Socialization: A Must Read





About Socialization:


Puppy Socialization:
Every puppy owner knows that it’s important to “socialize” their puppy, but not everyone knows why it’s important or how and when to do it. Here is the information you need to give your puppy the very best chance at growing up to be a happy, well-behaved dog.

Moonpie and Sunny



Puppy development:
Dogs, like many animals, are hard-wired to be curious and accepting of new things when they are very young — they learn about what is “normal” and safe in their world. This “critical socialization period” starts at birth and ends around 12-16 weeks, and then the puppy naturally becomes wary or even fearful of things he didn’t encounter before.



We want our puppies to have lots of varied, positive encounters before their critical socialization period ends so that they have a wide range of experiences defined as “normal.” The more things the puppy saw, felt, heard, smelled, and tasted, the less there will be to surprise him as an adult, and the less shyness and fear he will exhibit. Even when he does encounter something completely new, if he remembers lots of safe experiences of new things from his puppyhood, he will have an easier time doing it as an adult. A well-socialized adult dog will have an easier time adjusting the first time he is boarded at a vet’s or friend’s home, the first time he sees riders on horseback, the first time he sees a child in a wheelchair, the first time he is taken on a road trip with his family, and so on.  Socialization is by far the most important aspect of raising a young puppy.  A puppy who was not properly socialized is likely to grow up to be fearful or even fear-aggressive.



Behavioral vaccination:
Despite the fact that the puppy will go through a short period in which he doesn’t have active antibodies against distemper and parvovirus, fully socializing him is just as critically important as fully vaccinating hidsc01717m. Puppies who have not had a range of positive experiences in the big, wide world are likely to grow up to be fearful or even fear-aggressive when they are faced with something new as adults. In fact, the number one reason for owners surrendering dogs to shelters is behavioral problems. The sad truth is that a dog is more likely to die because of behavior issues than because of distemper or parvovirus.



You should have your puppy meet all different kinds of people: Pay particular attention to the ages of children your dog meets. Dogs perceive infants, toddlers, young children, pre-teens, and teenagers very differently. Each age group has different looks and mannerisms, and a dog growing up with one or two young children won’t automatically be comfortable around toddlers or teenagers (or even other young children besides the ones in the home!)


Your puppy should meet other dogs, in professional supervised play groups at a professional puppy class or daycare held in a clean environment, (some pet stores are may be too overwhelming for puppy’s and have the reverse effect on what you want) or adult dogs who you know are friendly, vaccinated, and healthy. Do not take your dog to a dog park or other places where strays or dogs with unknown vaccination statuses frequent. The chance of coming into contact with pathogens is higher there, and you don’t know if the other dogs will behave nicely toward your impressionable puppy. If possible, have her/him meet other animals as well, such as cats, horses, goats, or chickens.


Living beings aside, there is plenty in the environment that you want your puppy to be comfortable with. The vet’s office requires getting on a slippery scale, hearing the “pinging” cash register and “whirring” receipt machine, and possibly being left in a kennel all by herself. Traveling with your dog requires being calm in a hotel room or guest room, with new furniture and lots of unknown noises and intriguing smells. Children’s toys can create a variety of loud noises and unpredictable movements. So you can see, in every environment there is much for your dog to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel, and she will take it in stride if she has a range of positive experiences already to draw on.



How to:


Do you know puppy and dog communication, calming signals, body language, and the “look at that” game?  Take your puppy to lots of places and let him observe and explore (when it is safe to do so). Take him to a park, to a store, a cafe, downtown, to someone else’s home. Have lots of people say hello, gently pet him and feed him a tasty treat. Take him to puppy social classes or manner classes run by experienced professional trainers who use positive methods and are certified in the science of dog behaviors.


It is critical that each experience is a positive one. Quality must be balanced with quantity. It is better for one child to calmly offer your puppy a treat and rub him under the chin than for five children to approach with treats at once and overwhelm the puppy. The former leaves the pup with the impression that children are kind and gentle. The latter leaves him with the impression that children are scary and to be avoided.


Never force your puppy to interact with a person, animal, or object he is wary of, or it may become a negative experience with lasting impact. Instead, use tasty treats or fun toys to create a positive association and encourage exploring and brave behavior.


Once your puppy is more than 16 weeks old, the “critical socialization period” (the time during which the puppy learns what is “normal” and “safe”) has closed. But that doesn’t mean that you can now just leave him at home — opportunities to explore the world must be maintained or you will experience backsliding and an increase in fearfulness.



Professional help:


All these “do and don’t” can seem like an overwhelming burden when all you wanted was to enjoy your adorable puppy. Did you know that you could reward bad behaviors or set your dog up for failure or fear and not even know it? Fortunately, help is available! When your busy schedule doesn’t allow you to get your puppy out into the world as much as needed, in classes or at our Public Social Pet Classes, help is here! Sign your pup up for a few Private Puppy Field Trips with Train Pawsitive. We  will choose locations which will give your puppy new experiences without being overwhelming. Check out Private Training on our website for more information, you’ll be glad you did!



Do you have a dog who is over 16 weeks and needs to be social? Did you just adopt a dog from a rescue or shelter? Do you have an adult dog who needs some social experience? Please call me, I can help you.



Happy Social!   “Arf”


*Ruff Translation * Sophia Yin * Train Pawsitive *Ian Dunbar