I love working with puppies. Every week, when I start my puppy kindergarten class the same thought crosses my mind: I’m getting paid for this? I don’t just love working with puppies, I also love working with families with their new puppies. It’s a special time, and being a part of it is a privilege.
But working with puppies has some responsibilities too. Getting a puppy off to a proper start can make a huge difference in the dog’s entire life and as a result, in the life of the family. Puppies need to be taught bite inhibition, need to be housetrained (hopefully with a crate), and by far most important puppies need proper socialization.
Proper socialization to people, places and other dogs teaches a puppy that these things are good things. When insufficiently or poorly done, it can lead to fear and aggression. Many of the behavior issues I see are rooted in socialization issues, and many trainers will tell you that most of the dogs that people think were abused were most likely poorly socialized.
Ariana Kincaid founded Operation Socialization (OS) in order to build a network of places for people to socialize their puppies, as well as useful tools for dog trainers. (Proud Disclaimer: I am an Operation Socialization Certified Trainer.)
OS’s stated mission is:
To make sure puppies grow up into behaviorally healthy, happy dogs that make great lifetime companions, thereby saving millions of dogs from surrender and euthanasia.
OS does this by providing puppy owners with a set of “socialization destinations” where they take their puppies and get their socialization passports stamped. By making socialization a game, puppies get what they need and puppy parents get important positive reinforcement.
Interview with Ariana Kincaid
I spoke to Ariana about what lead her to create Operation Socialization, the resources the wonderful Operation Socialization website provides, and her thoughts on veterinarians and breeders that recommend not socializing puppies because of the fear of disease.
Operation Socialization’s website has a great list of resources for puppy owners. One of my favorite part is the idea of behavioral vaccinations. While many people fret over exposing puppies to communicable diseases, the fact is that more dogs die from behavior issues caused by insufficient socialization than from disease. Ariana discusses approaches to helping people with this in our talk.