Showsight June 2021


Maybe CovidWas Good For Our Show Puppies

Lessons from the Pandemic

W e all know puppies need lots of socialization early in their lives. A Google search results in millions of websites that emphasize this, and it can provide owners with step-by-step guidance on how to socialize their pups. However, even before COVID, over one-third of pups developed life-limiting fears or aggression by adulthood. Yes, shelter or rescue pups are over- represented in these numbers but a significant percentage come from good breeders. AN ALL-TOO-COMMON STORY An owner gets a pup from stable parents through a good breeder. The pup was raised according to current socialization guidelines, meeting lots of new people and dogs, attending handling and puppy classes, and being exposed to the world. Often, the pup showed great promise, accumulating Best Puppy wins, majors, or even finishing. However, at some point between 9 and 15 months of age, this same pup started showing concern about a place, a person, or perhaps, other dogs. Despite the owners’ best efforts, these fears progressed and became so debilitating that the promising pup’s joy was gone and the pup could no longer show well. As you can imagine, the owner was devastated and feeling guilty that she had gotten the wrong pup, missed the early signs of problems, or done something wrong. Those around her hinted that either the owner or the breeder (or both) didn’t socialize the pup well enough. I’d like to suggest that neither the owner nor the breeder are at fault. Instead, the blame falls on our current socializa- tion guidance. Luckily, the pandemic has given us an unex- pected opportunity to fix what’s been broken. Despite all the blog posts and articles claiming that our pandemic puppies will struggle, I think many of them have thrived during this period. WHAT CAUSED THIS PUP’S SETBACK AND AT THAT SPECIFIC AGE, 9 TO 15 MONTHS? Until the pandemic, socialization guidance focused on introducing pups to new people, places, dogs, sights, sounds, experiences, and more before 16 weeks of age. From 8-10 weeks, we were to avoid extremely frightening experiences dur- ing the fear-imprint period. If puppies were fearful outside of this period, there might be something wrong. Despite an ongo- ing concern about protection against parvovirus, owners were encouraged to get pups out and about. After 16 weeks, pups could enter the 4-6 Month Beginner Puppy Class and start their futures as show dogs.

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