Dear Hopeful: I just got a new puppy and I’ve herd the phrase “Puppy Socialization.” I know basically what it means but can you clarify. Thanks. — William
Dear William: Puppy socialization is very important to a new pup. The goal is to teach puppies how to interact with people, other dogs, their environment and social situations.
Puppy socialization is important because behavioral problems are the main reason dogs get surrendered by their owners, early socialization and training is essential and will help keep dogs out of shelters and save lives. This learning also will make your pup more secure, predictable and self-confident.
If you have a puppy you should start the socialization process during the social development period of a puppies life, which is between 3- and 14-weeks. At this age they are most accepting, less cautious and very curious about their environment. If you have adopted an older dog socialization still can be achieved. It will just be a slower process and you, the owner needs to be patient and aware of the time it may take prior to adopting an older dog.
There are three key ways to properly socialize your pup. First provide positive controlled experiences. A puppy’s earliest interactions shape its behavior forever, so make sure they are positive. Always have small treats ready to reward them for good behavior. Handle your puppy by doing things like looking in ears and mouth and handling their paws. This will make your veterinarians’ job a little easier and save you and your dog stress.
During your experiences it is important to look for signs of stress like tucked tail, licking lips, yawning, shaking and ears back. If you see any of these signs remove your pup from the situation so they do not associate that experience with fear. The second thing is to go for multiple brief encounters. Try for 90 different situations that are associated with pleasurable experiences in the first 14 weeks. Keep encounters short at first, as your puppy develops they will become more confident and comfortable and able to enjoy longer experiences. Lastly offer a variety of experiences. Engage your puppy with different types of people, places, animals, walking surfaces, noises and other situations.
Some ideas for places to go or things to do is to enroll in a puppy preschool class to start training early, sit on a bench with your puppy near a school or where it is active with people, take your puppy to a public park or beach where there is a lot of activity like jogging, roller blading and biking, show your puppy how fun water can be with a baby pool and take your puppy in the car when you run errands or go through the drive-thru but make sure you don’t do this when your pup has a full stomach. Make sure you don’t leave your puppy in the car in warm weather, always keep safety a top priority.
If you need more help with this topic I highly recommend this website provided by UC Davis. http://behavior.vetmed.ucdavis.edu.
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