A pet is a wonderful addition to a home, and adopting a new puppy can be a very exciting time for your family. There will undoubtedly be plenty for you to learn about your furry friend. Nevertheless, it will be your job as his loving and responsible owner to also take the time to help him learn about various things too, including good/bad behaviors and how to walk nicely on the leash. One of the most important things that you will need to teach your new pup is how to interact with other animals and people around him. This is known as socialization.
The importance of socialization
Socialization should be a priority for any new puppy parent for many reasons. Dogs are highly sociable creatures, but they aren’t born knowing how to behave around others. Equally, they are not able to automatically interpret the behavior of people and animals around them, and they need to learn how to do this so that they can react appropriately.
At what age should socialization begin?
Puppies should be handled by their human owner from the very first day that they are born. However, between 8 and 16 weeks of age is considered to be the key period of puppy socialization. This is because they mature very rapidly during these couple of months, and if socialization isn’t completed then, the undesirable attitudes and behaviors associated with un-socialized animals can be much harder to change.
What happens if my puppy isn’t properly socialized?
Lack of socialization has been cited by many veterinarians as the leading cause of behavior problems seen both in pups and adult dogs. In these instances, the animal in question could become anxious, aggressive or withdrawn when around unfamiliar people or other animals. This can make him unpredictable and difficult to handle.
Many animals who have not been properly socialized become very fearful in new situations. This too can cause them to lash out, or behave in an undesirable fashion, such as chewing furniture or going to the toilet inside the home. They may also behave aggressively or territorially with people and animals.
With challenging behavior being the most cited reason why dogs are abandoned or turned over to shelters, it is easy to see why socialization is such an important aspect of your pup’s development.
How to socialize your new puppy
So, what you can you do to ensure that your new puppy grows up into a healthy, confident and friendly canine companion?
The best way to socialize your puppy is to introduce him to a variety of new people, animals, and circumstances as early on in his life as possible. However, this needs to be a gradual process so that you don’t overwhelm your animal. Doing so can actually set back the socialization process. Focus on one aspect of socialization at a time – people, animals and the environment around your furbaby.
Introducing your puppy to people
Even if you live alone with your puppy, it is important to get her used to meeting a variety of different people as this will enable her to understand that most humans are friendly, kind and nothing to be scared of. It will help her to be less anxious if you have visitors to your home, if you meet people while out on walks, and when she needs to visit our veterinarian. It will even help her to feel comfortable with people such as your mailman or paperboy.
Start introducing your furbaby to the people in your life as soon as you can. Invite friends, family, and co-workers to your home, take her out to the homes of others, and let her get up close and personal with a variety of ages of children. Ensure that the people she meets know to get down to her level and let her approach them rather than vice-versa. This means that she is making contact on her own terms and can retreat if she feels threatened or anxious.
Introducing your puppy to other animals
It is also very important to introduce your pup to other animals, both those living in your home and total strangers. Try and incorporate pets of a wide variety of ages, sizes, and breeds as this will give your puppy a well-rounded experience of animals of many different appearances.
Puppies learn best by playing with other dogs their own age, which is one of the reasons so many owners choose to take their canine companions to puppy training classes. Not only do these classes support the owner in teaching basic commands such as to walk, sit, stay and heel, but it also provides much-needed contact with other animals in a safe, friendly environment. If you are planning on letting your pup spend time with a much larger dog, make sure you keep a close eye on them both so that the larger dog does not become intimidating or too boisterous.
It is essential to remember that your puppy will not be protected from all infectious diseases until her vaccinations have taken effect. Therefore, necessary precautions should be taken to ensure that she is only exposed to animals that are fully vaccinated and healthy.
Introducing your puppy to new environments
If you are spending time taking your puppy out to visit new people in their homes or going on walks, then you are already exposing your puppy to new environments and giving her an opportunity to get used to new sound, sights, and smells. This will make taking her to new places a much less stressful experience in the future. Try and use multiple modes of transport (walking, car, bus) and travel at different times of the day so that she can get used to the differences between morning and night.
If you would like more information about puppy socialization, contact and speak to your veterinarian at Denton Veterinary Center for further advice, and ask around for a recommendation of a local puppy socialization class. With proper socialization, you can help ensure your puppy will grow to be a happy, calm and laid-back canine companion.