Puppy Magic – from Petrified to Playmania

Social Butterflies

"I used to hide behind chairs, but now I hunt Poodles for a living."

Most dog trainers would agree one of the most satisfying sights in a puppy kindergarten class is seeing shy dogs gradually gain confidence each week until they finally burst out and play like maniacs with the other pups.  If you think trainers get excited over this, you should see the owners when their fearful fidos turn into wild players.  Tears of joy are not uncommon.  If you’ve experienced this with your own dog, you know just what I mean.

How do I know if a pup will come out of her shell?

If a shy pup is still in her critical socialization period (before 12 weeks of age), the chances of her building confidence in a well-matched play group is very good. The younger, the better. Let’s look at two wonderful puppy kindergarten graduates as an example.  Meet Coco the Maltese and Brady the Poodle.

Clash of the Titans

What was the best part of class for these two tiny tots? It was the socialization. Sometimes you get pups that are just a wonderful match for bringing one another out of their shell. These two dogs started out shy and gradually became increasingly confident, especially with each other.  Each week they tried a little something new – a sniff here, a pounce there – until they were chasing and wrestling like wildfire – and loving every minute of it.

The trick now for their owners is to keep socializing.  Too many owners take it for granted that socialization with one other dog is enough.  Imagine if you only interacted with ONE other human until you were 3 years old.  Think you would have some awkward social mannerisms?  Of course.  Let’s look at this situation with dogs…

The Myth: Socializing your pup with one or two other dogs is enough to make her comfortable and socially normal with almost all dogs. (I get this all the time from owners who tell me they don’t need to socialize their pup with other dogs because they already have another dog at home who they get along with just fine.)  This is short-sighted and puts a dog at high-risk for having very limited social capabilities.

The Real Deal: Just because your dog interacts well with one or two other dogs does NOT mean they will be comfortable around other dogs of different sizes, ages, and breed types. Diversify your pup’s socialization experiences with as many other dogs as possible, as long as the setting, size match-ups and play styles are appropriate. Make sure the experiences are positive (or at least not blatantly negative). This will help you raise a “worldly” dog who can handle herself like a diplomat in many different social situations!

Enjoy these photos of Coco and Brady playing.

Brady: "Damn this girl's good. She can mirror my every move."


Brady's coming in for the pouncedown, Coco puts on the brakes.

They read each other with lightning quickness. There's Brady's takeoff for the pounce, Coco already has one foot out the door.

Air Coco: "Ha. ha. ha. We're so cute we'll never have to listen to a thing they say!"

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