What is socialization?
Socialization is a life-long process. It involves exposing your puppy to as many different things, people, animals and environments, as possible. It is a desensitization process.
By exposing your puppy to every new sight, sound, smell and situation possible he is more likely to react positively to these situations when they come up at a later date. He will view everything you socialize him to as non-threatening, non-exciting and a normal part of everyday life.
Socialization is the key to a happy, healthy, friendly and well rounded dog. The main reason of socialization is to be able to take your puppy to any event and have him be calm, confident and un-afraid of what is going on around him.
A well socialized dog is able to go to any place the law allows without becoming over excited, hyper active or afraid. He will not bite out of fear or because of a new occurrence. He won’t run away from something new and become injured or injure anyone around him.
How do I start?
From the time your puppy is born until the time he leaves his mother he has been socialized in a variety of ways. He has learned how to interact with his litter mates and depending on where your puppy came from might have even been introduced to children and other animals!
When you bring your new puppy home, don’t wait. Start to introduce to him things that wouldn’t normally be a part of his everyday life. Open an umbrella for example. Most new puppies will run away and then slowly come back and sniff to find out what the object is. This is good. It shows that your puppy is not afraid of new things.
Before you start on your daily walk, make sure to have an arm-load of puppy treats! Give every stranger you meet on your walk a treat and let them give this to your dog. Make sure you meet all kinds of people; People with hats, darker or lighter skin, skirts, jeans and different hair styles. Anything different will do. If the law permits bring your puppy on the bus or to the mall. Stop at pet stores, parks and off-leash areas to meet other dogs.
Do’s and Don’ts of puppy socialization
Your puppy might act afraid of some situations. This can lead to extremes such as growling and snapping or can be as simple as your puppy hiding behind your legs. The easiest way to help your puppy get over his fears is to act unafraid yourself. Be confident that the situation is under control and be enthusiastic about what is going on. Try to get your puppy to calm down and become a part of the situation. Never coddle your puppy or pacify his fears. Puppies see these actions as encouragement and it will make the situation worse.
When starting to socialize your puppy with other dogs he might become fearful and whine or even yelp! Always talk to your puppy in a soothing and encouraging voice but never pick him up. He views this action as you letting him know the other dog(s) will hurt him and he will continue acting this way and can even become aggressive every time he is around new dogs! Leaving him on the ground and letting the dogs work it out is best. If there is no harmful physical contact going on the dogs will be fine.
Socialization also calls for children to be near your puppy even if you don’t have any kids of your own! Most people make the mistake of thinking that if they don’t have kids they don’t need to take the time to introduce their puppy to other children! All dogs at some point in their lives will interact with kids. Find children that are a little bit older to start with and have them calmly hold and pet your puppy. Pick children that are calm enough and old enough to understand that yelling and running around, pulling on fur and teasing are not allowed. Remember to never leave your children or the children of others unsupervised with your puppy at any time no matter how good of friends they become.
In short socialization is not a hard process but it takes time, love, common sense and patience to achieve. Socialization continues for the life of your new best friend. Anything new he comes in contact with he needs to be socialized to. If you start early the process becomes far easier than starting with an older dog. By three to four months of age if you haven’t started socialization training and your dog shows any signs of aggression towards other people or other animals consult with a professional trainer.
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