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Socialization for Great Dane puppies is SO important! Puppy Culture is a dedicated socialization program that good breeders use on puppies from birth onward to ensure that their puppies are stable, friendly, and resilient. Finding a breeder who participates in Puppy Culture is a good thing!

Many people believe that puppy socialization means taking them to the pet store and the dog park. However, doing so can actually cause the puppy to have bad experiences and become more fearful!

This is especially true for Great Dane puppies that may have come from breeders who are not focused on developing sound and stable temperaments.

Good socialization is actually a combination of positive experiences, exposure to different sights, sounds and textures, and a keen understanding of how to utilize small amounts of stress to build confidence and resilience.

Socialization is how you teach dogs to live in our world. They learn to be confident, because they know that everyday things (other dogs, people, sounds, textures) aren’t going to hurt them.

Confident, well-socialized dogs are calm, easy to train and free of aggression, fear and frustration.

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What is Puppy Culture?

Puppy Culture is a written protocol for socializing puppies before they leave the litter at 8-12 weeks. Good breeders will use this protocol, even though it requires a LOT of their time. 

We talk a LOT about choosing ethical breeders, and this is one reason why!

Quality breeders socialize puppies a lot before they go home with you. This helps keep dogs OUT of rescues and shelters, and helps to make sure that the dog you welcome into the family is positive, friendly and free of aggression.  

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What is Involved in Puppy Culture?

Puppy Culture goes beyond exposure to grass, tile, and other dogs.

To give you an example of a non-Puppy Culture (but standard) approach, some breeders will allow their puppies to play in the grass outside and be exposed to children or farm animals. They will keep the puppies in an enclosed space and let them poop or pee at will. These breeders may attempt to trim their nails, but will do little else to expose the puppies to handling, experiences, or otherwise.

Puppy Culture breeders, however, will:

  • Handle the puppies all over, often, and may even employ ENS (a form of early stress that has been shown in studies to increase resilience)
  • Introduce teeth cleaning, exams, and nail trims early on and often
  • Introduce crates and early hygienic potty habits
  • Create times where each puppy is alone and away from the litter
  • Expose the litter to everyday sounds in the home, including vacuums, hammers, and hair dryers
  • Work on their engagement with humans and desire to stay close and recall
  • Use positive methods to work on bite control/puppy biting and prevent resource guarding type behaviors
  • Create safe obstacles for the puppies to overcome, such as ramps, tires, beams and wobble boards
  • Have the puppy touch and explore as many surfaces as possible with their paws and nose
  • Invite puppy lovers over to play with the puppies several weeks before they go to their new homes

Breeders who utilize all Puppy Culture protocols are dedicating a significant amount of time, effort, and love to doing so and the results are incredible!

Pro Tip: When choosing a breeder for your Great Dane puppy, please note that some breeders are relying on buzz words such as “Puppy Culture” and “OFA Health Tested” to generate sales.

However, they are not fully participating in these programs and many of them cut corners. Make sure to ask a lot of questions! Ask for verification of their socialization efforts AND the full health test results (heart, hips, eyes, thyroid which should be published at www.ofa.org) of both parents.

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Socialization of Fearful Great Dane Puppies

Fearful or unsure puppies will keep their bodies low to the ground. They may pin their ears back, tuck their tail, and keep their head shrugged or hung low.  Additionally, they will shy away from eye contact. When being handled, they may cower, act ‘head shy’ or roll onto their side or back. 

Fearful puppies should be socialized as early as possible. Unfortunately, fearful behavior is often the result of unstable genetics, and many fearful Great Danes are plagued with a combination of bad genetics and poor early socialization.

Socialization does not mean forcing your fearful Great Dane puppy to interact with other dogs or humans in situations that they could get hurt- like dog parks.

Socialization of Great Dane puppies means that you are exposing them to new situations and allowing them to learn that these situations are not actually scary.

For fearful puppies, this means going slowly and building confidence through positive experiences.

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Socialization of Puppies Who Are Confident

Confident puppies will have their heads up and their ears forward. They are more likely to make eye contact and truly engage with people. They will be interested in tackling obstacles and will have plenty of energy to do just that!

When they are raised with Puppy Culture, they are especially good at maintaining focus and even sitting as a form of ‘please’.

Confident puppies often need more obedience training to prevent them from wandering off out of curiosity for something in the environment. They are often very receptive to positive reinforcement, and love to be trained, too!

The good news is that Puppy Culture satisfies their curiosity and confidence, while rewarding them for engaging with humans and responding to requests to come back and look for direction.

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Why Does Puppy Socialization Matter?

Puppies from healthy, well-tempered parents that are properly socialized from birth are more likely to be confident, curious and calm family pets.

For giant breed dogs, this translates to them being easier to live with, easier to handle, and safer around other dogs, people, and situations of all kinds.

Fear and aggression are considered one of the top three risk factors for bloat in Great Danes!

For health reasons, helping Great Dane puppies grow into confident and resilient adults is also incredibly important! Many dogs who experience bloat are fearful, timid, and aggressive.

Installing confidence and a calm indifference to the environment makes training a breeze, too! Dogs that are over-stimulated or anxious about the environment around them will have a much harder time learning and focusing.

A lot of aggression and reactivity is based in fear. The world can be an overwhelming place!  

Great Danes are prone to anxiety and aloof, timid, or even aggressive behaviors. But none of that is actually within the written breed standard, and none of it has to be a reality.

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Socialize Your Great Dane Puppy

Even if your puppy didn’t come from a breeder that spent a lot of time on socialization or Puppy Culture, there are LOTS of things you can do! 

Expose your puppy to a variety of textures; wood chips, sand, blankets, tile, gravel, grass, cement and bridges. 

Give them obstacles such as tunnels, ramps, platforms and FIT Paws, then encourage and reward them for being confident and exploring!

Expose them to a variety of people wearing glasses, hats, masks and walking with strollers, bicycles, wheelchairs, canes, walking sticks, snowshoes and skis. Instead of asking those people to pet your puppy, just sit and watch them from afar.

Explore novel environments and encourage curiosity. 

Need more? Check out our positive Great Dane puppy socialization guide HERE.

We hope this helps you not only choose ethical breeders that are creating wonderful family dogs, but find the Great Dane of your dreams! 

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

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