Friday, 12 June 2009

Socialistaion and habituation training with our puppies

As promised I will write some words about the socialisation and habituation training now.

The training of the ability to get along with the requirements of the humanly coined enviroment is an obligation every breeder has toward the future owners of the puppies as well as toward the dogs themselves. This is nothing special for the Saarlooswolfhond and applies to every dog of any kind.
However it may be much more crucial to do it in a right and sufficient way with a wolfdog.
The first weeks are important for the whole life of every dog and may be determining if a SWH ever will be able to lead a healthy and relaxed life in a human companionship.
Therefore we try our best to grant this basis for a happy life to our pups. However these trainings have to continue at the puppies' new home and I am sure that all future owners of the Howling Northwind offspring will do a good job with that!

Let me tell you something about some of our methods now.

Socialisation
One thing we tried from the beginning was to present as much different humans to the pups as possible. I have to admit that we, because of our isolated location, lack the crowded enviroment a breeder in a town or village could offer. However we saw to it that there were as much visitors as possible since the puppies opened their eyes. To our big delight they are still not shy yet - after more than 7 weeks of age.
We tried to secure that they made only positive experiences with humans so far and some of them are even really fond of humans. Also all of the future owners, who more than once visited us, were really helpful for these efforts.
For tomorrow we plan a small trip to some friends of us, so they will also be able to meet other people on foreign terrain.
Another part of this socialisation training may be the method of disguise, using "weird" outfits like masks, hats and hoods, coats and so on, even if this already overlaps with other parts of the habituation training.

Habituation
There are different kinds of habituation training. Some of them are of a more passive nature and some of them claim a bigger amount of interaction between the puppies and ourselves.

Passive Habituation
This is actually going on all of the time and one of the most important requirements for the success of this part of the training is plain and simple that the puppies live with us inside the house, in the center of everyday's life.
So they got used to all the noises and sounds of human life like music, tv, kitchen appliances, washing machine, vacuum cleaner and so on since they were able to percieve these impressions.
They are able to move around in almost the whole first floor of our house, as well as in the garden, so they got to know a lot of different floor surfaces like linoleum, wood, grass, sand and stone. They could play around with toys of different materials like wood, leather, metal, plastic and fur, as well as with toys that made noises or other strange effects.
The possibility to be outside in the yard brought them into contact with cars and lawn mowers, got them used to passing trucks, airplanes and even horses. There was even some woodworking going on here the last days.

Interactive Habituation
I call this part of the training interactive because it includes some of the above mentioned stimuli, but with the difference that we humans consiously use them in addition to postive reinforcement.
This video shows (even though a bit bold) how we habituate the pups to the sound of this hand mixer:Other recurring tools of the daily training are:

The habituation tankThis may be one of the biggest challenges for the small ones - this radio-controlled German Tiger may look scarry and sounds very dangerous - but with cheese on the turret it looses a lot of it's harmful charisma. Even if the first reaction of the pups was panic and escape - now all of them more or less appreciate it as a nice toy and a precious supplier of a snack in between.
Tova and Roffe are real tank fans indeed!

The trumpet of doom
None of us is able to properly play this instrument which makes it even more useful. The eery disharmonic sounds we charm out of it are certainly an impertinence for the fine ears of our small ones - however they aren't disturbed by it any longer and Arn even loves it!

Besides further tools like noisy toys, keys and so on, there are other interactive habituation situations like riding by car, taking a shower and the examination of the pups including ear-cleansing, clipping the claws.
These things are also repeated on a regular basis.

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