Taking the time to socialize your puppy or engage in dog socialization activities is one of the most important things you can do as a dog owner. By doing this, you will help your pup grow into a calm and confident dog. That is because dogs that are well socialized, tend to be more comfortable in any type of environment. Otherwise, they may freak out with anything that is unfamiliar to them.
Dogs that did not go through proper socialization, are constantly feeling insecure. This insecurity can lead to dogs feeling stressed and anxious which can develop behavioral issues such as fear and aggression.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior explains that behavioral issues are the main cause of death in dogs under three years of age. So now that you know how important this is, let us jump into what you can do to avoid this happening to your dog.
When should you socialize your puppy?
The best time to go through the socialization process starts when dogs are 3 weeks old and it goes until they are 12 weeks old. This is when they are in their most sensitive and receptive development stage. During this period, you should help your pup face as many new and unfamiliar things and situations as possible.
If this was not possible because you adopted your dog at a later age or for any other reason, don’t worry. It is never too late to go through this process although it may require some extra patience.
Socializing is not only about meeting new people and other dogs. The goal of socialization is getting your dog used to as many new things as possible. This also means getting used to different environments, sounds, sights, textures, and smells. Getting used to everything that will be a part of your dog’s world.
Daily strolls as an opportuntiy for puppy socialization
Yes, you can start with daily walks around the block. Going out on walks plays a huge role in helping your dog get comfortable with everything happening around your neighborhood. The people passing by, other dogs, the cars driving down the street, and even the wind.
Mix things up by taking different routes which will expose your pup to slightly different sights and environments. You may even run into new four-legged friends!
If by any chance, your pup does not have all his shots yet, there’s no need to postpone these walks. You can still take your dog with you in your arms. It will not be the full socialization experience, but it is a great starting point.
Take this process step by step (pun intended), so that your dog does not feel overwhelmed. Always remember that you want your pup to have a positive experience.
Puppy socialization at home
A big part of the socialization process is getting dogs used to being picked up (if they are still small pups) and handled. So, it is important that dog owners pick up their dogs every day and handle their paws, ears, and mouth. This can make vet visits a lot smoother.
If you have kids in the house, try to promote play between them so your dog gets used to being around people of all ages early on.
At home, it is also where your dog will need to get used to the common noises in your day-to-day life. Things like the vacuum cleaner, water running, and the microwave’s ‘ding’. Your dog should be comfortable with all these noises, or else you are in for a few headaches by having a dog that freaks out with every little sound.
Dog socialization classes and dog parks
As soon as your dog gets all the shots and the OK from your vet. You can hit the dog park and attend some some dog socialization classes. These are a great way to meet other dogs and pet parents in a controlled environment. You can find some classes specially designed for puppies. In these classes, your dog will be able to play off-leash with other puppies around his age. This teaches them boundaries for their play including biting and mouthing.
Another great way to socialize your puppy is by going to the pet store with your four-legged pal. It’s a place where you’re likely to run into other dogs and pet parents with whom you can eventually schedule some playdates at the park later on. One thing to keep in mind when letting your pup interact with another dog is to be sure that the other dog is friendly. Ask the owner if you can let your pooch approach his dog and give a friendly sniff.
Finally, you should encourage your pup’s positive social behavior by rewarding each positive interaction with another dog or person.
Making sense of it all
To help their dogs see the world in a positive way, pet parents should watch their dogs’ reactions and interactions closely to help them have positive experiences that builds their confidence. Remember, never force a dog into a situation that they are clearly not comfortable with but also don’t make it a big deal if your pup acts scared. Play it cool and confident and your dog will follow your lead.
By exposing your dog to different environments and situations and creating positive experiences out of it, they will grow more comfortable with the unknown as time passes by. This is an essential compoent of sucessful dog socialization.