Socialization Theory: The Pros & Cons

Hey All,

I came across this article and felt like it was an interesting take on socializing young dogs, and the pro's and cons of what would be considered the traditional way to socialize a dog.

I'll post the text of the article below; since I'm not sure what the rules would be on linking to articles or if only approved sources are allowed. Anyway I figured I would see what everyone's thoughts are on the techniques expressed in the article and what has worked best in building the confidence of your NK over the years!

More Harm than Good: 3 Reasons Why I Never Socialize my Puppies

She stood atop of the massive metal bleachers, her puppy triumphantly standing on one of the rows, as she called down to me.

“Aren’t you going to socialize your puppy?” she asked.

“I’m good.” I said with a smile. “I’m going to work on engagement down here.”

She looked perplexed. As if I had just spoken a foreign language, and then she continued working her dog in and out of the metal rows, offering plenty of treats as the two moved up and down the aisles together.

Occasionally, the puppy lost his footing. At times, he’d slip and slide and I’d see a ripple of fear pulse through his body. But he always recovered. Always followed. And always moved along side of his owner (albeit at times with a bit of coaxing) as she navigated her way up and down the shiny metal surfaces.

When she became confident in her puppy’s “socialization”, she made her way down the metal steps and met me on the grass.

It was then, she began her schooling.

If you know me, you know I’m not one for unsolicited training advice. But she was my friend, so I listened as she spoke, our friendship quelling my typical irritation.

“You know Meagan,” she said as she walked my way, “you need to expose your dog more – he’s going to develop fears. You are in a critical socialization period.”

“I’m good.” I asserted again. “I’m just going to work some fun engagement and focus exercises down here.” She pleaded with her eyes, and then gave me an disapproving grimace, to which I clarified, “it’s just that we are hyper focused on this right now. But thanks for the input.”

She resigned her argument, making her way to her SUV to load the puppy up, giving him plenty of praise and affection for working so hard to conquer the obstacle.

I didn’t see her drive away as baby Edge, my 4 month old (at the time) Belgian Malinois, and I quickly became immersed in a game of engagement, focus and strategic play.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. And you may decide we can’t be friends anymore. But hopefully, you’ll hear me out when I say it….

Here goes…..

I don’t socialize my dogs.

I know. Big gasps and sighs, and lots of folks downright disgusted that I say that.

But here’s the story. I’ve raised over A HUNDRED puppies in my career. Don’t want to toot my own horn, but raising puppies confidently is something that I’m D*** good at (excuse the language….or asterisks….but I’m passionate about this point). Ask anyone who has seen it….it’s kind of a speciality.

And every time I hear stories about how important socialization is, or how critical exposure is, I just shake my head and quiet my frustration because I believe strongly that it SIMPLY….ISN’T…TRUE.

I don’t socialize puppies…..wait, that’s a lie.

I socialized my first puppy Koby extensively. And if you haven’t heard me tell the story, or haven’t followed along on the blog much, I’ll give you a very quick backstory.

Koby was my first puppy back when I was in college and well before I knew any better. He came to me during the “Rainbows and Butterflies” time in my life, where I swore love was all you needed to change the world.

He was extensively socialized under the direction and supervision of our trainers from the time he was 10 weeks old all the way up until he bit someone in the face.

We took him everywhere – exposed him to other dogs, enrolled him in puppy socialization classes, let him meet all kinds of people and brought him everywhere we were able to when he was just a young pup.

And while we were working feverishly to prevent fears and bad behaviors from developing, many very severe issues began overtaking our well socialized pup, including (but not limited to) separation anxiety, very serious human aggression and reactivity towards other dogs.

So tell me again how socialization prevents fear?

These days, I don’t socialize my puppies. Well, not in the traditional sense. I take my puppies places often. But I don’t let people pet them. I don’t let them play with other dogs. I don’t “expose” them to different surfaces and make them climb all over anything and everything in order to “prevent fear”.

I don’t do any of that. And yet, I consistently raise very confident and driven dogs. And not only that, I regularly turn very timid puppies or puppies with severe issues (ahem….Shank) around and boost their confidence so that they actually work….and work well!

How is that even possible?

Here are the top 3 reasons I don’t socialize young dogs.

Reason #1 : Genetics Matter

Listen. No one really talks about this. But for those of us with working dogs or service dogs, we know without a doubt that genetics play a major role in our dog’s behavior. LIKE MAJOR.

To my point, I have two dogs that are closely related. Both are anti social with strangers. The older one came to work with me every day at a very busy doggy daycare and got tons of exposure. The other got none. Both lack social graces with strangers.

I have another dog from different lines who came to me at 7 weeks old. And this puppy is a social butterfly. Absolutely perfect with other dogs, people and kids and totally trustworthy with everyone he meets. But socialization didn’t make him that way. He was NEVER socialized. That’s just how he is.

Don’t believe me? Here’s another example. I raised a dog from a pup who, at 2 years old decided she didn’t like female dogs. Like REALLY didn’t like them. Her daughter was raised by someone else. And she was a dog park dog – extensively socialized. Until she hit 2 years old, at which point she decided she didn’t like female dogs. Still think it is a coincidence? What if I told you that within that line, aggression between females consistently happens right around maturity? And for those of you arguing that it’s just a female thing and females just don’t typically get along, I’m here to tell you I have plenty of females that do (and yes, they are the same breed – just different lines).

