Do you want a Havanese who is friendly and trustworthy around both people and other dogs? How you care for your dog plays a big role in how he responds to people and other dawgs--especially if you've got a puppy. But adults can be conditioned as well. Havanese puppies are sponges and are more readily acceptable to conditioning.
There is a period in a puppy's development, from very early puppy-hood, to five months of age, when his experiences have a big effect on his entire approach to life. If he has lots of positive encounters with other dogs, all kinds of humans, and new situations during that developmental window, he's far more likely to grow up to be a confident, relaxed, and friendly dog. Trainers call this process socialization. I call it positive exposure.
The two best schools we have attended locally are 'Whos Walking Who' and Daytripper Dog Training. Both do an excellent job in giving you critical skills in socializing. Their scavenger list gets you to be competitive and gives exposure to your dog in ways you may not have considered.
Puppies who aren't socialized can grow up to be fearful of other dogs, people, and just about anyone and anything outside of their regular routine and that fear can lead to fear aggression.
Although puppy-hood is the prime time for socialization, it's not the only time. Even a dog who had a busy social life in his youth can become less friendly over time if he's isolated during adulthood. The learning and socialization should NEVER stop. And if your adult dog didn't get enough socialization growing up, you may be able to improve his social skills although an adult's personality is more fixed than a puppy's. You'll have to move slowly and cautiously, and if you see signs of aggression or extreme timidity, get help from a professional trainer or behaviorist right away.
We have an old lady Golden Retriever (that we "rescued" many years ago) that was afraid of EVERYTHING (see current pix above) and by slow conditioning on a daily basis, it has changed her world. Silly things like the dog who was always barking unseen behind the fence at the corner of our street every time anyone walked past and us talking to that dog each time we did in an upbeat casual manner changed the way the dog dealt with us walking past. It also changed the way our Golden reacted. It was an easy way to help BOTH dawgs.
Don't ever take a puppy away from his mother and litter mates before eight weeks of age. You won't get a pup from us before a minimum of 10 weeks of age. Interactions with their mom and siblings teach young puppies a lot about getting along with other dogs. If you take your puppy away from his canine family too early, you'll do damage to his social skills. They are recoverable to a point but it will take a long time and much persistence. That window between 8 and 10 weeks is critical as mom is usually not feeding them any longer or on a rare occasion and can invest time in teaching and playing without pups thinking of her as a feeding machine. They will learn skills on a daily basis if the Breeder is doing their job helping the socialization along with the mom, litter mates and the pack that resides at the location. It's all a part of the experience and should be a positive and constructive one.
Give your dog plenty of positive experiences with other dogs. Obedience classes, safe dog park romps, and play dates with your friends' dogs will help them learn how to get along with other canines. For puppies, playing with other pups teaches them bite inhibition.
When we board dogs, they not only get daily grooming, walks and play sessions but they learn how to read other dogs - how to fit in and how to relax and learn to play with a pack. We help this along by introducing a newbie on a one on one basis and then we start adding a dog at a time to allow them to gain their comfort. We know who in our pack will help bring someone out and help them fit in. Once one does, the entire pack follows suit. Even the most timid dog realizes before they go home that this is a safe environment and other dogs are not scary but also welcoming. By boarding, we help our pack as well as a dog that is unfamiliar with a number of dogs. Of course we also tend to get party guy dogs that can be oblivious to anything and that's fun and good for the pack as it bumps the play up a notch. All of these things are positive experiences.
Give your dog plenty of happy experiences with all kinds of people. Big kids, little kids, running-skipping-yelling kids, tall men in hats, wheel chairs, round women in hats, and people of every shape, color, and size. If your dog gets regular exposure to humans of all stripes, especially in puppy-hood, he's less likely to be fearful or fear aggressive. Experts recommend throwing "puppy parties" to expose a young pup to lots of different people when he's learning how to behave around humans but when you do this, know the dogs involved and do a one on one. You can also have your dog make friends with the mail carrier and your neighbors, and take him to cafes, stores that allow, on public transportation or to work. Be sure to slow condition your dog to riding in a car. The more you expose them with a fun result at the end, the more they will look forward to it. Even if they get car sick, you should keep it up daily. Drive to that local path or park and that will be a reward in itself.
Let your dog live indoors with you not segregated. A dog who lives in the home, with his human pack all around him, will be more comfortable with people and the noises and busy-ness of the household, and he'll be much happier too.
Expose your dog to all kinds of noises and experiences. Skateboards, bicycles, lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners, balloons breaking, pans falling, dishwashers, washing machines and the like can frighten a dog who's not used to them.
Be sure to slow condition them to nail trimming, grooming and baths. Even if they do not need it, groom them for a few minutes daily and make it fun. End with a treat or massage or both. If you do, they will be like mine - waiting in line for their turn.
Eliminate any possible food aggression early. Many a puppy will snap treats out of your hand and hurt. Close your hand. Get them to calm down and then open your hand to allow them to acquire the treat. Only give them the treat when they calm down. This can take a minute or two or even longer when you first try it. They get the treat when you give it to them, and for the right reasons, not when they take it. This is an important lesson.
Be sure to play in their food dish. This may sound crazy but it is a must. The more they get used to you near and in their bowl, the more they will put food guarding out of their mind.
Bottom line: Teaching your pup to be dog and people-friendly is your most important job as a dog owner. Give your pup regular exposure to dogs and all kinds of people, especially during puppy-hood, and you're more likely to have a confident, sociable dog. They are what you put into them.
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