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Why socialization is important

Getting a new puppy is, as it should be, an exciting event.  Raising a puppy to be a well-behaved adult dog, however, requires a commitment of time and effort.  One of the most important aspects of training is socialization.

A properly socialized dog is secure, confident, and comfortable when encountering new situations, people, and animals.  An unsocialized dog is fearful and unreliable thus more likely to be aggressive.

Getting started with socialization

The sensitive socialization period for puppies is 4- 12 weeks of age.  During this critical time the puppy’s personality is most malleable, so it is crucial to introduce the puppy to a variety of different situations.

Puppies should be introduced to different people, places, objects, and other pets in order to help the puppy learn how to interact and respond properly to new situations.

  • Invite neighbors and friends of different ages to stop by and meet your new puppy.
  • Introduce your puppy to the mail and delivery persons.
  • Introduce your puppy to people wearing hats, carrying umbrellas, and wearing costumes.
  • Introduce your puppy to someone riding a bike, rollerblading, riding in a wheel chair, and pushing a baby stroller.
  • Invite friendly, vaccinated dogs to come over and play with your puppy. Visit these animals at their houses too.
  • Introduce your puppy to new sounds like the vacuum cleaner, garbage disposal, etc.
  • Take your puppy (once vaccinated) to shopping centers, parks, and playgrounds and walk him/her on a leash in a crowd.
  • Enroll in puppy obedience classes as this provides a great opportunity to be around other dogs.

Although the socialization period is most sensitive before 12 weeks of age, your puppy can still learn after this time, but it may take longer and be more difficult.

A key concept in socialization is to make sure that each experience is enjoyable and not frightening. Threatening experiences may cause setbacks.

Make the experiences positive by praising, touching, offering treats, and engaging in play.  If your puppy seems fearful it is best to ignore the behavior and avoid comforting or coddling as your puppy may interpret this as praise and increase the fearful behavior.

Take your time with socialization

While it is important to socialize the puppy to as many situations as possible, it is also important to go slow and not overwhelm the puppy with too much at one time.

Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, only expose your puppy to safe and controlled environments.  Avoid dog parks and do not expose your puppy to unvaccinated or unhealthy dogs.

Having a well-adjusted, happy, friendly adult dog is accomplished by taking the time to introduce your puppy to new people, places, objects, and animals as early as possible.