As the owner of a rescue dog who was not properly socialized at an early age, this subject is near and dear to my heart. Because of my dog’s lack of early socialization, he is fearful and reactive. Maybe I am being wishful, but I can see the amazing dog he would have been if he had been socialized early. Don’t get me wrong, he is a wonderful dog, my husband and I love him very much, but if he had been socialized early I think his life would be so much richer and much less stressful.
What is Puppy Socialization?
There is a critical socialization period for puppies that happens between 3 and 12weeks of age. This is when puppies learn about the world and how to become part of it instead of letting it be a big scary place. This is the time when your puppy determines whether people, in general, are good, whether men with beards or wearing hats should be avoided, that children are fun, wet grass is okay to walk on, other dogs are friends, cats are cool, and the list goes on and on. Any experience the puppy is exposed to should be approached so that it is a positive experience for the puppy.
Why Should You Socialize Your Puppy Early?
Socialization is important for so many reasons. Dogs that are not properly socialized tend to be generally fearful of anything new. A leaf blowing down the street or a bicycle left lying in the grass could be enough to make your dog try to run away in fear. Fearful dogs are reluctant to move toward anything new. If you want your dog to enjoy adventures such as a trip to Starbucks for a Puppuccino or to your nearest home improvement store, socialization is extremely important. If a dog was not handled during that all-important socialization period it makes prove difficult to do such common things as grooming and veterinary exams. Fearful dogs can become reactive dogs. A trip to the dog park? Not if your dog wasn’t properly socialized around other dogs. Puppies need to be exposed to a lot of different dogs in a positive way in order to sharpen their dog body language skills. That dog you see on the street that is barking lunging and growling is usually so afraid they just want you to move away from them. It’s the only way they know how to deal with what is scaring them.
At What Age Should Puppy Socialization Begin?
A puppy should start being handled for very short periods of time when they are just days old, but if you don’t have the opportunity to visit your puppy from the time they are born socialization should start as soon as you get your puppy home. While a lot of training facilities offer puppy kindergarten classes they require puppies to have all puppy vaccinations before starting their puppy class. If your puppy has not yet received all of their puppy vaccines check with your veterinarian to see if they hold or know of a puppy preschool class in your area. Puppy preschool classes are for puppies that have not yet had all of their puppy shots. These classes are held in very clean, controlled conditions to limit the risk of exposure to disease.
How to Start Socializing Your Puppy
While you want your puppy to be comfortable in a variety of scenarios and around lots of different people, dogs and items you must make sure that every exposure is a positive one. Get your puppy enrolled in a puppy class or contact a certified dog trainer to help you with socialization. Expose your puppy to new things slowly. If you want your puppy to have doggy friends, make sure those dogs are fully vaccinated and friendly. Handle your puppy daily, touching all parts of their body including their ears, paws, and nails. Gently lift the flaps of their gums and inspect their teeth. Expose your puppy to new surfaces such as grass, gravel, concrete, sand, tile and laminate floors, carpet, etc. While you want to introduce your puppy to lots of new people, never force your puppy to meet someone or do something as this may actually increase their fear. Use lots of really yummy treats to make each new experience a positive one.
If you would like to learn more about our puppy socialization program, please contact us.