Reminder: The selected responses presented below are a reflection of the collaborative effort of Hybrid Wolf Mailing List aka. Wolfdoglist members to share opinions / information about wolf x dogs, responsible "ownership" and breeding practices. This FAQ is not a scientific or veterinary resource. Some responses have been edited for brevity.
What does socialization mean ? How important is this ?
IMO, I think socialization is almost the most important thing when dealing with a wolfdog. As a rescue person, we see wolfdogs of all different contents and prior socialization. It is easy to tell the unsocialized ones, (even if they learn to tolerate you) as they panic so hysterically when they are taken out of their home pen (such as going to the vet!).
Socialization must take place almost during the first 3 months for it to really stick! I have seen animals that had heart attack it was so stressed from not being socialized (this one wasn't at all). The higher the content and/or closer to generation of pure wolf the more they must be heavily socialized!
Socializing the wolfdog is an ever ongoing process. They enter different phases in their lives and I think it is important to really know how to read them.
Cheyenne came home with us at 12 weeks old. She was always with her pack and mom. Orion was bottle fed and came home with us at 4 weeks old. He was a very confused little guy and trusted no one around his food. After years of work he finally trusts us.
Both were socialized to everything while growing up. They love children and babies and most people.
There are different stages of development that canines go through, from birth onwards. Generally, the stages are regular and predictable and so it is a good idea for all wolfdog (and dog) 'owners' to familiarize yourselves with these. Below are some fantastic resources for learning more about socialization / habituation and how to work through those life-stages:
Remember, START EARLY and continue on LIFELONG. Most of all, make it fun!
Something else to think about that we have experienced. We have wolf dogs here that were much loved by their owner/s, but were not socialized to other people or other situations. When they came here it was very traumatic for them and some took a long time adjusting to a strange place and strange people taking care of them.
So, for the sake of your animals, should fate come along and separate you from them, please socialize your animals to all sorts of different people and situations. It would really help those of us in rescue.
Candy Kitchen Rescue Ranch
In this context socialization is getting your wolfdog used to interacting with other people and animals. It is very important. You should start as young as possible (after weaning) [or while bottlefeeding]. If you can expose your puppies to lots of new people, animals, and situations that is great! Be sure that he/she knows you are there and that it is a safe situation. If it is just too scary, don't push it. Take little steps if necessary. In older wd's this can be much more difficult. Lots of time and reassurance are the key. For wd's who are afraid to go out in public, you may want to try driving to parks or grocery stores and just sitting in the car together observing at first.
I have 2 wd's who were raised under totally opposite conditions and I get to observe the results, at least as they apply to those 2.
We got our 2 1/2 yr old female (Shadow) when she was 13 days old and bottle fed her. She went with us everywhere and met a lot of people. She has always had complete access to the house and, though we've lost a couple of magazines, nothing really of consequence has been torn up... She is very friendly and, after a couple of minutes of checking someone out, is totally comfortable with them. I have never really done any "formal" training as I don't have a lot of rules.
Our 4 yr old male we adopted about 6 months ago. He was bought as a puppy, probably at about 3 months old, by someone who lived alone in an apartment. They worked so he spent long days in the apartment by himself and had very little contact with other people. The owner traveled in their job so he was frequently boarded at a vet for 3 or 4 days at a time. He spent very little time outside and even then, it was on a leash.
Now he is extremely shy and skittish and very afraid of everyone except me. My wife still has to corner him to pet him in the house. Somehow he attached himself to me and I have spent a lot of very enjoyable time woods walking with him and Shadow. He stays within range of me when we walk and is fairly good about coming when I call him. He is also very loving of me and will come over and lean against me to get scratched.
I have never yelled at them and the greatest disapproval they ever get is being ignored which really devastates them. They seem to know when they begin to push a limit too far and back off. I've never really had any problem with either of them and they are both pretty high %. I guess I've really adapted to their style of life as much as they have to mine. I always try to be conscious of their needs, both physical and psychological.
They have bonded wonderfully and Shadow has taught him the rules of mutual tusseling and playing which he really learned quickly. She would yell in his ear when he did something wrong and he would stand there like a gentlemen and take it. Now they are inseparable and its really beautiful to watch the relationship between them. The are each unique but I really I love they both.
Handling your animal daily and introducing your animal to new and different things as much as possible...Introducing him to as many people and other animals as possible and make sure it is a positive meeting with others...
How important is this? VERY! So you can be able to handle your animal in different environments and so you will be able to easily get you WD treated at a vet... Nikki
Socialisation means getting the WD used to as many different people, sights, sounds, smells and environments as possible. WDs seem to go skittish over a lot more things than DDs and then need to take their time to go near, explore and decide that the object in question is harmless. We have had an election here yesterday and last night when I took Storm for a walk we came upon an election poster standing upright against a lamp post. To Storm it must have looked like the man's head was coming straight out of the pavement. She took a couple of steps back, circled it warily, got a bit nearer, sniffed it all over and then was content that this was harmless enough. A lack of socialisation results in a lack of confidence in new situations and may also result in fear aggression, if flight is impossible.
Main Entry: so·cial·ize
Inflected Form(s): -ized; -iz·ing
1 : to make social; especially : to fit or train for a social environment
Socialization is the term we use to describe the act of making your animal companion comfortable with human surroundings. It is an on-going process that begins at birth, and ends at death. Besides basic health issues, socializing your wolfdog is the single most important thing you can do for your animal. Any rescuer can tell you of tale upon tail of stories where wolfdogs had to be euthanized because they were not social. Or had very difficult placements because of their unsocial natures. We all know (or should know) that wolves & wolfdogs are highly ritualistic, and social animals, and in my opinion, (and a not very humble one at that) if you have a puppy that grows up to be an unsocialized animal, you have been lazy, you have not done your job, and you have not done the animal right. (That comment is not aimed at anyone who rehabs)
Socialization includes handling from birth, leash training, meeting people, being introduced to new sights, sounds, driving, colors, hats, bicycles, umbrellas, other puppies, children, old people, and most of this introduction should be acquired BEFORE they are 16 weeks of age. Besides the obvious benefits of having a calmer, more stable wolfdog, there are other benefits to early intense socialization. A pup's brain expands in size from 8 cm at birth to approx. 50 cm at just 8 weeks, and to 80 cm at 16 weeks. Adult brain is approx. 100 cm. As you can see, fully 80% of the brain's development occurs in that first formative 4 month period. For each new stimulus the brain experiences, the neural paths make connections. The more experiences, the more connections. The more connections, the more complex the neural web within the brain. Intelligence is correlational to complex neural pathways. So if you want a smart puppy, socialize 'em !!
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