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The Socialization Process by Ben Martin

Probably the most important aspect in the training process of any dog is his socialization or lack of it. There are major differences in dogs that have been socialized from those who have not.

"I suppose being fair with the pup would be a good way to say it. When he's bad, show discipline and when he's good, be sure to let him know your approval."

What is socialization?

What I'm referring to here is the early handling of a puppy. The ones that do the best for us are pups that have been taken into the house and have a lot of human contact early in their development. Of course, this contact must be handled properly. That is to say, the right moves need to be made; the correct mixture of making the pup behave, but yet giving him the freedom to develop without cowering at your hand or voice. He must be taught to walk on a lead and come when called. Also, retrieving should start as early as possible, but kept fun and playful, not regimented or harsh. I suppose being fair with the pup would be a good way to say it. When he's bad, show discipline and when he's good, be sure to let him know your approval.

Most dogs - puppy or adult - will do for you if they understand what pleases you. I realize everyone can't bring their puppy in the house. I'm just saying this works the best if you have the time. Good socialization can also be done with a kennel kept pup. Also, one needs to keep a regular schedule. Things should be done at regular routine time frames. This includes walks, play time, retrieving work outs and time on a lead.

Keep this lead training very simple; no rough stuff at all or you may never correct the problems you cause. I like to start lead training by letting the pup pull a short rope or cord when he is out for a walk, or even earlier when the litter is together so that they can tug at each other. This part of the puppy's development is not to be taken lightly. It is very essential as this type of constrain will play into force retrieving, steady work and many other parts of his training.

As a professional trainer, I get puppies and young dogs in to train without knowing what's been done with the dog before I got him. I can pretty well tell you how these early socializations were or were not handled. This early development work can save an owner a lot of his training dollars if he has laid a good groundwork for the trainer.

If I get a puppy that's seven or eight months old, which is generally the age I like to get them, and I throw a retrieving dummy and the dog runs off with it or lays down and begins to chew it, I know this part of early development has been neglected. This lack turns a simple task into a project or, in more understandable terms, a very expensive training operation. A trainer could spend a month or two working on this one area alone and still may not get the results your're looking for. When the window opens for a particular aspect of training, one must seize this opportunity. In this case, the window for retrieving is much easier taught early before a dog can outrun you or has developed a stubborn streak about what he is doing. Often times this window will close and you may never achieve the desired results. This could also lead to long hours of work on the training table doing force retreiving work.

As you can see, if professional training is going to be in your pups future, the better socialization you can give him the easier and cheaper the job is going to be.

One of the things I alway say: "Some action is better than no action even if you don't know all there is to know about a particular training item." Go try something. The best three ingredients in training is always work, work... and work. Always seek as much help as you can from professionals, books, videos or whatever. You'll be amazed at the results if you are committed to it.

So until next time, good training and May God Bless You.

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Ben Martin

Ben Martin is a professional trainer and breeder of field bred English springer spaniels for over 40 years. He is the winner of four national championships in three different decades. Ben's Royal Kennels in Franklin, Ohio has whelped three national champions and he has titled approximately fifty field champions. He is a 2005 inductee into the Bird Dog Hall of Fame as well as is credited with many national placements and high point dogs.

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