And what about this one? My puppy is LOUD, barks like crazy and went through a resource guarding phase when he was young. And so did his brother. And so did his other brother. And their other brother did too. All raised in different homes, with different people and different rules. All with the same behavior. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Genetics matter!

A LOT of social issues (or lack thereof) are genetically inherited. Social dogs are social dogs. It’s the anti-social ones you need to work on (if that’s your goal).

Reason #2 : It’s Counter-Productive to Engagement

Check the blog lately. I’ve been hitting engagement and focus hard. And since it’s at the forefront of my brain, I’m going to hit it again.

Think about it. If teach my puppy that every time we are in public he gets all sorts of affection and attention from every person he sees, and if I teach my puppy that every dog is a playmate, why would he want to engage with me? In fact, in most exchanges, unless you are really good at this socialization thing, you simply become the person that is holding your dog back from all of the fun things in the world.

When our dogs regularly get rewarded by their environment, they learn to hold value in many things that AREN’T YOU. And when they do that, those things are built to compete DIRECTLY with you for your dog’s attention.

People aren’t as distracting if they never reward my dog. And if I’m the only one playing with and treating my dog, I’m going to be the most valuable thing in his environment. People and other dogs become background noise. They are just there….moving….but never engaging or threatening to steal my thunder.

Reason #3 You can do more harm than good

So remember when I told you that story about the bleachers? Yeah…well, I saw that dog the other day, and guess who is afraid of the bleachers? I’ll give you a hint…it isn’t puppy Edge who is now 10 months old and afraid to climb on nothing (despite never being exposed). It’s the dog that was “socialized”.

Puppies are young and impressionable. And sometimes, drawing focus to scary things and “pushing” the issue can actually make those scary things even more scary.

Accidents happen, people step on young puppy’s toes, other dogs get too rough and puppies stumble and fall off of things. And at a young and tender age, they are quite impressionable. So extensive socialization can very easily end up doing more harm than good.

So what do I do?

Ok. So I don’t lock my puppies up and shield them from the world. I don’t keep them cooped up in the house and wrapped in bubble wrap. And I don’t keep them from climbing on different surfaces. But if I’m going to expose them to different surfaces, textures and obstacles, I do it at home, in my yard where my puppy can move and explore at his own pace. This way, I’m not drawing any unneeded attention to the scary stuff, and I’m not forcing the issue. And my puppy is learning in an environment that is familiar. We can explore obstacles out and about once my puppy has had a chance to grow up a bit.

And I do “Socialize” my puppies. Just not in the traditional sense. Instead, I take my puppies places and focus my attention on fun engagement and focus games, and teaching the mechanics of strategic gameplay.

When we are out and about, we simply PLAY….

…… And as a result, the world becomes background noise….

…… And as a result, my puppies learn to focus on me…..

…… And as a result, nothing scary happens and my puppy leaves every encounter with even more confidence than he began with.

And listen – I never push the issue. I don’t get my puppies out to new places every day. I don’t push young puppies into new environments. I want them to grow and toughen a bit. I want them to build their relationship and trust in me, and I want to spend time building their drive and engagement so that they know the games before I start playing them in public.

Plainly stated, my young dogs learn FIRST that I’ve ALWAYS got their back. That I will ALWAYS keep them safe and that I won’t push them into a situation they aren’t ready for. It’s my job to keep them safe and that’s a job I take very seriously.

And I want my young dogs to learn that I am REALLY FUN.

If I’m successful in teaching those two lessons, the world becomes a far less scary place and I’ll end up with a confident dog every…single…time.

Now you may still be skeptical. And if I haven’t convinced you yet, let me leave you with one final story.

Crash is a Malinois who came to me as a young puppy – his owners having aspirations of him becoming a police dog.

The first day with me, he cowered and peed himself and wouldn’t come near me – just the sound of my (very loud) voice was too scary for this little guy. As time passed, Crash stayed terrified of the world. Instead of playing with toys, he would avoid them, certain they would come to life and attack him when he wasn’t looking. And one evening at training, I uncovered his intense fear of PVC as I picked up a piece that was laying on the field.

Crash’s fears were so intense as a young pup that I swore he would never work.

But instead of pursuing the traditional socialization techniques to get Crash over his fears, I simply let him grow up. I just let him be a dog. If I was going to have to resort to training to get him over his insecurities, I wanted him to be mature enough to handle it.

And I’ll be honest – I thought I was going to have some serious work to do. But that work wouldn’t come until he grew up and matured a bit more.

But Crash surprised me.

He is now 10 months old and I just finally put him back into training. My little terrified puppy who couldn’t even go near PVC laying on the ground, worked like he had been doing it all of his life. No fear at all. And this was his first session back with ZERO socialization or exposure efforts in between….wait, not true….I took him to the beach once. But otherwise, he just hung around the house, went for walks around the neighborhood, and simply grew up.

I am confident that if I would have socialized Crash, or tried to push the issue of getting him over his insecurities at all, regardless of how confident I am in my abilities, he would have crumbled and I would be faced with the task not of training a dog for work, but instead rehoming a chicken of a dog who was afraid of his own shadow.

