So the Newfoundland puppy you’ve brought home is going to be big—really big. While dogs of all sizes have commonalities, there are special considerations when you get a dog that’s on either end of the size spectrum. One consideration is socialization.
Socialization involves getting your dog accustomed to all kinds of sights, sounds, smells, people and other animals in a positive manner. In other words, you are teaching your puppy that the world is not a scary place and getting him used to things that he may encounter throughout his life. You should expose your puppy to something new—one thing at a time—and let the puppy approach at his own pace.
Technically, the word socialization applies to puppies between the ages of seven and fourteen weeks of age. If you get an older puppy or an adult dog, you have missed what’s called the “socialization period” where a dog is more easily accepting of new things in their environment. For older dogs, you don’t know what they have been exposed to or how they reacted. So use the same techniques as socialization, but go much slower.
As the puppy appears to adjust, reward him with a treat. If hesitant, don’t push, but try putting a treat closer to the object or person you’re trying to get him to accept. If it’s an object he seems really reluctant to approach—a bicycle for example—leave it out for a while. He might get curious and approach it on his own. Practice with people of all sizes, colors and shapes—with hats, sunglasses, umbrellas, vacuums (while they are turned off!), strollers, dogs, etc. Experiences are also important, so take your puppy on car rides, and to pet friendly stores.
For Newfoundlands and other large breed dogs, here are some special considerations:
- Big dogs start out as big puppies. Some of these puppies are bigger than many adult dogs, so it’s pretty easy to forget that they are still puppies. Just because they are bigger doesn’t mean they don’t need as much patience and support as a tiny puppy. It’s their age that counts, not their size.
- When approaching people, especially children, keep your puppy on a leash. While it’s nice if all dogs learn not to jump on people, it’s especially important for the big dogs. A behavior that’s cute at 10 weeks is annoying, and even scary, when the puppy is 75 pounds at 8 months. Practice ignoring the dog for jumping, and rewarding him for sitting.
- When exposing your puppy to different objects, don’t let him jump on or off things or in and out of cars. Large breed puppies have a higher risk of bone problems and should avoid stairs and jumping until their growth plates set, or until your veterinarian says it’s ok.
Pay attention to what your dog is telling you and respect his decisions. Have patience and use your best treats for the big adult dogs.
Jaime Migdal, CPDT KA, is the founder and CEO of Fetchfind, a talent recruitment and services organization dedicated to the pet industry.
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