Socialization....this is the issue that determines whether you have a well behaved, friendly, sweet, cuddly little companion, or an unruly, difficult to manage, timid or downright mean animal. Yes, training is an enormous part of it too, but in the end, it can be difficult to train a dog that has not been socialized well.
Many people have the wrong idea about what socialization is. It does, indeed, start with the breeder. In fact, socialization begins the day a puppy is born. But it doesn't stop when you take your puppy home. You have to continue your dog's socialization, and I beleive that socialization really is a lifetime process, especially for Chihuahuas.
For our puppies, we begin as soon as they are born and the mother is calmed down. The first step is to handle the puppies daily. We want to get them used to the human touch. That is key in producing a puppy that is not timid or afraid. Our puppies learn the joys of being held, cuddled, kissed and snuggled. They grow to love us very quickly.
Very soon after they open their eyes, they begin the socialization within the litter. This is important for them, as it establishes their place in their little pack, which helps personalities develop and allows them to feel safe. This is a process over which we have little, if any, control. Usually, when a puppy is the only puppy in the litter, they develop a more dominating personality. While in litters with multiple pups, we'll begin to see them differentiate between 3-5 weeks of age. Some will develop more dominant personalities than others.
As our puppies get older, we allow them to interact with other puppies of similar age. This affords them the opportunity for a few important things. The first is finding their place within a larger pack. The second is that it helps them to develop the idea of bonding with other animals outside of their litter. This is important to prevent fear of other dogs. And finally, when it comes to puppy play, as far as these guys are concerned, the more the merrier. They love to play in larger groups. They also get the chance to interact somewhat with our adult dogs, which helps them to be less timid with older animals that may be present in the homes they will go to.
During all of this, we are still handling our puppies, playing with them and loving on them daily...because it's great for them and for us! There's nothing more calming than cuddling with a little bitty Chi baby!
But, alas, it will be time for our babies to go home. Many owners make the mistake of thinking that we have socialized the pups so that job is over, but that couldn't be further from the truth. If you take a puppy home and he never sees other people or dogs, he will become timid because strangers will always be just that...strangers. Socialization must continue. As I mentioned earlier, I feel that it continues for the dog's entire life, but may dog behaviorists agree that the crucial time for socialization for puppies of any breed is between 8 and 16 weeks. Without extra effort during that critical time frame, even an older dog that was socialized well in the beginning may become more timid if his interaction with other people and animals stops for a long period of time.
Allow visitors to your house to play with your puppy. Invite them to bring their dogs over. Take your puppy to the park, or even better, to a dog park (after his puppy shot series is complete), where he can see and interact with other dogs of all breeds and other people as well. If you go to PetSmart, take your puppy with you (don't put him down on the floor though..too many ill animals go through there. Keep your dog in your arms or in a cart with a towel or blanket under him to prevent his contracting some disease...especially if he hasn't finished his series of puppy shots.) If you go visit your in-laws, take your puppy. Many employers are allowing folks to bring their dogs to work. If you can take your puppy to work, take him! Ok, I think you get the idea. Take your puppy with you everywhere he can possibly go. Allow strangers to approach him, but be cautious until you know how he will react to them. Allow children to pet your dog, but do be careful that the children are gentle with him. Expose him to as many people and other animals as you can.
Socialization indeed does begin with the breeder, but please know, it does not, by any means, stop there! Visit our webpage that provides more details about socialization, including links with quick tips to help begin the socialization process. www.chichibabies.com/socialization