Guys, I don’t socialize my dogs. At least not in the traditional sense. And if I did have social issues to overcome, I’d for sure do it when my puppy was older and could take it.

Instead, my focus is on teaching engagement. Teaching my puppy that I am the BEST thing in his world, and building his work ethic so that the world in essence becomes background noise. And I spend my days more than anything, teaching my dog that I’ve got his back. And that he can trust me. And that I am fun.

So judge away. And disagree. It’s ok. I’ve got thick skin.

But remember, (and I’m just going to leave you with this final thought right here) the only puppy I ever REALLY socialized was Koby….the dog that developed human aggression, dog aggression and severe anxiety.

Just let that sink in….

And I really hope we can still be friends, even if we agree to disagree.


  • edited September 2016
    I think their definition of socialization is off. They basically call all bad exposure socialization and all good exposure engagement. I don't see how interacting with bleachers is social, and I don't see how playing/interacting with a puppy in various settings and scenarios to create a good experience isn't social.

    I think they make themselves look a little bit foolish by volunteering to be anti socialization and then explaining what they do instead, which looks a lot more like actual socialization than their definition lol. I think the word they're describing as socialization is more like flooding, and actual socialization is carefully planned, monitored, and involving. It honestly doesn't sound to me like they don't socialize their pups. It just sounds like they don't understand the term correctly.
  • I agree with Lilikoi.

    The internet is full of attention-grabbing attitudes and extreme examples like this for us to react to, plant our flags and make faces at each other. ;)
  • @Lilikoi & @WrylyBrindle

    That's fair. Maybe because it's written from a working dog perspective the semantics might be different, but I'm sure the whole "edgy" tone is for part of that whole shock value thing to get clicks which was why I posted the text rather than just leave the link in case there were some rules for the forum that I had missed :P

    I was just curious how other people "socialize" their NK and what they think works best. And I liked the concept of being the most fun thing to your dog in the article.

    I think it's good to have a dog that enjoys being with you, I've raised my AA a lot different than I have other puppies in the past and I think I probably have the best early relationship and trust with her. I never took her to dog parks, she rarely gets rewarded or pet by anyone outside of my family and so she's neutral to people and dogs. Which I think is easier to work with and handle rather than a dog that's always been rewarded by its environment and that knows every stranger will give them attention.

    She still is around dogs and people a lot. It's just in a controlled environment, so that she learns even when there are dogs or people; when you pay attention to me you get rewarded.

    It's probably different with NK since they're more suspsicious and stand-offish by nature so it comes more natural to them to be neutral rather than super friendly.

    @WrylyBrindle how do you usually expose your dogs to new things? I really just wanted to see what NK owners have had work best in building up happy balanced pups!
  • This article some what confused me to be honest. I read it as two people that have two different ways of socializing and exposing their dog to things. I didn't see one as anti-socialization because she chose not to put her puppy on the bleachers, that to me isn't in the socialization category to me that's intentional exposure in my eyes.

    Anyway. I have three NK and all three have been with us since 8-9 weeks of age.

    our method is to take the puppy with us everywhere dogs are permitted from the start so that they are exposed to different environments and sounds. When we went out if someone approached us about meeting the dog we would allow them to pet them and visit under our supervision. They all went to puppy training classes which I believe is an awesome place for them to have play socialization time with other puppies in a controlled environment plus it a great bonding method to do the obedience exercises together.

    All three of our dogs are easy going, friendly to people of all ages, and they very rarely show fear of things. Our two shiba respect other dogs and don't show aggression, but don't really enjoy playing at the dog park or with others. They have always been indifferent of other dogs. They would rather just run or sun bath in the corner at the park. They love to be around humans and enjoy the attention from them much more than playing with other dogs.. That's just their personality and that's ok, I do not force them to interact with other dogs if they aren't interested. We still take them to the park and they spend that time however they chose. Our newest addition a kai ken on the other hand enjoys looking for a playmate to tumble with, his personality is more outgoing and adventurous. Now that we added the third dog in our household all three have learned how to read each other and do play together at times. They have a interesting bond which I have enjoyed watching develop. The puppy has brought out a playfulness in the shibas and they have grown to love him, they all look for each other to cuddle and play. Now that the shiba are older and they tire quickly, they don't go out with us as much since we know they don't enjoy being away from home for long extended periods of time. They still go places just in short increments. When having a dog you have to learn to read them and evaluate what they like. For example the kai loves adventure and going places so we will continue taking him everywhere and in the future if he shows signs that he would rather stay home like the others then we will change our method just like we did for the shibas. Finding activities that they enjoy is key since no two dogs are exactly the same. By exposing them to everything the way we have, we have been able to pinpoint what they prefer and now stick to those things so they get full enjoyment out of the activities we do with them.

    I do believe genetics are a factor on the dogs temperament and play a part in how they react to things, but by exposing them to things at an early age with plenty of positive reinforcement from you regardless of genetics you are more likely to have a well adjusted, less fearful or reactive dog. I'm not saying all dogs will enjoy the same activities or environments just because they were exposed to them at a young age, every dog is different..I find that by taking my dogs everywhere with us it showed them and myself what they like and dislike to do and if they really feel uncomfortable they know I am there to take control and comfort them or fully remove them from the situation if need be rather than them reacting or running away they come to me for guidance. By looking at the parents of a puppy you can somewhat gauge how your dog will turn out. All three of my dogs came from reputable breeders that took health and temperament into consideration when pairing and mating. I must say that all three of mine have turned out to be a nice mixture of their parents personalities.

