Improper Socialization Caused Squeaky's Behavior Problems

By Ross, John | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 6, 2006 | Go to article overview

Improper Socialization Caused Squeaky's Behavior Problems


Ross, John, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Dear Dog Talk: I look forward to reading your article in the newspaper every week. I have learned so much. More importantly, I understand my dog better.

This question pertains to Squeaky, a Shih Tzu-poodle mix that my in-laws own. They bought Squeaky from a breeder as a 6-week-old puppy. Their problems are twofold.

At first, the puppy was shy and timid with people. She would want to be near only my mother-in-law. Now Squeaky is almost 1 year old, and she's still timid. She won't come near other people. This includes my father-in-law. Squeaky will snarl and try to bite if you attempt to pet her. She usually is sitting next to my mother-in-law when this happens.

Squeaky will run up to visitors and bite their ankles and feet. This is not play; she is barking and growling. Visitors do nothing to provoke this behavior.

She will do this whenever anyone comes into the house, walks around the house or leaves. As long as we sit still, she is OK.

What advice can you give to stop this behavior before Squeaky really bites someone?

Dear Squeaky-Wheel-Gets-the-Hot-Dog: I believe the root of Squeaky's problem is that she was socialized improperly. Squeaky was taken from her littermates and mother too early in life. Puppies never should be separated from their mother and puppy pack until they are at least 7 weeks old. There are many plausible arguments for waiting even longer before placing puppies with their new human families.

Separating Squeaky too soon caused her to be insecure, resulting in shyness, and also caused her to bond with just one person: your mother-in-law. It is possible that an experienced dog owner could have compensated for Squeaky's early separation from mother and puppy pack with proper socialization and handling. However, most pet owners do not possess the knowledge and skills that are necessary.

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