I hope you'll click over to the "Pups Is Pups" blog and read Delta's story. And share it with your friends.
Delta's story illustrates how crucial the first 12 weeks of life are for puppies. If you miss the windows of opportunity that exist during this period, the result is usually a dog that lacks confidence and resilience - two qualties that many people take for granted in canine companions. The average dog owner doesn't even realize that they expect their dogs to roll with all kinds of new situations and changes in routine - not to mention mild traumas - without barely a flinch.
Many times you'll hear people who have adopted dogs from shelters state that they are sure their dog had been "abused." In reality, it is much more likely that their dog was damaged not by a cruel act, but by a cruel omission. Poor socialization of puppies leads to homeless dogs - and many of them, once they've become large, unruly, and fearful adolescents or adults, are unfortunately, not even adoptable.
Can an un - or under - socialized dog be rehabilitated and learn to live in the world like a "normal" dog? It all depends. It depends in part on how early the proper kind of socialization starts and it depends on the individual dog's temperament and background. And it depends on whether the resources are available to help the dog. Most animal shelters can't give these dogs the special attention they need while they're living at the shelter. And there aren't many foster volunteers with the expertise, time, and emotional stamina required for taking on these "project" cases - especially when the outcome is uncertain.
Unfortunately, love is not enough to cure an under-socialized dog. Fear, timidity, and lack of resilience put dogs at such an extreme disadvantage because often the only way these dogs have of expressing their terror and uncertainty is through behaviors that most humans cannot tolerate in the family pet. In many cases, the dog will make a certain amount of progress - if she recieves the right kind behavior modification and training - but never becomes a fully confident dog.
And it's important to understand that shelters are not the only place where people obtain under-socialized dogs! Puppies obtained at pet stores are highly likely to have been under-socialized. These puppies are bred at large-scale facilities along with thousands of other puppies. Believe me, those facilities do not pay the number of staff required to properly socialize all those puppies. When getting a puppy from a breeder you should always ask about the dog's early life and make sure that the breeder provided the puppy with appropriate socialization. Good breeders will be happy to tell you all about it!
The Champaign County Humane Society is lucky to have foster homes like the one caring for Delta now (though we certainly could use more). Now we're hoping to find a special person to adopt Delta and give her the love and socialization she needs and deserves.
If you want to learn more about puppy socialization, I highly recommend the author, Ian Dunbar. His work in this area is outstanding and his books provide an excellent road map for providing a puppy with a good start in life.