    There are many methods of socializaition and training. What may work for your dog may not work for another.

  • edited September 2016
    I read the article the other day and tried to share it to my kennel page, but FB ate it and I got distracted.

    I think that what the author is calling "traditional" socialization -- and indeed, what many people think socialization entails -- is not socialization at all, but either conditioning or flooding, depending on the specific trainer and usage.

    What the author calls "non-traditional" socialization is socialization, its just the world at large has skewed labels. (I say the world at large, and not simply this author, because every "regular" pet owner I've encountered thinks socialization is going to the dog park or dropping the dog off at day care. And nothing else.)

    ETA: @Lilikoi, socialization includes more than just interaction with humans/dogs and what we would call "social" activities. It's learning how to behave and interact appropriately with anything that might be encountered living with humans, which includes objects and the environment. So yes, walking on bleachers can be a part of socialization even though its not "social."
  • edited September 2016
    Just to add what we do, since that's actually what the OP asked...

    We have started this socialization program with our puppies called the Rule of Twelves. The basic idea is that there are 12 categories of things (locations, toys, food bowls, people, dogs, sounds, etc) and from each category the puppy should encounter 12 different things by 12 weeks old. You can see the categories and some example things to encounter here:

    Now, we take the approach very similar to the author in the above article. That is to say, whatever the Thing is, we just put it in the puppy's environment and completely ignore it. We don't draw attention to it, we don't ask the puppy to check it out, we don't cajole or reward the puppy, and we definitely don't force them. It's just there. They can interact with it if they want, or ignore it if they want. There's nothing more special about the Thing than anything else in their environment.

    Now being puppies and into everything around them, they basically turn all the things into toys and people/dogs into playmates. Or in the case of sounds (we have a socialization CD that plays from the time they're born) just completely ignore it since they can't interact with it. And sometimes they accidentally knock something over or get stepped on or whatever, which might be bad if we'd made a big deal about "socializing" with that thing/person, but they get over it instantly and more often then not decide its an even more fun toy now that they know how to make it make noise.

    Of course, genetics plays a huge role, and we love the father of these pups for consistently producing calm, confident, outgoing puppies. But I see a big difference between Litter D, which we did this socialization program with, and Litter B which we did not do and did not keep the pups until 12 weeks old. Both had the same dad; they were all confident puppies, but Litter D were into stuff a lot more, and at an earlier age, than Litter B.
  • edited September 2016

    Thanks for the input. I like the concept of finding things your dog enjoys naturally as a puppy and then continuing them as long as the dog still enjoys them, it's similar to how the other day @WrylyBrindle had mentioned she specifically recalls her dog to look at things that the dog would naturally find interesting in their mind! Great stuff!


    Thanks for the in depth reply! I agree with you that to most "regular" owners socialization is what @Lilikoi and you both referred to as more of a flooding.

    I love the rule of 12 program that you guys have set up! I hadn't seen or heard of that before, but will probably do my best to mimick it with my future pups. Obviously it might not have the same confidence boosting yours has since you start them when they're so young but I really do like the concept!

    I actually recommended your kennel to someone online the other day who was asking for a good JA kennel in the states that had Brindle Akitas. While I've been diving through the archives of this forum I have seen a lot of great information and community involvement from you :)

    edit: @PoetikDragon: For the introduction to 12 different types of dogs. Do you guys have different dogs at home with you beyond your JA's or do you utilize some friend's dogs that are good with puppies to expose them to the different dogs?
  • I wrote a huge response to this, but it comes down to this, since I've seen this post and responded so many times by now...

    Someone who has the experience this person has should not be confusing people with her blog posts. I wish this article was better written, or written in a less catty tone, so I could share it honestly.

    Instead, I'm wondering why someone with her experience cannot make the distinction in her article between forced exposure and socialization.

    Socialization is just the process by which young animals learn the norms of their world. People in the dog world make a huge deal of it, but it really doesn't have to be that way, and what different individuals get socialized around is going to be different based on their environment and the main culture of that environment. It doesn't make it wrong or bad if it's different. The only time I can see calling socialization "bad" if the socialization to the environment/culture does not fit the environment/culture that animal is expected to live in, but even then, it isn't necessarily bad.

    I absolutely socialize my puppies and I think a clickbait blog title like this is going to either confuse or mislead green and impressionable owners.
  • @Crispy

    If this had been posted on here before, I apologize! I hadn't seen it in any of the socialization posts I had searched :/

    I get what you're saying on possibly misleading more green dog owners. Like I stated in my comment above, it's written from a schutzhund club / working dog mentality so the semantics and terminology are different than what a "regular" pet owners vocab might be.

    It definitely does have a catty/edgy tone but I felt like there were some good substance takeaways from the post that made sense for building confidence in puppies.

    Plus, I want my dog to view me as fun and to have a desire to be with me so the whole concept of going to different places and doing engagement type games (Touch, spin, etc) really build up the dog's ability to focus on you even when there are a lot of distractions around.

    How do you usually start the socialization of your puppies? Do you do something similar as @PoetikDragon and just let the environment be there and the puppy explore it as they see fit?

