What is puppy socialization?
A socialized puppy is one that has been introduced to as many different sights, sounds, people, and situations as possible during his first few months of life (from approximately 3-4 weeks to 14 weeks of age). If a puppy isn’t properly socialized, as an adult dog he may react with fear or aggression toward those things he’s never seen or heard before. That’s why puppy socialization is an important part of raising a confident, happy companion. The process is simple and introducing your new puppy to the world around him can be fun for both of you.
How to socialize a puppy
As you begin socialization exercises with your puppy, you’ll probably need to restrict where you take him until his first round of vaccinations is complete. You can start by introducing your puppy to your house. Have him follow you through your home to experience all the new sights and sounds. Let him sniff around and then familiarize him with as many different experiences as possible. Turn the vacuum cleaner on and off, ring the doorbell, flush the toilet, use the faucets, and do whatever else you think could startle your puppy if he were alone. The more your pup sees and hears the better.
Below are a few ideas to help with puppy socialization after your pup has settled into his new home.
Have family and friends visit
When you start to socialize your puppy it’s best to bring the outside world to him. Once he’s comfortable with his surroundings, invite friends and family to visit. Be sure you don’t overwhelm or frighten him by having everyone over at once. From kids and adults to the elderly, introduce your pup to as many types of people as possible. You can even ask someone to bring their dog along to play with your puppy.
Take puppy for a drive
Get your puppy used to riding in the car by taking him for short trips. Not only is it great for puppy socialization, it helps with visits to the veterinarian or groomer. Drive your puppy to your local park, a friend’s house, or to the beach. Wherever you go make sure it’s a fun experience for your pup and he’ll quickly learn to love being in the car.
Carry puppy around town
A trip to town is an excellent way to introduce your puppy to a varied environment. Simply drive your puppy into town and carry him in your arms while you walk around. This will get him used to all the sights and sounds. Then take him to a place he can be relaxed and play. When you’re finished, pick up your puppy and walk through town back to your car.
Take puppy to the park
Once your puppy is used to car rides and he’s been in town, it’s time to visit the park. Make sure your chosen park is dog-friendly and be wary of other adult dogs. Some dogs just don’t like puppies. One bad incident could mean a huge setback in your plans for puppy socialization. Learn about some of the risks associated with dog parks.
While socializing your new puppy it’s crucial to let him learn at his own speed. If he’s hesitant for any reason, don’t force him and don’t comfort him either. You need to be enthusiastic and act as you want your puppy to act. If you’re happy, relaxed, and confident, then he’ll be, too.
Also, keep in mind that between the ages of 8 and 10 weeks puppies enter what some trainers believe is a fear period. It’s important to take extra precautions and avoid exposing your puppy to any frightening experiences during this time. Things that scare a puppy within these two weeks are believed to leave a lasting negative impression. There’s no need to isolate your puppy, just be careful that the situations he encounters are familiar and enjoyable.
If you invest time in puppy socialization now, your pup will be sure to mature into an adult dog that everyone can appreciate.