Good dogs aren’t born, they are made.
Dogs are social creatures that need interaction with you, other people and other animals beginning very early in life.
To a puppy, the whole world is a new, strange and sometimes scary world, so think of everything he encounters as an opportunity to make a new positive connection. Your puppy can’t grow into a healthy adult dog without your leadership and help.
Socialization means gently exposing your puppy to as many environments, animals, people and other stimuli as possible. It means gently taking your puppy out of his comfort zone in baby steps and you as an owner encouraging the puppy as he goes through this adjustment. Everyday life and experiences will involve all your puppy’s senses through exposure to the sounds, smells and sights around him. Early socialization and companionship are necessary for your puppy’s emotional wellbeing. Involving your puppy in various experiences can make a huge permanent difference and help him grow into a happy, confident, well-adjusted dog.
Socialization begins early in life but is a process that can never stop. From seven weeks to four months of age your puppy’s brain is most inclined to accept new experiences. Often what your pup encounters during this critical time will help shape the character, temperament and behaviour for the rest of his life. Proper socialization can prevent a dog from being very fearful of certain situations i.e. children, riding in a car, noises, etc. Socializing helps your pup learn bite control, more about social hierarchy and acceptable play behaviour.
Try to come up with as many different types of textures, places, people and noises, so your puppy is exposed to them. For instance, have him walk on hardwood, carpet, linoleum, tile floors, meet people with sunglasses, or wearing hats, etc. Objects such as an umbrella, vacuum, lawn mower, blow dryer, trash bags, and any other unfamiliar sights and sounds.
Bathing, grooming and handling your puppy as you cut his nails, or pet his ears allows your pet to get used to being handled so that visits to the groomer or vet are easier for both you.
Invite gentle, healthy dogs, puppies and cats to your home to meet and play with your pup. Puppy classes are excellent for teaching a puppy how to relate to their own species. They learn how to be a dog! Short car rides and public places where people gather with a lot of activity help him to adjust and become a more secure dog that doesn’t fear loud or new sounds.
The exciting thing about socializing a puppy is that it can be a lot of fun. You are continuously taking him out of his comfort zone and gently helping him learn that his world is a pretty amazing place to be with you! Just try to avoid doing too much too fast. Don’t push or force your puppy. Your calm, confident attitude toward new things is important for your puppy!
Socialization should not end with puppyhood but is a lifetime journey that you take together. Remember, though, the foundation for your dog’s behaviour is laid during the first few months. Responsible pet owners reinforce social skills and continually expose their dog to new social experiences throughout the dog’s entire life. We want our pets to be welcoming, friendly and trusting, and to be an animal companion who is a pleasure to be around for everyone in the family. Most importantly it is what is best for your dog, because a well-socialized dog is a happy dog, and that is what any dog owner wants most of all!!
Written by Julie Sandberg