    That was really the whole point I was shooting for with the forum post was to see more of what different techniques worked among the NK community :)
  • edited September 2016
    It's a pendulum, really- we lose perspective on what 'most' dog owners think about dog training, because we are a special rare breed forum.

    Most dog owners are still catching up to having to do socialization and training *period*

    to correct for that, you get folks on the OTHER end like Ian Dunbar ("Before you get your Puppy" and "After you get your puppy") talking to those people and saying you need 100 exposures in 100 days and "the clock is ticking, etc... it's already too late!" Perhaps thinking if people at least attempt to do most of that, the dogs are better off somewhat. So very well-meaning people expose the dogs like mad and the flooding and sensitization occur. (a good book on over-doing things with dogs of any age is Stress in Dogs by von Reinhardt)

    So then we swing halfway back somewhere in the middle and socialize sensibly and with awareness and the dogs' individuality.


    I take my dogs to puppy K, and follow that up with a class or two (Matsu went to puppy K, then puppy drop in for a few weeks with two other similar age puppies, then puppy agility games). I use CGC as a training goal. I took Juno with me to work at the Sign Shop I worked at, but she was in 'park' most of the time- at lunch and breaks I brought her out to visit nice people with my supervision. I took her to pick up Raye at after school program, I took Matsu to pick her up at the ski hill. I took them to a couple of stores that are dog friendly and a couple times to lunch on the patio at a deli. We live very rurally, so its not easy to expose the dogs artificially to all the kinds of people and things frequently. But its okay. What they get is neutral/boring- > great and it's relevant to their daily lives.

    While I try to maintain social comfort with Town, and I take the Kai to Town for leash walks at the park (where dogs are required to be leashed and distances/comfort can be managed) and on the sidewalks around town but we only manage to do this a handful of times a year- dogs have different lives and need to be safely exposed and conditioned not to fear different things. My dogs have much less town exposure than others, but they have lots of more forest/wildlife & terrain exposure and comfort, and shotgun comfort than others who may never need that.

    So you cover the safe basics, and work on what is relevant to that dog's life :)

    I think with Kai in particular it's important to not rest on our laurels too long, and to try to maintain social muscle tone. Some of them can be spooky and most tend toward at least cautious as a default setting. So you bring out and encourage variety comfort and savviness without going so far as to ruin it with flooding which revert them back to their better safe than sorry mode.
  • Lol, it's okay @TreySmith417 - It's been going around FB for a while. I don't think it's been posted on the forum yet.

    I use mostly psychology terminology, though I'll adjust sometimes for dog owners (which is why I get frustrated with people misusing the term "socialization" to mean whatever they want it to mean...)

    I do not have the experience @PoetikDragon does with litter rearing. I've reared one litter, but other than that, I've only raised older puppies (including Kishu, LGD-type pups, terrier pups, and some others through either my circumstances, rescue, or personal dogs.)

    I think the rule of 12 is good for people who like lists and good for new owners or less experienced people to keep in mind-- something to aspire to do and let them track their puppy's progress.

    I, however, take a more holistic view to socialization and do poorly with lists. They stress me out.

    So, to compensate, my pups in my litter and pups I have raised have been raised in the main area of the house, so they get used to sights and sounds and the things we consider "normal" - the construction going on, all the surfaces and daily activity, whatever the case is at the time. If I had something novel in my hands - a piece of recycling, a wire, a tv controller - it didn't matter what - I'd toss it to the puppy area just to let them get used to it being there. It wasn't there long before I'd take it out, so nothing ever happened, and it was what worked for me.

    With my litter, I had a "social time" where I began to take them all out as a litter and took each individual out on their own personal social day on a specific day a week. These days out started young; just before 3 weeks I introduced them to the grass outside and had a half hour or so outside where they would be in an x-pen with different bedding on the grass, and then the grass. When they were 5 weeks, I'd take one out at a time - carrying them - and let them experience a walk around the block or up to get coffee. Then when they were 6 weeks and had their first sets of vaccines, these days turned into their short adventures. We went to stores and went to the flea market and we went to the farm and ran around (which I know some people are not comfortable with, but I felt the risk was not greater than the reward of the exposure and they were confident enough to have fun, at that point.)

    But socialization is more than that. It's how they learned that when I manipulated their paws and their faces or rotated them every day, that was normal, and it was normal to have people doing things around them or it was normal to stand on a scale.

    I didn't do a great job of documenting just how I raised the first litter. It was a surprise, so it wasn't something I could prepare for, but I'm happy with how I socialized them to their world, overall. There is one event of exposure that I wish I could take back, but I'm sure I'll always be able to pick out one event (or more) that I want to take back.

    And next time, I'll do a better job of documenting my days with the pups.

    With every puppy I have raised, I put far more emphasis on healthy socialization (how you expect the animal to BE around the world) vs. training (what you expect the animal to DO in its world.) I still haven't put my current Kishu pup in any training classes...
  • edited September 2016


  • Instead, I'm wondering why someone with her experience cannot make the distinction in her article between forced exposure and socialization.
    Pretty much that.
  • @Lilikoi

    That's probably one of my top 10 favorite movies so I'm impressed that you pulled that gif out hahaha

    @WrylyBrindle :

    Thanks for the in depth write up! Right, I figured that your building stages with your Kai would be a lot of rural settings. I really haven't looked at the CGC before, I've read a few things about it but hadn't ever trained for it. Have you had a dog get the certification before? When I'm building obedience, I'm mostly trying to prepare for a BH ( ).

