Thursday, March 24, 2016

How to Socialize a Puppy

You got a puppy! Now what...

Most people have heard about the importance of socialization but what IS proper socialization?

What it is:

  • A well run puppy class. This puts puppies (under six months at least) in a safe environment where they can comfortably interact with other puppies.
  • A puppy play time. These should either be limited to young puppies (under six months) or have separate areas for different age groups. All dogs should still be under a year.
  • Puppies also need to be exposed to things besides other dogs. They need to be exposed to kids of all ages, other animals like cats and even horses if you may come across them, a variety of different people (different races, genders...) and even different surfaces to walk on. While this often isn't as adorable as puppies playing it goes miles to help form a confident adult dog.

    What socialization is NOT:

  • Puppies under a year should not go to dog parks. Play with a large number of adult dogs is not socialization. Think about having your five year old child hang around a bunch of teenagers all the time. It may be fine but they likely will learn a few swear words along the way.
  • As with dog parks, puppies should not go to the vast majority of dog day care facilities. Unless a facility has a specific program for puppies where they play with almost entirely other dogs under a year and there are lots of rest times (about 45 minutes of play with an hour to two hours of rest between) it is not considered socialization and runs the risk of them learning bad habits, getting over corrected by an adult dog or picking up an illness from the other dogs.
  • Puppies should not be allowed to approach all other dogs out on walks. Many dogs do not do well on leash with other dogs. This is not the fault of the owner often but is either a matter of genetics or lack of socialization which may have been out of the current owners control. Even more dogs that may be ok on leash with other dogs do not tolerate puppies. Lastly, what is often an adult dog teaching manner to a young puppy looks awful to owner so it is possible that the other dog will "correct" your puppy but that may be startling to both you and your puppy. It is best to allow a professional to determine what are appropriate corrections to behavior.
  • Forcing your puppy to approach everything. Let your puppy investigate things as he or she feels comfortable. The best thing to do is praise them when they approach something but allow them to hang back as they need to. Also don't put your puppy in a situation where he or she shuts down. Street festivals and jammed sidewalks are not a place for puppies to get used to new sights and sounds.

    When should I do this?

    Immediately! Dog's window for socialization with other dogs ends around four to five months so this must be done prior to that.

    There is so much more to discuss about how to prepare your puppy to be the happiest dog around so contact a qualified trainer as soon as possible!