As a Dog Trainer and Dog Behavior Expert, I am often surprised by the number of dog owners who don’t adequately socialize their puppies properly. I don’t think that breeders and vets stress the importance of socialization from a very early age. Sadly, lack of socialization can affect a dogs personality and behavior for the rest of their lives.
There is no excuse to not be socializing your puppy from day one. If they are not fully vaccinated, you can take them out and about in a bag or stroller
What is Socialization?
Socialization is a broad term used to describe mentally and physically preparing your pup for the world around them.
These imporatant skills are developed in the first few months of your dogs life and will last it’s lifetime.
Puppies that are socialized well are less prone to reacting badly to noises, other dogs or other people.
A well socialised puppy is more likely to integrate into human life easier starting your lifetime together on the right path.
Socialization is divided into to parts. The first part of socialization is teaching our pups to be well mannered around other dogs and people. The second part is referred to as habituation which is teaching our pups that situations and noises are not scary (traffic, cars, buses, etc).
Sadly, a lot of people do not understand the importance of this stage in a puppies life. This results in behavioural problems in adolescent and adult dogs (the majority being fear based issues). This is the most common call we get- a dog fearful of other dogs, strangers or new situations. The first 16 weeks of a pups life are so important in preparing your puppy for the rest of its life.
Some breeds are referred to as “reactive breeds” and it is in their nature to be more guarding of their owners or property (terriers are a perfect example of this). It is especially important for dogs like this to be socialised and habituated as soon as possible.
It is the job of a good breeder to start puppies out on the right track with socialisation. Breeders establish the foundations for a puppy’s social skills, learning skills and problem solving abilities.
Breeders handle puppies from birth ensuring they are used to human touch. Introducing a puppy to a variety of different noises, surfaces, toys and textures contribute to a puppies early development.
In addition to asking your breeder about your new pups health checks, make sure you ask what efforts have been made to socialise the puppies so far so you can continue the good work.
The Fear Stage
From 5 weeks old to approx 16 weeks, our puppies go through a transition where a puppies fearfulness starts to increase. It is vitally important that pups are socialised and habituated with as many things as possible during this stage and making all experiences as positive as possible.
Getting out and about with your puppy is key to them excepting everyday things like traffic or farm animals. Also think about your lifestyle. If you live in the City, taking your dog to see horses is not the most obvious choice. But exposing your puppy to traffic, police sirens, subways, etc would be a more constructive use of your time (and vice versa).
Puppy Parties or Group Socials
Use resources such at www.meetup.com, facebook etc to meet other puppies in your local area. Many dog trainers offer socialization walks which are perfect for puppies to make new friends and learn to play appropriately. Having a dog trainer or behaviorist on hand is a nice way of learning what is appropriate and isn’t appropriate in your pups play style.
Hope that gives you a nice introduction to the importance of socializing your puppy. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments