Why Is Puppy Socialization Important? A well-socialized puppy creates a behaved, relaxed, safer dog. If your puppy is comfortable in a wider variety of situations, they’re less likely to use aggression in moments of fear.
Unfortunately for a lot of us pet parents, we don’t fully understand what it means to socialize our pups, or we don’t feel that giving our dogs a social life is really all that important.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SOCIALIZE YOUR PUP
So, what does it mean to socialize your pup? Socialization is the act of exposing your dog to as many new environments, animals, people and other stimuli as possible without overdoing it. Overwhelming a young dog with a bunch of new experiences can result in a fearful, withdrawn behavior, so you will need to have an idea of how much is enough.
It’s a lot of work to arrange for and manage your puppy’s social life, but worth every minute, since it can have a positive or negative influence on the rest of his interactions, for life!
What Socialization Can and Cannot Do for Your Dog
Each puppy has his or her own genetic makeup. Genetics influence everything from how tall a puppy will be to how she will react to the world around her. Sociability, startle responses, fearfulness, and excitability may all be part of a genetic package.
Socialization cannot change genetics. But the current belief is that the expression of those genetics may have some flexibility and this is where socialization can help. Socialization can help your puppy be as comfortable, confident, and happy as possible.
In addition, socialization generally is not enough to help a puppy or dog overcome a traumatic event. Careful socialization can help when it is done along with behavior modification, training, and/or medical intervention.
Socialization is showing your dog the world he will live in. It is teaching him that his world will be safe. It is helping your puppy understand that you will always be on his side and that you are a trustworthy partner. Know who your puppy is and what his or her specific needs are. Socializing carefully and with those needs in mind will help your pup become the best he can be. And you can both have fun doing it!
One of the neatest things about puppies is that they are little sponges! They soak up the world around them, and when they feel safe, they are curious and engaged with life. We all know that socializing puppies – the process of getting them accustomed to the world around them – is critical to a pup’s comfort and happiness later in life. Socialization can help puppies:
- Learn how to get along with other dogs and not be afraid of people. (Puppy classes or positive group dog facility can be perfect solution along with fun time with well known dog )
- Get accustomed to handling – a skill that can help with grooming, vet visits and more. (During first year , starting from 8 weeks old your dog can be once per month at friendly grooming place plus once per month at veterinarian clinic just for friendly visit.)
- Learn to deal with a little bit of excitement and stress without falling apart. (At least once per week take your dog into very active or busy places like shopping mall , parks full of people and kids, family members , dog conformation classes. Most important is to not let your dog and you disturb by anyone. Doing nothing is the best practice. The only person that should have contact with your dog is you and your family. But those practice should be done in calm doing nothing. No excitement , no corrections, no play time.)
- Learn that the world is safe, which can reduce fearful and aggressive behaviors. (When you see your puppy (8 weeks to 6 months) is barking, growling, extremely active, do not reward ! This is stress. This is nothing about protection or guarding. In this age dogs are very fearful of unknown people, situations, objects or behavior. They need your support and “explanation” , rewarding this behavior will build negative behavior for future. Support your dog by teaching him whats GOOD behavior and reward is and whats BAD BEHAVIOR and disciplining is.
Socializing is more than just getting your puppy out and about and having him meet lots of people and animals. The way a puppy is socialized is just as important. It is the quality of the exposure that counts (not the quantity!). Your pup doesn’t need to have prolonged or close contact with new things or people. He just needs to have easy, happy experiences. The more relaxed your pup is, the better.
Keep Socialization Fun for Your Puppy!
Help your pup be relaxed and calm. For a younger pup, hold him in your arms if that is calming. Talk to him in soft and gentle tones. Give him treats. Keep him a little bit away from things so he can watch from a comfortable distance until he is ready to explore. Make sure all exposures and introductions happen on puppy time – that is, when your pup wants to engage.
How do you know if your pup wants to explore something new, meet a new person, or play with another pup? Just watch your pup and you will see. If your pup is curious and moving towards the person, animal, or thing, your pup may be ready to engage.
If your pup is cautious, wait. Let him watch from a distance. Pups don’t have to interact with everything and everyone during socialization. Just being in the world, or hearing noises, or seeing people or animals can help them become familiar.
If your pup is overexcited to the point of being frenetic, he may also be lacking confidence or even a little scared. Try to help your pup build confidence by keeping greetings brief, giving your pup treats, or changing how people or other animals are interacting. For example, if your pup is a little too excited greeting people, have people sit down and let your pup go up to them. Or try moving your pup away and let him watch until he shows more confidence.
