Socializing your Dog or Puppy
with Pets, Children and Environment
Socializing your dog or puppy is something as important as providing food, training, exercise and lots of love. As a matter of fact, no other training will have such a huge impact on your dog's life as puppy socialization.
It will not only shape your puppy's behavior towards people and animals but it will also make your dog easier to get along with.
Not many dog owners are aware of the fact that there is a small window of opportunity during which puppies are most impressionable.
Life experiences during this brief period of time tend to have the greatest impact on future social behaviors of puppies and dogs.
For this reason, understanding what proper socialization entails is very important when it comes to successfully raising your puppy or dog.
Understanding New Puppy Socialization
The brief window of opportunity for socializing puppies generally takes place between 4 and 16 weeks of age. This means that upon getting your puppy at 8 weeks old, you have lots of work ahead.
Hopefully, if you got your puppy from a reputable breeder, he or she already started exposing your puppy to different stimuli. Your ultimate goal should be to continue teaching your puppy about the world surrounding him, making it a fun and positive experience.
Because puppies are readily prone to accepting new experiences during this delicate phase, it is important to make the best out of this stage. If adverse experiences take place during this time, the negative connotations may affect the puppy, possibly leaving an indelible impression for the rest of the puppy's life.
Why is Puppy Socialization Training so Important?
If you isolate your puppy from the outside world, he will grow up afraid of his surroundings.
If that's not what you want, teach him that there are a lot of fun experiences and activities waiting for him. Allow him to explore. If you do this, your puppy will grow up to be a healthy, well adjusted, easy to handle dog and a good companion.
On the other hand, without puppy socialization training, chances are that he will have multiple behavioral problems when he grows up.
When you take an un-socialized dog outdoors, he may become aggressive towards humans, become anxious or exhibit signs of shyness. He will bite out of fear and get into fights with other dogs. He also will not know how to behave in new situations.
An un-socialized dog is pain for everyone around him and may end up in a shelter.
Don't let your puppy become that dog!
Socializing Your Dog to Humans
As mentioned, socialization is quite a crucial phase for all puppies where exposure to novel stimuli is greatly encouraged. A big part of socializing your dog or puppy will include human beings. It is important to include people of different ages, sizes, genders and races.
The following step-by-step guide will cover some important basics for socializing your dog to humans. Go slowly and gradually, and try your best to avoid overwhelming your puppy.
- Hold bi-weekly puppy parties where vast arrays of people are invited. Start with mild encounters characterized by passive challenges and then gradually escalate the level of novelty from week to week. Your goal is for your puppy to perceive guests as safe, non-threatening friends.
- You can also leave your puppy in the care of a friend or a neighbor for short periods of time. This will not only teach your puppy to tolerate other people but it will also teach him that when you leave, you are not abandoning him and will eventually return. It can also prevent the development of puppy separation anxiety.
- As part of your puppy socialization training, have mail carriers and delivery people in uniform give your puppy a treat every time they stop by. You want your puppy to make positive associations with a variety of people coming to your home. Don't force interactions if your puppy appears intimidated; rather, give your puppy time and allow him to approach first. Reward your puppy for taking initiative.
- Enroll your puppy in classes at a dog obedience training school. During class, your puppy will get to meet other puppies and owners and the dog trainer will organize great opportunities for socialization.
- Take your puppy in gradually more crowded places such as playgrounds, shopping areas and cities. Make sure your puppy gets to meet people from all ages and walks of life. Don't forget to include people wearing hats and hoods, people carrying umbrellas, riding bikes and skate boards, people pushing baby strollers and people in wheel-chairs.
Socializing Your Puppy to Dogs and Other Pets
When it comes to socializing your puppy with other dogs and pets, it is important to consider health. Exposure to unhealthy puppies may cause the spread of serious diseases such as canine parvo disease.
- Enroll your puppy in puppy classes. In a good puppy socialization training program your puppy will be exposed to other puppies and learn how to interact with them properly. Make sure the trainer pays particular attention to how the puppies engage in social behaviors. Your puppy should not be in a class where there are larger and older puppies that tend to bully him.
- If you have another dog in the household, socialize your puppy to an older dog. Keep your puppy on a leash when in the company of an older dog until both are comfortable. Allow an older dog to come to the puppy to explore. Your puppy may respond to this with one or more of submissive behaviors such as exposing his tummy or urinating. Learn more about submissive urination in dogs.
- Organize play dates with other vaccinated healthy puppies or safe adult dogs in your yard. When it comes to socializing puppies, try to avoid areas other sick puppies may frequent such as rest areas, pet stores and dog parks until your puppy has completed its required vaccination.
- Socializing your dog does not have to include only humans and other dogs. Make sure your puppy also gets to meet animals of different species. Cats, birds, horses, cows, goats, squirrels and other small furry critters should be included when socializing puppies.
Additional Puppy Socialization Tips
It's normal for your puppy to show some signs of apprehension in various situations. One way to help him get over his fears is to act as if nothing special is going on. Do not reward his fearful behavior by petting or picking him up. While you mean well, you unintentionally encourage the same fearfulness in the future.
You also have plenty of opportunities to develop your puppy's curiosity while at home. Let him listen to a working dishwasher, TV, washer or a dryer. I used to leave the radio on when I had to leave my puppies alone.
When socializing your dog, make sure that it turns out to be a pleasant experience. Don't rush or force your puppy to anything he may not yet ready to handle.
Here is something I learned a long time ago - a puppy that went through some basic obedience and behavior training will go through socialization training much quicker and with a lot less stress.
Here is a brief video that shows how to socialize a fearful dog...
Successfully socializing your dog or puppy entails much more than just meeting people and other dogs. Exposure to different surfaces, objects, noises, locations and challenges will enrich your puppy's mental map of the world. You really cannot overdo dog socialization; there is always room for something new to learn and explore!
As seen, socializing your dog plays a fundamental role in your puppy's early life; however, you are really never done socializing your dog as this is ultimately a life-long process that should ideally continue for the rest of your dog's life.
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Don't treat puppy socialization as a standalone process. Think of it as a small part of an overall training process. This dog behavior and obedience training guide will teach you how to raise a well behaved and obedient dog.
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