Socialization from Four to Six Months
by Jennifer Floyd
As originally published in
A dog of 18 months or more is often considered a gem; a well-behaved dog of polished
manners and known reliability. A puppy of under 7 months is not perfect, but is usually
biddable, eager to learn and follow directions. The stage of growth between these ages can
be a challenging time, not unlike the experience of teenagers of other species!
Adolescent dogs are prone to seek out excitement, question authority, and become
interested in social position and the opposite sex. These behaviors can manifest
themselves in chasing inappropriate things, ignoring commands, and wandering. In most
circumstances, flock guardians are better workers if neutered; this tends to help suppress
wandering behaviors, dominance issues, and prevent unplanned litters. Electric wire on
fences is also an effective escape-artist deterrant - but it is best applied
preventatively, as an initial success in wandering leads to repeated challenges of the
fence. If your fence is in good repair when your dog is a pup, there will be no bad habits
to break later.
When a pup enters the "teenage zone", rules thought well-established may need
redefining; play and chewing behaviors may resurface, and annoyance or damage of the
livestock may result. There are a number of approaches to take, particularly if working in
a small farm situation. Practicing obedience commands ("sit", "heel",
"come", "down") on leash can help reinforce obedience to other
commands ("leave it", "easy", "back"), helping the pup to
obey better in the field.
Supervision is an excellent method of controlling interactions; also, penning near the
stock (but not with) when unsupervised, if troublesome behaviors surface, can be useful.
There are other methods that can slow a dog down, or make the game less fun; specifics can
be found on the internet accessable from : http://www.sonic.net/~cdlcruz/GPCC/library/resc_lgd.htm
or in the book: _Livestock Protection Dogs_, by Sims and Dawydiak.
The purpose of this article is not to offere a cure to all problems, but to provide
some direction in finding solutions, and to point out that problematic adolescent behavior
is not necessarily a sign that your dog will be unable to fulfill his or her role as a
flock guardian; many dogs have gone through a rough spot at this point, and with a little
more guidance, gone on to be wonderful working dogs.
As a side note, it is my observation that pups are easier to train and
less likely to engage in problem behavior if they are "apprenticed" to an older
working dog; learning by imitation of their peers is stil the most effective training
method. My very first Anatolian was my hardest one to train, but he helped mentor many
others during his 14 years as a flock guard (well, one year of driving me nuts, and 13
years of being perfect!)
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