful behavior.


Socializing shy dogs:
i. Ensure he’s healthy since shyness can also be due to poor eyesight or hypothyroidism.
ii. List all the things that your pet is scared of before you begin training and rank them.
iii. Teach him to stay in a relaxed posture, perhaps the sit-stay.
iv. Next, introduce him to the situation he’s least scared of and gradually go high up in the list you made in Step 2 till you reach the highest. Ask a friend to train your dog. Put him in a sit-stay position and ask your friend to stand at some distance from him. If his presence affects your pet, the latter will begin to show signs of concern such as sneezing, hyperventilating, shaking, panting, etc. But if he isn’t concerned, he will sit in a relaxed posture.
v. Repeat this till you’re sure he isn’t frightened of anyone.

Spaying and neutering your pup: If you don’t intend breeding your pup, it’s best you spay or alter him. Ask your vet the best age at which he can be spayed or altered, but usually it’s after he reaches sexual maturity.

There are many reasons why spaying or altering is considered a good idea. First, an accidental pregnancy could lead to unwanted litters that endanger the mother’s health. It also prevents the outbreak of female diseases such as pyometra. Besides, male dogs are easier to manage if neutered.

By selectively breeding the Chow Chow breed and producing only the best and the healthiest alone can you do a great service to this wonderful breed.

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