    @Crispy :

    I'm glad it hadn't been posted on here yet, I was worried your Kishu would be set loose to think I was a boar for my possible transgressions lol ;)

    I understand how lists can be stressful, I really have never used lists but I've been consciously trying to incorporate them into my life to see if I can become better organized haha :)

    I feel like you have a pretty good system of what worked for your litter. Where do you think the big distinction between behavior and training comes from? Do you mean like basic obedience type training versus manners type of thing? Sorry I know the question was worded weird :(

    @Jigzzor :

    What worked best for you in the early developmental stages of your relationship with Katsu?

  • @TreySmith417 - The BH looks really cool! Like Rally. That's a good test and standard.

    Except for Sage (who is my Teacher Dog/beloved problem child), I have put CGC titles on all my dogs (all = three :) Reilly (mutt), Juno (Kai) and Matsu (Kai)). I see it as a basic general training goal for any dog.

    Juno also earned her Advanced CGC (CGCA title) and Matsu passed the ATTS test (first Kai Ken to pass- but probably also the only Kai to attempt it. A lot of owners of NK seem uninterested in temperament testing.)
  • @Crispy I will tell you a secret...

    ... I am also not good at lists. I mean, I had fun making that check list in InDesign and putting it up on my site. I sent a copy to the puppy owners. But I didn't actually print a copy for myself, or check anything off for this litter. I read it over while I was making it and went, "Oh, yeah, they're seven weeks old and I've pretty much done ALL this already except the crate training. Carry on~~"

    The list exists for people who need ideas of what to do, because they've heard of this notion of "socialization" and kinda know it means meeting more dogs and people but otherwise are pretty lost.

    It exists to counteract the Ian Dunbars out there who say you need 100 people in 100 days. My list is about quality over quantity. The number of people doesn't matter nearly as much as the TYPES of people -- different ages, genders, ethnicities, clothes, smells, mobility equipment, etc. Your puppy does NOT need to meet 20+ children like Dunbar says. After the first couple, kids are all the same anyway. But people of color, in wheelchairs or using canes, on bikes or pushing strollers, smoking cigarettes or singing along with their headphones... that's more important. Maybe you only know one person fitting those descriptions, but that one experience is more important than 19 more kids.

    12 things in a category really isn't much. Once you start reading the list, you realize just how easy many of them are. All the rooms of your house count as different locations, for example! And who doesn't like spoiling a puppy with a variety of different toys and objects to play with? The problem solving stuff is pretty straightforward too.

    I would say the hardest category is different types of dogs. Mainly because I am firmly against dog parks and throwing a puppy in with strange dogs. As with all socialization, its my duty to ensure the experience is not negative, so it has to be dogs I know and trust. So I have to know people with other types of dogs for them to meet. I'm starting to make friends outside my breed and other Nihon Ken, who do performance with all kinds of dogs, so that is helping. I have a few non-dog-people friends with dogs as well...

    Sounds could be hard for some folks to do, but these days you can just buy SFX CD's and use those. Maybe its not quite the same as *real* fireworks, but since the intent is to introduce them to the noise without causing a reaction, it seems okay to me to begin with recordings instead of the real deal.

    @WrylyBrindle We have the first two Japanese Akita* to take and pass ATTS! I would love to temperament test all of my dogs, and indeed I tried to do so but was only able to get two slots... even with all 5 dogs with me "just in case" more slots opened up. That was the only test we've had in California in 4 years and I don't know if/when there will ever be another. :(

    * Others may have taken it in the 70's and 80's but we have no way of knowing since they were just AKC Akita and could have been American Akita or mixes.
  • @poetikdragon - Yes, I remember! :) and I think that that is very awesome! (as you know)

    What I am actually thinking of/reacting to is that recently I ran a little poll on the NKF fb page and found that very few people attempt any temperament testing at all, not even CGC. What's kinda worse is the defensive, sour grapes type attitude I have heard from some owners as well - that the tests aren't meaningful or that NK "can't" pass them. I - obviously- feel they are worth *something* and that some NK *can* pass them. I don't think the best or only mark of a Good Dog is passing a test- there are good dogs who don't- but I think when it comes to evaluating breeding dogs a dog that can pass is a nice thing to note vs a dog that could "never pass". Breeding is about many traits though, and I am not a breeder so I have much to learn and gain perspective on.

    I would think it was very cool to know of a breeding between two Kai that both passed at some point. :) I think it does say something, even if just about the values the owner/breeder aims for in their program. None of us are perfect *every* day....

    But what surprised me, I guess, is how few people in NK seem to share that interest. I thought it would matter or at least be interesting to more owners/aspiring owners. Kinda makes me worry again about the 'I want a cool looking rare dog right now' kind of mentality that crops up- and maybe that's all it is. :(

    I feel passing the tests is a good mark of 3 things: owner-dog bond and trust, interest in training, and basic stable nature combined.
  • @WrylyBrindle

    That is disappointing if you're seeing a little negativity from the idea of doing some type of trialing with NK. I think that dogs are happiest and the most fulfilled when they have some type of "work" that they perform. They're always more confident, better balanced dogs.

