Socialization during puppyhood is possibly the most important aspect of pet parenting. Socialization allows the puppy to become acclimated to society’s many sounds, sights, smells, and various other environmental changes that the pup may not experience at home. It also helps the dog become more comfortable around other people and animals. Without the proper socialization during puppyhood, many pooches become anxious, depressed, and sometimes even aggressive. It is the owner’s responsibility to see to it that their pooch is comfortable in the real world.
When is the best time to socialize a new puppy?
Early socialization should begin before the puppy is adopted. Typically, puppies are adopted out around seven weeks old. By this time, the breeder should have already provided four weeks of socialization. The appropriate socialization age for pups is between three weeks old and twelve weeks old. During this time puppies are much more accepting of new things and should show very little signs of fear or aggression. Puppies before twelve weeks old are very impressionable and are likely to absorb their new experiences rather than hide from them.
From the ages of 12 weeks old to 18 weeks old puppies begin to become more cautious of their environment as well as who is in it. They will be less receptive to new things and may start to show signs of fear and aggression. However, owners should slowly introduce new things to their puppy during this time.
If the owners have yet to socialize their new puppy by the time he is 18 weeks old or older, then they likely missed their chance. Once puppies reach 18 weeks old or so they become set in their ways and will be nearly impossible for owners or professionals for that matter to break the puppy of their awkward social behaviors.
Why early socialization for puppies is important
Puppyhood socialization is critical! Properly socialized pups will grow into safe, enjoyable, calm, and loving family pets. The more experiences that a dog is comfortable with, the more people will be able to enjoy the dog’s company. Pooches that have been properly socialized also tend to be far less fearful of new things and are less likely to respond with aggression. This can be especially important to families with young children. If the puppy has not been adequately exposed to the children in the family, then the dog may become anxious or aggressive when they are nearby. Dogs that have been socialized during puppyhood are also calmer during odd situations compared to dogs that have not been socialized.
What is the best way to socialize a puppy?
Socializing a new pup is a full-time job! Puppies between the ages of three weeks old and 12 weeks old need to be exposed to a wide variety of animals, places, people, sounds, and various other experiences. These experiences should resemble situations that you want your pooch to be comfortable in as he grows into an adult dog. For example, if you plan to have your dog by your side on a train then you should walk him near the train station as a first step. Get him used to the sights and sounds that correspond with a busy train station. Next, you will be able to walk your pup closer to the train station and maybe even enter it. Eventually, your dog will recognize the train station and be comfortable in that environment. You should also introduce train rides to him slowly, as well. Early experiences should also include the groomer and the veterinarian. The more time an owner spends with their dog and the more bases they cover, the better socialized their pup will become.
Things to keep in mind while socializing a new puppy
A new puppy is an exciting time for everyone. It is important that the excitement of the new pup doesn’t become yet another overwhelming situation for the puppy himself. In fact, it is critical that any new experience or situation is not overwhelming for the pup. The goal is to make the new puppy more comfortable and less fearful. If you notice that your new dog is experiencing anxiety, fear or is cowering in the corner, then he has been exposed to too much too soon. It is best that you observe his reactions to each new situation and be ready to tone things down if he exhibits signs of fear.
Another thing to keep in mind while socializing a new puppy is that positive reinforcement will go a long way! Owners that provide a treat, petting, praise, or even a game during or immediately after a socializing technique will notice a more positive and socialized dog.
What to do if the new puppy is showing signs of fear
If you are attempting a socializing technique and your pup is exhibiting signs of anxiety or fear then it may be time for him to take a break. Allow him to be alone or just have one on one time with you. Then, when he seems to have calmed, you can begin to introduce him to the scary experience, gradually. It is highly recommended that owners offer the puppy positive reinforcement during or immediately after the puppy’s second attempt at the previously scary experience.
Professional Puppy Socialization options
Some owners may not have the time or the skills to socialize their pooch properly. In these cases, it is best if the owners enroll their pup in a Puppy Bootcamp class or a Puppy Daycare. Canine programs such as these can be wildly beneficial to a stubborn pooch or a young puppy that needs to be exposed to new experiences. Many of these courses are specially designed to puppyhood socialization as well as basic training. They will likely include such techniques as off-leash playtime or play fighting to teach the pups about mouth gentleness. Some classes will even incorporate props such as recorded sounds, odd smells, and costumes to acclimate the puppies to new surroundings.
Early socialization and vaccinations
Puppies are not fully vaccinated at the early age socialization should take place. Pups in the first few weeks of life are protected by the antibodies that their mother provides to them. These antibodies can interfere with the vaccines which are why it is important for puppies to receive their vaccines at the appropriate age. This may cause pet parents to halt socialization until the puppy is fully vaccinated. While this seems like a smart course of action, it, unfortunately, is not. Once puppies are fully vaccinated, they are simply “too old” to begin their socialization experiences. They will not be as impressionable nor will they be open to absorbing new situations.
To begin professional socialization classes at the proper age, it is recommended that the pup receives his first set of vaccines as well as his first deworming at least seven days before his first class. Once the puppy is ready for class, he should be enrolled in an indoor Puppy Bootcamp or Puppy Daycare. Indoor classes are more sterile compared to outdoor classes, and they will reduce the risk of disease or illnesses spreading to the unvaccinated pups.
Proper early socialization is the key ingredient to an excellent, well-mannered and happy family companion. The goal is to expose your pup to enough experiences that he is comfortable, but that he is also able to distinguish dangerous situations. A balance of fun, safe, and protective is essential!