Socializing your puppy is vital to the safety of both your dog and other dogs and people with whom they come into contact. A properly socialized dog is a happy dog, and a joy to be around for both humans and animals.
Let's dive right in and learn about socializing your puppy.
Why Socializing Your Puppy Is Important
A poorly socialized dog, or one with no socialization at all, is a danger to other animals, other people and even their own family.
Socializing your puppy is best done when they are as young as possible. The socialization lessons a young puppy learns are difficult to undo.
Socializing Your Puppy for Life
It is important to remember that the socialization skills the puppy learns will affect their behavior for the rest of their life.
A dog that is properly socialized will be neither frightened of nor aggressive towards either animals or humans.
A properly socialized dog will take each new experience and stimulus in stride, and not become fearful or aggressive.
Socializing Your Puppy to Avoid Fear
Dogs that are not properly socialized often bite because of fear, and such a dog can become a hazard and a liability to the family who owns it.
Improperly socialized dogs are also unable to adapt to new situations.
Without socializing your puppy a routine matter like a trip to the vet or to a friends house can quickly stress the dog out and lead to all sorts of problems.
Socializing Your Puppy Very Young
Socializing your puppy is best done when the puppy is very young, perhaps around 12 weeks of age.
Even after 12 weeks, however, it is important that the puppy continues its socialization in order to refine the all important social skills.
It is possible to socialize an older puppy, but it is very difficult to achieve after the all important 12 week period has passed.
There are some definite do’s and don'ts when it comes to properly socializing your puppy. Let’s start with what to do. Later in this article we will explore what to avoid.
Make each of the socialization events as pleasant and non-threatening for the puppy as possible.
If a puppy’s first experience with any new experience is an unpleasant one, it will be very difficult to undo that in the puppy’s mind.
In some cases, an early trauma can morph into a phobia that can last for a lifetime.
Take Things Slow
When socializing your puppy it is better to take things slow and avoid having the puppy become frightened or injured.
Try inviting your friends over to meet the new puppy.
It is important to include as many different people as possible in the puppy’s circle of acquaintances.
Including men, women, children, adults, as well as people of many diverse ethnic backgrounds and ages.
Also invite friendly and healthy dogs and puppies over to meet your puppy.
It is of course important to make sure that all animals the puppy comes into contact with have received all necessary vaccinations.
Take the puppy to many different places.
Including shopping centers, pet stores, parks, school playgrounds and on walks around the neighborhood.
Crowds and Activities
While socializing your puppy try to expose them to places where there will be crowds of people and lots of diverse activities going on.
Take the puppy for frequent short rides in the car.
During these rides, be sure to stop the car once in a while and let the puppy look out the window at the world outside.
Introduce your puppy to a variety of items that may be unfamiliar.
Socializing your puppy should include exposing them to common items like bags, boxes, vacuum cleaners, umbrellas, hats, etc. that may be frightening to them.
Nothing to Fear
Allow and encourage the puppy to explore these items and see that they have nothing to fear from them.
Get the puppy used to a variety of objects by rearranging familiar ones.
Simply placing a chair upside down, or placing a table on its side, creates an object that your puppy will perceive as totally new.
Get the puppy used to common procedures like being brushed, bathed, having the nails clipped, teeth cleaned, ears cleaned, etc.
Your groomer and your veterinarian with thank you for this part of socializing your puppy.
Introduce the puppy to common things around the house, such as stairs.
Also introduce the puppy to the collar and leash, so they will be comfortable with these items.
Things to Avoid when Socializing Your Puppy
There are of course some things to avoid when socializing your puppy.
These socialization don'ts include:
Do not place the puppy on the ground when strange animals are present.
An attack, or even a surprise inspection, by an unknown animal could traumatize the puppy and hurt their socialization.
Do not inadvertently reward fear based behavior.
When the puppy shows fear, it is normal to try to sooth it, but this could reinforce the fear based behavior and make it worse.
Socializing Your Puppy avoids Biting Problems
Since biting is often a fear based behavior, reinforcing fear can create problems with biting.
Do not force or rush the process of socializing your puppy.
It is important to allow the puppy to socialize at their own pace.
Do not try to do too much too soon.
Young puppies have short attention spans, and continuing lessons after that attention span has passed will be a waste of your time and your puppy’s.
Do not wait too long to begin socializing your puppy.
There is a short window in which to begin the socialization process.
A young puppy is a blank slate, and it is important to fill that slate with positive socialization skills as early as possible.
Practice Socializing Your Puppy
Now that you know the do's and don'ts of socializing your puppy it is now up to you to put them into practice. Happy training!
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