"Where Paradise is Just a Howl Away"

Socializing your Wolfdog

All wolfdogs, regardless of content, have the potential to be fearful of new people, environment and strange situations. Wolfdogs are most commonly crossed with nordic breeds like huskies or malamutes. Nordic breeds, like pure wolves, often display primitive behaviors. Fearfulness of strangers in a common trait. The skittishness of the wolf can even be seen in a wolfdog that is crossed with German Shepherd. 

In any case, all wolfdogs can be fearful. It is natural. Part of the domestication process involves socializing your wolfdog at a young age. This teaches them that strange humans, places and things are not something to be afraid of.

Now then, some wolfdogs, particularly lower contents and those mixed with shepherd, will need very little socialization training before they learn that humans are awesome; offering them treats and affection just because they happen to be there. With higher contents, or those crossed with nordic breeds, consistent socialization is necessary to convince your pup that the people you are introducing him to are not dangerous. Exposure to new stimuli is also encouraged to round out your pups' socialization training.

However, with some individuals, all the socialization in the world will never make them friendly or trusting towards anyone except those in the immediate family, and it will never make them comfortable in a new environment. Though this mostly occurs in very high contents, this kind of anti-social behavior can be seen in any content.

We begin our pups' socialization process at 3 weeks of age. That is not to say that we bring the pups among strangers in town at that young age, but we begin the process of introducing the pups to new stimuli. The first thing that must be done is getting your pup to accept the leash. Visit my Leash Training page for info on that.

Once your pup learns to accept the leash, the next step is introducing your pup to various areas outside; preferably in your own yard. Walk him around the tool shed or garden shed, along the fence-line, around the car, etc. Let your pup explore at his leisure. Don't take him away if something frightens him; stay near the thing that scares him, talk him through it, and show him that whatever thing he finds scary isn't going to hurt him. Always end a training session on a positive note. Ending the session while the puppy is frightened is counter-productive. 

Once your pup begins exploring with confidence on your leashed walks, try some off-leash sessions. This is a good time to teach your pup proper recall. Keep treats in a zip-lock bag. Make sure your pup knows where the treats come from. Let your pup wander a bit, then call his name. If he doesn't come right away, call his name again while simultaneously crinkling the treat bag. The sound of the treat bag will get your pups' attention. Always use his name along with the bag sound. Soon, you will not need the bag to encourage your pup to come to you; he will come running as soon as he hears his name.

Now that your pup has a basic command of proper leash training, recall and has been exposed to some new things, the next thing is to introduce him to the car. You can find more info on that on my Riding in the Car page.

Once your pup is comfortable in and out of the car with the engine running, you can begin taking him places. Avoid dog parks or places where dogs frequent like feed stores or pet stores. Remember, your pup is still very young and very susceptible to disease.

If you live in a heavy dog-populated area, wait to start bringing your pup out in public until he gets his first round of shots; including Parvo and Distemper. Take your pup to the vet for these shots. Never purchase these shots from Tractor Supply stores. I've known many people whose pups died from these over-the-counter parvo vaccines. 

If you live in an area that has few dogs, an area that has little or no history of dogs contracting parvo or distemper, or if your pup is fully vaccinated, you can begin bringing him into public places like feed or pet stores, parks or even just walks around the neighborhood. 

Bring your pup to as many different places as possible, and let him meet as many different people as possible. Watch your pup intently. If he is obviously stressed, take him to a quieter place, or ask people who come to see him to not crowd him, or ask them to talk quietly. Expose your pup to children, let him know they are tiny people and are not to be feared or seen as prey.

If your pup has the personality for it, he will begin to show signs of relaxation even in new environments. He will look forward to meeting new people, seeing new sights and smelling new scents. He will become accustomed to automatic swinging doors, motorcycles and scooters, bicycles, wheelchairs, walkers, semi-trucks or anything else that a non socialized wolfer will see as dangerous or scary.

Sometimes, even the best start in the world will never turn your pup into a social butterfly, and he will elect to live life in safety at home.

As always, there are risks involved with socializing your pup. Other dogs can be aggressive and see your pup as a threat or even a meal, other dogs and areas where they have been can be carriers of diseases or parasites. Then there are Animal Rights Activists who think you are cruel for owning a wolfdog, cattle ranchers or farmers may threaten you, and even local law enforcement who doesn't know or agree with the wolfdog legalities may confront you and harass you.

In the end, it's up to the discretion of the buyer whether to keep their wolfer safe at home or whether to turn him into an Ambassador for his kind and spread the truth about wolfdogs, and maybe even change a few minds about them. There's no greater feeling than swaying the opinion of an anti-wolf person by teaching them the value of wolves in the wild and the joys of raising a wolfdog as a pet.