What we did was this:
In her first month, when she couldn't be on ground outside of our yard, I invited people over. All sorts of people. Old people, young people, toddlers, babies. People with beards, with glasses, wearing hats, with long hair, with no hair. I didn't force her to interact, I didn't do anything: I'd have people come over, we'd sit with her in the back yard, and if she was interested in them (she often was), they'd pet her. Nothing forced. I brought out a skateboard (she would put her front feet on it and push along), showed her a bicycle. Had one of those kid tunnels out in the yard, and would roll a ball through it, and she'd go after it. I opened and closed an umbrella. Balls of all sizes. A sled filled with water.
I called our local police station, and asked if I could bring her down to meet people in uniforms, so she wouldn't be scared of such—they were delighted. We took her down, and all the officers cuddled her and cooed over her. We took her out to a squad car, and they turned on the lights and sirens as I held her, and she was just interested and fine. I took her to a hardware store (she LOVES hardware stores), where she met a man with only one leg (who had lost a Lab earlier—he saw her and got all teary-eyed), and another man in a wheelchair. I took her to my the athletics center on my campus (school was not yet in session, but the athletes were there), where she met college-age kids of all sizes and skin colors, so she wouldn't be afraid of people with skin colors other than ours (we are fairly light-skinned).
I took her on an elevator in my campus building, and she met my colleagues. I just never took her to places where other dogs had likely walked.
She met two or three vaccinated, well behaved dogs belonging to friends, in our back yard. Within the first month, she had met about 100 people. All in our back yard, or one of the outings described above. I was exhausted!
I also had her in puppy classes, where she again met a person in a wheelchair (and, interestingly, was drawn to him so much that he said "her parents musts have been service dogs") and some other safe, vaccinated puppies in a clean area. This was where we saw a lot of her personality, which is that she's a very soft dog, and really prefers people to most other dogs.
After her puppy classes, we had her in training classes for the next 8 months or so. She had both training and free play time with other dogs, but always well behaved dogs, and in a controlled setting.
She's been to dog parks a few times, but it's not really my thing and doesn't seem to be hers. I've seen some aggressive dogs, but mainly negligent owners not correcting rude of bullying dogs (seriously: humping another dog is aggressive, rude behavior—why do people think this is funny?)
As a result, Hoku has ended up an amazingly well socialized dog. But I never ask, much less force, her to greet other dogs, and I never forced her, as a pup, to engage in any potentially scary activities with objects or people. I think a good amount of Hoku's ridiculously calm and sweet temperament is her breeding, a good amount is her own personality, and a certain amount our socialization.
Honestly, she is such a sensitive soft dog—something I adore about her—that I think what we did was beneficial. As a lot of people here know, she's sort of weirdly self-conscious about any perceived wrong in a way that makes no sense to me. It's almost like she's too eager to please, and too worried about displeasing... or something. I love her softness, and she's definitely not nervous or skittish or anxious, but a high-drive Lab she's definitely not.
Hidden Content Hokule'a ("Hoku") / b. 06.08.15
Just wanted to add that I think a TON of how well adjusted the dog will be as an adult is genetic. My two littermates have had the same experiences growing up and are very different. Both are now confident in new places, but Cookie is much more outgoing and social ... Sass tends to be somewhat afraid of new dogs and even of a few people, although she is learning she can just ignore them and as a result is gaining more confidence. And they spent plenty of time being exposed to stuff as individuals (rather than together) ... that’s just who they are.
Cookie (Jamrah’s Legally Blonde) 6/4/2015
Sassy (Jamrah’s Blonde Ambition) 6/4/2015
Chloe (HIT HC Windsong’s Femme Fatale, UDX2, OM3) 6/7/2009
Scully (Coventry's Truth Is Out There, UD, RN) 4/4/1996 - 6/30/2011
Our foster Jolie (UCh Windsong’s Genuine Risk, CDX, WC) 5/26/1999 - 3/2/2014
and Mulder (Coventry’s I Want to Believe, UD, VER, WC, RN) 5/26/1999 - 4/20/2015
Oh yes, the genetic lottery. We brought Kimber everywhere with us when she was little, and she loved everyone, human or canine. Then when she was about 2 she developed a dislike of puppies, which over time grew to bullying almost any dog smaller than her. She's mellowed a lot in recent years, but I really don't know what we could've done differently to prevent her from becoming a mean girl. Luckily, she continues to love all humans, and she's become great buddies with a number of the neighborhood dogs.
Yeah, I've wondered if Hoku is going to change significantly as she gets closer to 2.
No comment on puppy social where puppies are below 6 months and up todate on shots has to be shown before play time. Gigi onher first went to the big puppy one and was not doing great .The trainer swaped her to the small puppy group and then moved us up after 2 weeks.
I was there and they have changed the rules now, they do not do the free for all puppies like for gigi , but put 2 puppies together in small fenced in areas.Alot some small squares. the trainer moves them if a pair seems not compatible due to how rough they play and keeps an eye on all of them.
Have to say, out in public though, mine don't show a lot of desire to play w/ others. They become quite reserved, which is fine by me since there are so many snarky dogs out there. They must just be comfortable in their doggy social lives here.
The WindyCanyon Girls, Fall 2016
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I guess my Jules was the exception. I have to say, I really loved his friendly and lovable personality. Archie is definitely more soft than Jules. I don't remember when I started taking Jules to dog parks though. I remember we started going places almost immediately when I got him at 12 wks old. To parks in the burbs and parks in the city. We went to play grounds and dog parks. I guess it must've been in his genes but he was just super friendly to everyone he met big or small his entire life. I guess I lucked out. But his reliably friendly nature was one of the things I loved about him. I could've done with slightly less enthusiasm though. Ha! Archie is friendly but timid at first. I hope that he becomes just as reliably friendly to all as Jules was. I suppose I need to plan more time for outings with him. Now that the weather is nice that should be easy. He gets the last of his puppy shots tomorrow. Freedom is so close!
If you have a soft dog, especially, I think it's important to allow them to acclimate, to observe. No forcing other dogs or people on them. And, like someone else mentioned, much of it is genetic. Many of the Labs I fostered through rescue were tied up outside or crated in a room 22 hours a day from about five or six months to two years old or so and acted well-socialized, if not a big over-exuberant, while we also had dogs from decent pet homes (perhaps a death or similar occurred, so the dog had to be re-homed) who had social issues with humans or dogs. Labs, in general, are social by nature so if anything, socialization often needs to be a bit more controlled. But, there are breed issues and I'm not sure about your current breed. You should reach out to your breeder for ideas.
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