One of the most valuable things you can do for your puppy is to give them plenty of opportunities to socialize. When we talk about socializing, we simply mean that you teach them how to interact in a positive way with the world around them. But when should you start, why is it important, and how do you do it successfully? Keep reading to find out.
When to Socialize Your Puppy
While dogs can certainly be trained at any age, the best window of opportunity occurs when they’re between 3 and 12 weeks of age. The earlier you begin to socialize your pup, the sooner you’ll eliminate their fears and anxieties of the unknown. Any later, and it will become a much more difficult task. Still possible. Just more difficult.
Why Socializing a Puppy is Important
An unsocialized puppy often grows into an out-of-control dog. Without proper socialization, your canine friend may be easily excitable, aggressive, or hesitant around new people, pets, and situations. The idea behind socialization is to help your puppy become acclimated to a variety of sights, sounds, and smells in a positive manner.
Some benefits that come with a well-adjusted dog include:
- Ability to transition into new situations with ease
- Improved quality of life and happiness due to playtime with friends
- More confidence in their behaviors
Simply put, the more you socialize your puppy, the more likely they’ll grow into a happy, confident, and well-adjusted pet for life.
How to Successfully Socialize Your Pup
Before you get started, it’s important to realize that socializing your puppy is a big project. But if you are willing to be consistent, you will be successful. Here are 3 ways that you can make socializing your pet easier.
1. Expose your pet to a variety of situations as often as you can.
Remember, puppies can start learning as early as three weeks of age, so be sure to expose them to as many new, yet safe, situations as possible. These situations should include things such as:
- Meeting other pets and animals
- Interacting with humans (of various ages, genders, sizes, and ethnicities)
- Taking vehicle rides
- Experiencing noises (including common household sounds like the vacuum)
- Taking walks outdoors
You can even sign your furry friend up to attend puppy training classes, also called puppy kindergarten, so they can learn basic commands while getting familiarized with other dogs and people.
To keep your pet, as well as the pets of others safe, avoid public parks--especially dog parks--until your pooch is up to date on his vaccinations. You can, however, socialize your dog in more private settings such as your home or behavior classes as long as they have had their initial round of shots and a deworming. Always check with your vet to ensure that your pooch has the proper immunizations before you begin any socialization.
According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), the combination of maternal immunity, primary vaccination, and appropriate care makes the risk of infection relatively small compared to the chance of death from a behavior problem. Therefore, as an owner, you should take advantage of every safe opportunity to expose your young puppy to the great variety of stimuli that they will experience in their lives.
2. Keep experiences positive.
Rewarding your dog can help him associate new experiences with something fun. Keep treats on hand and be ready to give them praise when it’s due. Try to remain calm when teaching your pup. Dogs can read our emotions--if you’re nervous, he’ll be nervous, too.
3. Take it slow.
While the window of opportunity is short, it’s important to avoid doing too much too fast. In other words, don’t throw your pup into a situation that’s too hard for him to handle. For example, build your pup’s social circle by slowing introducing a few people at a time. Start with family and then integrate strangers one at a time until they are comfortable.
It’s important to understand that socialization is different for every owner and puppy--how much or how little you expose your pet to is up to you. The wider range of experiences you expose him to, however, the better chances he’ll be comfortable and happier as an adult in a wider variety of situations.
If you have any questions about socializing your puppy, our trained staff is happy to talk you through them. They are also able to give you more information on basic obedience classes for your puppy.