What if your pup tucks her tail, tries to move away, or perhaps barks or cries? Please, please, please move your puppy away from whatever scares her. This is critical. Making a puppy stay near something or someone that scares her has the potential to backfire and create a real and lasting fear. It is not a good idea to throw a pup into the deep end, metaphorically speaking. Better to move your pup away, let her experience the scary stimulus from a distance, and give her some chicken or other tasty treats. Wait for her to be ready to explore comfortably.
Puppies do go through fear periods – developmental phases when the world is just a little more overwhelming. If your pup seems suddenly scared of more things than he was previously, take a step back from socialization and provide him with comfort, fun things to do, and gentle experiences. Fear periods often pass in one to two weeks.
Canine Adolescence and Beyond
Socialization is a process that starts as soon as a pup is born, and most experts now believe that the first 12 to 16 weeks are the most important. Does that mean that socialization is done when your pup hits 12 weeks? On the contrary, it is very important to continue with positive social experiences, exposure to new things, and exploration of the world through your pup’s adolescence and into adulthood.
If you stop exposing your puppy to new experiences after puppy class, your pup may gradually become less confident in the world and new behavior problems may develop. Ongoing, positive experiences with people, dogs, places, and new things can help your good early socialization stick for life.
What You Should Expose Your Puppy To
One of the things I’ve discovered in my puppy classes is that many people assume socialization is simply about getting your dog around lots of people to be petted and plenty of dogs to play with. This can be a piece of the socialization package, but remember that the goal of socialization is to get your pup accustomed to and comfortable with the world around him.
Puppies need to be exposed in a pleasant way to:
• People, including infants, toddlers, older kids, teens, adults, older people; men and women; people of different ethnicities; big and small people; people with sunglasses, hoods, hats, backpacks, and umbrellas; people in uniforms; people with canes, crutches, or in wheelchairs.
• People doing things such as running, throwing balls, kneeling down to garden, doing yoga or tai chi, standing on chairs or ladders, using tools and pushing brooms, carrying bags and boxes.
• Animals such as dogs, cats, horses, chickens, goats, and any other animal your dog may come into contact with on a regular basis.
• Things that move, such as bicycles, skateboards, running kids, kites, motorcycles, cars, trucks, fire engines, and running animals.
• New places such as your car, the veterinarian’s office, parks, beaches, shopping areas, sidewalks with cars going by, areas where you might walk or hike or vacation, other people’s houses, and pet stores.
• Noises that come with everyday life such as blow dryers, kitchen appliances, vacuums, doorbells, walk-sign beeps, trucks backing up, neighbors in their yards, kids yelling, babies crying, wind and storm noises, and fireworks.
• Different surfaces, such as grass, gravel, pavement, carpet, shiny floors, mulch, sand, wet surfaces outside, and the bathtub.
• Handling (such as touching for vet visits, grooming, patting heads, and even hugging) and invasive interactions, such as people invading their space, taking things from them, and getting into their food.
• Other things your dog might experience in your daily life, such as rain and wind, people with surfboards, boats, tall buildings, or wild animals.
Of course this is only a partial list; there’s no way to expose your pup to all of these things (boy, wouldn’t that be overwhelming and exhausting!). Instead, try to accomplish a few from each category. Learning that new and different things are good can help reduce the chance that your pup will get scared or spooked later in life.
Also, keep in mind that your pup does not need to be socially intimate with every person or dog he runs across. Exposure alone is important. Puppies also need to learn to be around people, animals and things that they do not get to interact with, too.
The Puppy Socialization Exposure Checklist
Puppy Exposure to Kinds of People
– older kids/teens
– adults/old people
– men and women
– people of different ethnicities/races
– big and small people
– people with sunglasses
– people wearing hoods, hats, backpacks, and umbrellas
– people in uniforms: police, medical, firefighters
– people with canes, crutches, or in wheelchairs
Puppy Exposure to People Doing Things
– throwing balls
– kneeling down to garden
– doing yoga or tai chi
– using tools– standing on chairs or ladders
– pushing brooms
– carrying bags and boxes
Puppy Exposure to Animals
– other dogs/dogs that look different to your pup
– any other animal your dog may come into contact with
Puppy Exposure to Things That Move
– running kids
– fire engines
– running animals
Puppy Exposure to New Places
– your car
– the veterinarian’s office
– shopping areas
– sidewalks with cars going by
– areas where you might walk or hike or vacation
– other people’s houses
– pet stores
Noises That Come with Everyday Life
– blow dryers
– kitchen appliances
– walk-sign beeps
– trucks backing up
– neighbors in their yards
– kids yelling
– babies crying
– wind and thunder noises
Puppy Exposure to Different Surfaces and different food taste
– shiny floors
– wet surfaces outside
– the bathtub
Puppy Exposure to Handling
– touching for vet visits
– patting heads
Other Puppy Exposure Ideas
– heavy rain
– people with surfboards
– tall buildings
– wild animals like skunks, raccoons and groundhogs