Showsight Presents The Briard

Creative Puppy Raising In a COVIDWorld

BY TERRY MILLER

I am a breeder. I am a dog trainer. I am a dog trainer coming off of months spent working with training clients seven days a week to meet the needs of however many families that acquired dogs dur- ing the Pandemic. Many were inexperienced. Many were lonely and desperate for a canine friend. Many took whatever was available in the depleted inventory created by like-minded neighbors—and the rest of the world. The lucky ones planned ahead and were able to actually choose a breed and, in some cases, even a breeder. Others took whatever was offered by rescues, shelters, pet shops, puppy farms, puppy websites, Facebook, Craig’s List, and fancy websites. Whether these puppies came from a master breeder or an Amish puppy farm, one common denominator that I have seen across the board has been a consistent lack of social confidence towards strangers. The remarkable consistency was that almost every puppy/adolescent struggled with this, no matter the breed. The breeds that we might generalize about, with an expecta- tion of being gregarious, socially forward, and indiscriminately friendly, were worrying about social contact almost as much as their selective or aloof and anti-social cousins. Lab puppies were standing behind their owners’ legs when offered the chance to greet a new person. Goldens moved away rather than rushed up to joyfully say hello. Cockers sub- missively urinated and avoided contact. All [reactions] were a result of our society’s self-imposed social isolation. Breeds that I would have expected to be unscathed by a lack of social contact with strangers dis- played worries akin to their naturally selective cousins. Coming from a breed with high needs for novel socialization, I began to panic about our own approaching litter. My breed, even in “ normal” times, needs devoted efforts for constant social contact and new situ- ations. We instruct puppy people that they cannot afford to skimp on socialization, out and about and away from home. We interview new potential homes about their lifestyle, their own social tendencies, their time availability. (It takes commitment to produce a well-raised Briard.) We coach our puppy people on specific techniques for the best results. The wise raising of any and all puppies includes an early life full of variation, interaction, novel situations, social experiences, challenges,and positive stimulation. Puppies derive the most benefit from this exposure during the first year of life, from puppyhood through adolescence.

“Whether these puppies came from a master breeder or an Amish puppy farm, one common denominator that I have seen across the board has been a consistent lack of social confidence towards strangers .”

238 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, SPRING EDITION

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