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Puppy Socialization

Ridgeback Rescue in the United States has their hands full re-homing neglected and abused Rhodesians.

Of course, not every dog that ends up in a shelter has been abused, at least not on purpose. Often dogs show up in Rescue organizations simply because of the fact that when people acquire them, they do not know the level of commitment that is needed to raise a healthy, happy animal. As the newness of puppy ownership wears off, the sobering reality of the investment in time and energy that a puppy requires soon sets in. Often, owners of a new puppy are not given adequate information as to what is needed to make a dog an appreciated member of society, and of the family. The breeder should take much of the responsibility for raising the awareness of a potential Ridgeback Puppy buyer as to the level of commitment required.

So the question is, what do we mean by "commitment"?

Some answers to this question are readily apparent. Food and shelter, and some level of training are pretty obvious areas to be addressed when acquiring a puppy. However, there is one subject that we need to stress, and is probably the most important aspect of Rhodesian Ridgeback ownership. That is in the area of socialization.

Socialization is one of the most important aspects of Dog ownership. In fact, it is my opinion that socialization has the same level of importance as quality food and shelter, if not more so. Puppies, according to the latest research, will have developed most of their foundational set of social skills by the time they are 20 weeks of age. The building blocks of future social interaction with people and other dogs will occur by this time. This is a very small window of opportunity to insure that your puppy has the emotional and psychological skill set that will follow him for the rest of his life.

If crucial puppy personality development takes place during these crucial weeks, would it make sense to leave a puppy home alone, in a crate, or other confinement area for most of the day? Of course not. Proper socialization cannot occur in such circumstances. Dog behavioralists tell us that exceeding 4 hours per day of maximum isolation time does not present a proper ground work for cultivating good socialization in a puppy. It is also noteworthy that 4 hours represents total time left alone. Therefore, a family that works a full 8 hours would not meet the requirment needed for proper socialization of a puppy, even if members of the family were to come home for lunch or during break time.  Notice that the research doesnt say "4 hour intervals", but 4 hours total time left alone.

The capacity of a ridgeback to become a valued and integral part of social lfe is readily recognizable. The main reason for the initial attraction that people have to the Rhodesian Ridgeback is due to proper socialization given by its owner. Those who have considered this breed do so often because they have met a well adjusted example of the breed and were impressed with its austere disposition. It is a faithful, intellegent and sensitive animal. This should be kept at the forefront of your mind when acquiring one of these admittedly exceptional dogs.  If one cannot give a healthy dose of daytime interaction with a puppy for the first few months, it should not be a consideration in your purchasing decision.