Why Socialization is So Important for a Growing Puppy | Everything is new to puppies. From the moment they’re born, like any human child, they’re learning. They learn to trust Mommy and to watch out for their little brother when he comes around with those sharp teeth! They learn the difference between playing and real danger. They learn which noises mean good things are coming (Dinnertime!), and which mean that something bad is about to happen. As they grow and venture further away from Mom and the clan, their fear instincts drive them scampering back to the safety of their mother and littermates until they can differentiate between real dangers and innocent things.
Why Puppies Have Fear
Their fear is a defense mechanism until they gain the knowledge and experience to stay safe. The strongest period of active socialization for a puppy is from the age of three weeks to twelve weeks. Learning, of course, continues after that. But those weeks are crucial for puppy to begin to understand that people, other animals, children, and typical situations aren’t something to fear. They are positive experiences to be enjoyed.
Socialization Keeps Dogs Out of Shelters
Poor socialization is one of the primary causes of behavioral issues in dogs, and unfortunately, behavior problems are the number-one reason dogs wind up in shelters. In order for your relationship with your new puppy to develop into a lifelong companionship, good socialization is essential. Of course, most owners don’t even get possession of their puppies until age 6 to 8 weeks. That means you have barely a month to make the most out of that critical socialization period.
Socialization Versus Overwhelming Your Pup
But socialization isn’t about immersing your new pup into tons of new people and experiences. Young puppies are easily overwhelmed with “sensory overload,” and coming on too strong can trigger that fear instinct — having the opposite effect of good socialization. That’s why it’s wise to balance good socialization with smart exposure and plenty of safety, security, and rest in between new people and experiences.
How to Properly Socialize Your Puppy
Exposing your new puppy to a variety of people, animals, events, and experiences should be done slowly, one at a time. Each day of that critical month, make sure your puppy meets someone new or goes somewhere different. Venture out and meet new people when puppy is well-rested, well-fed, and under no other stresses. For example, don’t expect him to have a positive experience with someone new just after he gets his shots or right after a bath he really didn’t want.
Good socialization exposes your pup to a variety of safe, positive experiences. Consider introducing them to:
- People of different colors and cultural backgrounds
- Men and women in uniform
- Children and babies
- Older people
- Other animals, particularly those he’ll see regularly, such as nearby horses, other dogs, and the neighborhood cats
- People he will regularly be exposed to, such as the mailman, your in-laws, and the neighbor kids
- Places you regularly visit and want to take your dog when he’s grown, such as local parks, the vet’s office, the pet supply store, and other public areas where dogs are allowed
- Get him in doggie daycare as soon as possible, so that he gets used to the people and animals there during the critical socialization period
Socialization: Slow & Easy
Introduce puppy to only small groups, perhaps one or two at a time. Start with the people you know who are used to dogs, especially those with calm demeanors and gentle personalities. You might want to wait until Pup has had many positive experiences with new people to introduce him to particularly boisterous kids or adults who tend to be “loud talkers” or have energetic personalities. Dogs naturally pick up on the emotional climate of the people and animals around them, so be sure those experiences are overwhelmingly positive as your puppy gets well socialized.
Puppy’s First Prances in the Dog Park
If you have a local dog park you’re excited about visiting with your dog, use caution when introducing him there. Make sure he’s gotten all of his vaccinations first, and that your vet okay’s the excursion. Begin taking him during the least-busy hours, such as early in the mornings or in the middle of the weekday, when everyone’s at work. Don’t go on Saturday afternoon until your pup is well-adjusted and acclimated to other animals and people. A new puppy could be traumatized by a bunch of big dogs before he knows the drill!
Safety Comes First in Socialization
If you have small children, introduce them slowly, allowing both the child and the puppy to learn the scope of acceptable behavior. For example, instruct the child on how to treat the dog (No, no! We don’t pull Rover’s fur!) and make sure the puppy isn’t too aggressive with the child. He’s used to being able to wrestle and nip with his littermates, and won’t yet understand that it isn’t okay to nip the baby. Prepare a safe, comfortable place for puppy to go if things get out of hand and he needs to settle down.
Be ready to remove your puppy quickly from any situation if things get out of hand. For example, toddlers often don’t know the difference between “fun play” and hurting the puppy, such as pulling his tail or poking him in the nose. While the child absolutely means no harm, these experiences might cause him to shy away or become defensive around children in the future, which is unhealthy for both the dog and the children.
How Doggie Daycare Plays a Critical Role in Good Puppy Socialization
Honestly, most new dog owners find it difficult to get the time to expose their new babies to all the different people and situations they need to get used to. That’s why doggie daycare is such a blessing. Not only will Puppy benefit from a well-trained and highly-knowledgeable staff of caregivers, he’ll have easy, safe access to other well-adjusted dogs. Nothing helps a new puppy learn the ropes more than being around older dogs who know the score.
Additionally, they’ll meet a wide variety of other pet owners as they come to drop off an pick up their pets. He will meet the nice lady who smells like baked bread, the big guy in the shiny officer’s uniform, and people of all colors, nationalities, and personalities. Doggie daycare is also the best way to assure that he doesn’t develop any separation anxiety or shred the furniture when left alone at home.
Looking for an excellent doggie daycare for your new pup? At Just Happy Hounds, your new best friend is our new best friend. Contact us for more information on the perfect doggie daycare for socializing your new pup!
Because we love em’ like you do!
Just Happy Hounds, LLC – Midtown – where we make sit happen!
We’re located at 2222 5th Avenue South, Birmingham, Alabama 35233
your premiere dog fraternity providing doggie daycare, dog boarding, dog grooming and dog training.