If in doubt, back out! One of the most important tasks in taking on a new puppy is to continue to work on their socialization. At Aureate we have invested a lot of time, energy and resources into beginning the socialization process and exposing them in a safe and positive manner to many different environments and stimuli, but we have not covered everything.
Keep in mind your puppy will take some time to adjust to their new home. During that adjustment period they will likely seek reassurance from you that they’re safe. It’s pivotal that you encourage your puppy via both praise and rewards.
During the next few weeks and throughout the following months it’s vital that you NEVER flood your puppy. Over-exposing your puppy to an environment or stimulus that they’re showing an obvious fear response too will do nothing but reinforce their primary fear. FLOODING DOES NOT WORK. Again, FLOODING DOES NOT WORK!!! It accomplishes the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
Say for example there’s a particular street your puppy is apprehensive of walking down due to the traffic or something of that nature. Then instead of making the goal to “walk down that street”, learn to walk around it and reward, walk up to it and reward. Walk up to it to the point where your dog is NOT showing a fear response and reward. Do not force the experience on your dog . The same goes for meeting new people. Keep in mind now that you have an adorable new whippet puppy you’ll be very popular on your daily walks. Instead of your goal to be “letting people pet your new puppy”, change the focus around to be about what your puppy is comfortable with. Start with accepting a treat from a stranger. If your puppy is not comfortable being pet by a stranger that’s fine. Remember your duty of care is to your puppy first, not the people you meet who want to pet your puppy. If you think it’s too much for your puppy, simply say “no”. A moment of discomfort is well it worth preventing a lifetime of reactivity. Once a fear response is created, it can take months to years to undue the work that could have reasonably been prevented.
The Second Fear Period:
Your puppy has already made it safely through their first fear phase by the time you’ve brought them home. Keep in mind most people are not aware that in fact there is a SECOND Fear Phase. This occurs sometime around the age of 6- 8 months and lasts a week or two. During this time your puppy is extremely sensitive to negative experiences. For example, if your puppy is swarmed by a couple of off leash dogs while walking they may learn that unleashed dogs are unsafe and they should be reactive to loose dogs. The same holds true for your puppy having a negative encounter with people. During this time, it is CRITICAL to not let your guard down to safely shepherd your puppy through this brief phase. This is not the time to meet new dogs or people who might not be too comfortable around a young and energetic whippet puppy. If you take extra care during this time it will be well worth it. There are plenty of resources online regarding the Second Fear Phase and we recommend you check them out to educate yourself on this phase.
Meeting New Dogs:
We recommend that any new encounters ALWAYS be done in a safe and distraction free environment and with dogs that are proven to responsible and friendly in new encounters. This is not the time for your puppy to be treated roughly by a larger dog or an overzealous young adult. Always make sure your puppy has somewhere safe to retreat to, like under a chair or bench to get away from the other dog if they feel threatened. Keep your attention on the interaction. Have treats with you to recall either dog if the play is getting too intense or your puppy is overwhelmed. Additionally, break it off early. Your puppy will probably be hyper-aroused and over-stimulated well before they quit. It’s better to halt the interaction early than let it go on too long. We also recommend frequently recalling your puppy, so they learn that being called to you isn’t the end of their play. With that in mind we always recommend you bring a high value reward for them. Always remove all collars from both dogs before they play as it’s a strangulation risk!