Socialization is the process of
teaching a dog how to cope with and behave well in a human world.
Socialization is important for any pet but it's especially critical
for Chows! They're natural watchdogs. They're suspicious of
strangers. This a natural, instinctive quality of the breed. It
doesn't have to be taught. Without socialization, though, a Chow may
become so suspicious that he won't let anyone touch him. He might
even become aggressive. Most of the stories you hear about
"vicious" Chows were inspired by unsocialized dogs.
Socialization should start as soon
as the puppy is born. A responsible breeder lays a foundation for
good behavior by handling the puppies every day. As they grow, the
breeder allows them to go outside, to play and explore this big new
world. The pups are introduced to a dog crate, house-breaking and
the veterinarian. The breeder provides as many new experiences as
possible to prepare them for the transition to their new homes. The
breeder has merely started the socialization process. Now it's up to
you to go on from there.
To a puppy, everything in the world
is brand new. He's never seen any of this before! Try to remember
his perspective as you teach him what's expected of him. Dogs learn
from positive and negative experiences. They learn fastest from
positive experiences. You'll get best results if you make it easy
and rewarding for the puppy to do what you want. It's important to
have patience and a good sense of humor!
Throughout his life, your Chow will
need grooming and medical exams. The first thing every Chow puppy
must learn is to allow himself to be handled and touched all over
his body. Several times a day, pick up your puppy and put him on his
back in your lap or on the floor. Be gentle but firm. He'll probably
struggle to get away so rub his tummy and talk to him until he
relaxes. Run your hands all over him - down his legs, fiddle with
his toes, feel his ears, lift his lips to look at his teeth, scratch
his back. He might nip your fingers in play and wriggle all around
while he's getting his "massage". It's important that you
make these sessions enjoyable but don't let it turn into a wrestling
match or tug o'war game. Have everyone in your household handle the
puppy like this every day. Gradually increase the length of time the
puppy must lie quietly until he'll lie there to be massaged as long
as you want.
Introduce a brush and the
nailclipper during some of these sessions and make the brushing feel
good. As your Chow grows up and it's no longer practical to hold him
in your lap, encourage him to lie on his side for his massages.
Grooming and nailcutting are much easier on both of you when the
Chow lies quietly on his side. Your Chow will look forward to
grooming if you've shown him since puppyhood how pleasurable it can
Chows can be reluctant to meet new
people and must be taught to tolerate strangers. Many Chow puppies
enjoy the people they meet and want attention. Others don't. Some
puppies learn to like it but a few never do. It really doesn't
matter how your puppy feels about it, though. The most important
thing is that he learn to tolerate being handled by strangers
because you want him to. Without this training, visits to the vet,
the groomer or boarding kennel will always be difficult or even
When a visitor wants to pet your
puppy, pick him up and put him in the person's arms. Shy or
frightening puppies often do better when picked up than if
approached on the ground. Both of you should talk to him in a happy,
cheerful voice. Have your visitor offer him some of his favorite
treats. If the pup's frightened or upset, ignore it. Don't baby him
or use a comforting tone - "There, there, puppy, don't be
scared, everything's okay" - because it backfires! The puppy
usually responds by becoming more frightened and acts even worse.
Make your puppy feel secure by being confident and enthusiastic. Be
gentle but firm.
Many kennel clubs, veterinary
clinics and animal shelters offer "puppy kindergarten"
classes. Created especially to help with socialization, these
inexpensive classes are great opportunities for you and your puppy.
They're fun, too! Your puppy especially needs socialization in the
world outside your home. As soon as he can be taught to walk on
leash and has had his puppy shots, take him everywhere with you. Let
him investigate everything. If he's afraid or confused, find a spot
for the two of you to sit and watch things go by. Bring along some
of his favorite treats and toys. Let him check things out at his own
pace and encourage him with a happy, confident voice. For some
puppies, it might only take a few minutes for them to get
comfortable in a new environment. For others, you might need to make
several of these "watch and relax" stops throughout the
course of a walk.
When you take your Chow to the vet,
be positive but firm. In order to work efficiently, the vet needs
your dog's cooperation. No vet likes to work on a growling dog
that's not under his owner's control and some will refuse to serve
them altogether. Encourage your puppy to stand quietly on the table.
Keep gentle control over his head.
When your puppy is old enough, 4-6
months of age, start him in obedience class! Even the most
well-behaved Chow puppy needs to learn to obey commands. Classes are
inexpensive, fun, excellent opportunities for socialization and
available in almost every city. Your veterinarian or the AKC can
refer you to local training clubs that offer group classes at
convenient times and reasonable rates.
Socialization with other
dogs.....Chows are not a "pack" breed. Most of them are
fairly solitary and don't enjoy the company of other dogs besides
those in their own household. Chows can learn to be ladies and
gentleman when on lead around other dogs, though, and puppy
kindergarten and obedience classes are good socialization and
Some Chows are "born
socialized" but most of them require some form of socialization
throughout their whole lives. Like obedience training, it's an
ongoing process that's never quite finished. Once your Chow's grown
up, continue taking him with you whenever possible. If left at home
too long out of sight of the real world, your Chow may quickly
forget how he's supposed to act. Give him plenty of socialization
refresher courses. Let him meet new people and make new friends.
There'll be plenty of people wanting to admire your beautiful dog
and you'll make plenty of new friends, too!