    I go to working dog club/training with my AA four times a week, for probably 3 hours out of the day and it's done great for our bond together, I've seen her grow in confidence and happiness a ton in that amount of time.

    It's hard for some people to commit that type of time and money to their dogs though, so I understand why some people might push back and just have the mentality of "I have a cool rare dog."

    If I get a BH with my AA I think she will be the first Akita to have a BH ever. I can't find any records of an Akita getting an IPO1 or higher title so if that happened it would be an incredible achievement also (probably won't happen though, I'm not really pushing for it).

    Personally if I could pick a kai puppy between two litters and they were the same on everything except one was from more working lines / had some obedience type titles. I would pick the litter that had titles or working lines over ones that didn't any time. There's your next calling breed the first two Kai that have CGC's ;)
  • I have met the same resistance in our Akita groups. Someone made a post about JA's that have passed CGC and SPOT (UKC's equiv -- slightly harder -- to CGC). I asked if they would add ATTS to the list as well and got extreme negativity and dismissal.

    It's too bad. I feel the temperament testing is MORE important than CGC/SPOT -- which are good to do, but they measure a dog's manners and training, not its inherent temperament. As a breeder, how much a dog has been trained has jack-all to do with what kinds of puppies that dog will produce.
  • @WrylyBrindle I remember that poll on the Kai page... It was interesting to see how few people plan or hope to complete CGC testing.

    We are still planning on testing Raiden in the future once he matures al little more. He still has some puppy tendencies in the patience department. He gets antsy and doesn't stay still for too long. He's smart as can be though and picks up commands very easily. Gotta love the Kai smarts! I would still love to try and complete the training process of him becoming a therapy dog in the future, he is so friendly with everyone and has a goofy personality so I think he would enjoy bringing some joy to the patients. That is a long term goal of ours.

    We completed puppy kindergarten with flying colors and level two obedience class after a second attempt, for the longest time he would refuse to do a down stay while in class..he knew the command, but when in class he would just look at us with a bored expression, that's the nihon ken stubborn streak for sure. LOL. Our next thing to try is a obedience class that has some agility training and games mixed in. To me "Training" never ends, its a life long thing which in turn strengthens the bond between dog and it's humans.

    As a dog parent of Nihon Ken for almost 10 years now I have met many shibas and other nihon ken through my helping rescue and running a meet up group, I have learned that not everyone takes the same approach or care of their four legged kids. Unfortunately there are many who just see a adorable dog in the window that they must have and have no idea how unique these dogs really are. We are constantly explaining to people what it's like to live with them and that these dogs are not for everyone. It's very sad when you see so many end up in rescue or in shelters because the owner didn't research or know what to truly expect. Nihon ken are not your typical family pet like lets say a golden or a lab.
    I am ruined and will probably always have a nihon ken in my life. They make life so much more interesting with their quirks and all! =)
  • I think it would be awesome to do temperament testing, but I'm pretty sure at this point it would still be hard for Meitou to pass it. I feel like I failed Meitou a lot because he couldn't pass some of these things like other dogs can; so I don't often comment on training stuff since there are better qualified people to answer. He's come a long way, though, and I love our relationship. I can see where the socialization we did worked for him and where it didn't. I suppose it could be his genetics, but I'm pretty sure it is partly my fault. But we've definitely been able to grow together as we work to overcome his hardships.
  • @PoetikDragon

    In Germany they don't allow their German Shepherds to be breed unless they have at least an IPO1 or herding title. I think that having the titles is a good indication of what the dog is capabable of doing and what type of genetics it's puppies will "hopefully" inherit. Obviously this isn't always the case though so I get where you're coming from.

    It's probably a little different with the Schutzhund and working dogs than it is with basic obedience since a more specific set of character qualities are needed to obtain those type of titles.

    I think it would be good if more breeders focused on temperament and character values over solely aesthetics.

    Why do you and @WrylyBrindle think there is negativity among the community in regards to obedience or temperament certifications?
  • edited September 2016
    I don't know- I was surprised.

    I think maybe many dog owners dislike the idea of assessing dogs in any way because it = judging either comparatively to other dogs or pass/fail (though the CGC specifically does not say "fail" it says "more training") and all of our dogs are wonderful in our own eyes. :) And I can see that somewhat at a competitive event level, but I just didn't think that would trickle down so far to something as basic and innocuous as a CGC, which is kindof life-prep.

    There's also a funny thing in NK (and often terrier people too) where many owners are proud of and like that the dogs are not super obedient, or are "punkasses". They like the "independent spirit" and laugh about the "attitude" and I think it kindof lets us off the hook if we let it. "Well, she's a __________, so we shouldn't expect her to be able to sit quietly for 60 seconds within a foot each of 3 strange dogs attending to their handlers" (*CGCA requirement) but really, a lot of NK do focused and complicated things with composure or gusto as appropriate.

    I really don't think everybody needs to work their dogs or do events and dog sports- I think pets are awesome, and my dogs are pets first as well. We do outdoor forest things, hunt, hike, etc. I don't play dog sports, I don't show (I have, but there are several asterisks) but I do enjoy being active in my breed community, advocating for Kai, helping owners with training blocks, and the odd rescue transport as it comes up. I want my breeder to know I believe in the dogs they chose for me and to be proud of them and to know what they produced, as assessed objectively. I want to document that Kai CAN work, DO have sound temperaments, DO have healthy joints/thyroid/etc. in a way that is more that just because *I* personally love them and say so. I feel a rare breed benefits from a certain amount of advocacy and involvement from the community of owners and the handful of breeders we have just can't do everything alone.

    I think what I am learning is that this outlook is more unusual than I thought it was? Maybe I thought everyone was more hardcore because I mostly know all the other hardcore NK people and forgot about the casual owners. It seemed like in rare breeds most owners would tend to be highly involved in the breed, whereas there are a jillian casual doodle owners. But I don't have as good a bead on that.
  • I just wanted to pop in and say - briefly - that I've encountered this view where people genuinely believe that a primitive dog stops being "primitive" if it is well trained and socialized. I saw a similar conversation on the New Guinea Singing Dog page - and there are a curious amount of wolfdog owners who never do anything with their animals; they live in enclosures their whole lives to be photographed or bred.

    It's truly bizarre.
  • Tavi failed her first cgc test because she refused to down in wet grass (it was raining and we were doing the cgc.. in the rain. there was a tent that she successfully downed under because it was dry.. they refused to pass her though). Was kind of annoying cause I ran Nare at the same time and while he did everything, he wasn't engaged at all and really did not care to be doing anything in the rain. He looked sooooo pissed off, uninterested, grunty and demanding he go sit in the dry comfy car. I probably would've failed him myself if I were marking the test, but I guess its a 'loose leash walk' and not a heel so he was allowed to flip me off the whole time and still pass.
  • @TreySmith417 So katsu we didn't get till 16 weeks or so, so we missed out on what most people call crucial points in socialization. I do feel that because we missed it he's far more reactive than what i'd like out of him and by the time we got him he was already human and mostly dog reactive, he is good about warning people though and has a pretty reasonable rule(dont pet me). What's worked on him though is exposing him to people outside away from near where we live.

    Shou his brother grew up in doggy daycare because his previous owner was the manager of the doggy daycare and his experience and tolerance towards other dogs is far greater than katsu. Not much else is known on what his other socialization experience were. I personally reintroduced him into society again and worked really hard to get him back into the right mindset. He's doing great now, no longer super reactive to humans, and is now able to like people(as long as they give him treats) But all in all he's been a pleasure to work with

    Miyuki we got at 8 weeks old, she is the everywhere dog for us now. I really feel that with her we had a chance to expose her to people, all types of different dogs, as well as different situations. She has some fears but is by far more confident and trusting in me and my ability to take care of her and what she may come across. When I started with Miyuki, I learned about her quirks, what she likes, what offends her etc. Then I started associated delicious treats for things she didn't like so much and followed a similar trend when she would become exposed to new things. For dogs, Exposure was only done in a controlled environment and if i walked her I only took her to area's with dogs that I've observed and gauged personally. She basically had fun all of her puppy hood, She doesn't offend dogs and is usually instant play mode with them. Other then that, I didn't police her too much and let her naturally learn from really good doggy role models.

    So personally, There are things that make sense in that blog, but they aren't labled correctly, she confuses socialization with forced exposure. I think the blogpost is more likely combating improper information spreading and is being done in the worst way possible.
  • On the main topic, I agree the article's author is misusing the word "socialization" for his/her own purposes, which is dangerous for casual owners who might take it to mean they don't need to put any real effort to socialize their pups because a trainer said it was fine (or better!) without.

    Personally I approach socialization as letting the puppy experience the world in a safe and fun way - new places, sounds, people, etc. If they aren't having a good time, what's the point? Also positively shaping how the puppy responds to handling or other potentially unpleasant, but necessary, events (like the vet) are important life skills. I do agree that genetics are a factor in sociability, and this is why responsible breeding is important.

    On the subtopic of NK temperament and community disinterest or scorn of temperament testing/titles, I think it goes back to the preservation angle of these breeds. Historically they are viewed as sharp tempered, and they are rewarded for being so today. "NIPPO members are actually preserving a piece of the past, possibly a breed that no longer really fits into the average person's lifestyle, but that's what they've chosen to do." - from Shigeru's blog.

    There's another thread where we started discussing this more -
  • edited September 2016
    NK temperament and personality being sharper than what most people desire as a pet and the disinterest or scorn of temperament testing are two different things.

    My Kishu can be sharp and intense dogs without being terrified of or dangerous to the world and novel things around them.

    But maybe the layperson doesn't understand that difference.

    and that's just my take.
  • edited September 2016
    I agree with @Crispy.
    sharp and intense dogs without being terrified of or dangerous to the world and novel things around them
    I think, too, that being able to take a dog out and do stuff, have a deep relationship is what makes having dogs worthwhile. I don't want the 'love' of a hostage like the wolf dog situation that CJ describes above.

    In the old thread referenced I think a key point Zandrame makes is that social comfort and a close relationship makes dogs comfortable. All the reactivity and dickishness are not fun for the owner OR the dog.


    WRT scorn and disinterest- yeah- I had a long back and forth with a woman who said her dog (AA) is obedient and could totally pass those tests only she thinks they are meaningless and doesn't want to. That attitude I just don't get.
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