Socializing Puppies

Socialization and puppy training are of utmost importance as puppyhood is the most important and critical time in your dog’s development. What you do, and do not do, when your puppy is young can affect your dog’s behavior forever.

Puppy socialization is essential.  Some may believe that there is no reason to socialize your puppy because you are planning on just having your puppy in your home.  In all actuality, that is a pretty tall order.  You will be taking your puppy to the vet, you may need to board your puppy, or there may come a time when you want to take your puppy/dog to a family member’s house.  Even if you think that you can avoid having strangers grab at or love on your puppy/dog when it is outside the house, what about when he/she is in your house?  Do you plan on never allowing anyone but the immediate family in your house? 

An Unsocialized Dog CAN be a Dangerous Dog

Anyone your dog has not met is a stranger to them and there is a very good chance your dog will act more aggressive on its own property when it has not been socialized.  Even if your dog is not aggressive, when backed into a corner (whether that corner is real or imaginary) a scared dog will not hesitate to nip.

Socializing your puppy will allow your puppy/dog to handle anyone or anything he/she would normally meet in a day.  A well-socialized dog will take life in stride while a dog who has not been socialized will act frightened or aggressive around people and places he/she has never been introduced to.

Other issues that can be associated with unsocialized dogs is that they can be untrustworthy and a liability.

Unsocialized dogs often become fear biters or they may try to fight with other dogs. Unsocialized dogs cannot adapt to new situations and a simple routine visit to the vet can be a nightmare not only for the dog, but for everyone involved. Do not let this happen to you and your dog. Socialization will give your puppy confidence. Start socializing your puppy immediately.  

Inside Until Immunized

Although socialization is extremely important, you do not want to throw all caution to the wind. You need to make sure that your puppy has had all of its vaccines before you start socializing it outside of the house. Your pup’s health is what is most important. Nonetheless, this does not mean that all socialization should wait until vaccines are complete.

You will want to socialize your dog inside the household until all of his/her vaccinations have been given. Once he/she is fully immunized, you will want to start taking your puppy outside of the house to socialize him/her. Remember, your main goal is to make it easy for both you and your dog to go anywhere and meet anyone, human or animal.

What the Immediate Family Should Do

One aspect of socializing a puppy is getting them used to being touched in multiple ways and teaching them patience and acceptance. It is important for a dog to learn to accept actions that they are not inherently “programmed” to accept. Many of the actions that they need to learn to allow are associated with actions that may be performed by children. Unfortunately, young children do not think before they play with a dog. They also make weird noises, have odd movements, and are a bit overwhelming.

If there is not a young child that lives in the house, it is impossible to teach a dog to accept what a child may do to them. However, it is your responsibility to lay the groundwork. IF there is a child in the house, you also need to go through these steps. The reason for this is that many parents watch what their children do around a puppy, but cannot guarantee they will always be there OR that one of your child’s playmates may not “break” the house rules you have laid down for your child concerning the dog. There are a number of ways in which you and your family can do this.

To Do

Socialization in the Home

Invite friends and family over to meet your pup. Include men, women, children, the elderly, different ethnic backgrounds, etc. The more people you can introduce your puppy to the better. If you can find friends and family that are willing to help you, it is better than just inviting people over and ignoring the puppy. Anyone who is willing to get on the floor at the puppy’s level will help the puppy adjust quicker. 

Another beneficial option is arranging play-dates. Invite friendly, healthy, vaccinated dogs and puppies into your home to meet and play with your new puppy.

Socializing Outside the Home

Once your puppy’s vaccinations have been completed, take him/her to dog-friendly places such as PetSmart, your child’s school, walks around the block, or dog parks.

When out and about, there are many adults that will be sure to ask your permission to touch your pup. The best way to allow this is to ask your puppy to sit and instruct the person to place the back of their hand near the puppy’s snout. After a few seconds, the person should turn their hand around and pet the pup under its chin. After this, moving to the top of the head and over the pups body is acceptable.

Think About the Kids

The reality is that there are people (mainly children) that will forget to ask or do not want to take the time to be advised on how to approach a new dog. In all reality, this is not really a “bad” thing. Having a child run up and hug your puppy around the neck without warning will help make your puppy (and more importantly, your adult dog) tolerant to this type of attention. You do not want your pup to react negatively if surprised. However, you need to keep watch when this is first happening to your puppy. Praise acceptable behavior.

If your puppy/dog reacts poorly in any way when being approached by a stranger. make sure you stop the situation immediately. However, this does not mean that you do not put the pup/dog in the same situation again. On the contrary, you want to make sure that you do just that, MULTIPLE TIMES. In the privacy of your home, or with willing and knowledgeable participants, recreate the issue that you observed. If the puppy/dog misbehaves, correct its behavior immediately. If the puppy/dog behaves, each time, they should receive praise. Give the dog a short rest period and then recreate the issue again until the dog seems to completely accept the situation.

Looks Do Matter

Men/Women – Everyone is built differently. Some men and women are taller, some are shorter. In general, puppies/dogs are comfortable with what they know. If you are a man who is 5’10” of general build, with no facial hair and a tenor voice; your dog will be comfortable with other men who carry the same characteristics. In this case, a very tall man with a baritone voice and facial hair may make your puppy/dog nervous. If you are a woman, 5’5″ with a slight build and an alto voice, you will want to introduce other women who are taller, shorter, have a higher voice, etc. 

In addition, you need to make sure your puppy meets both genders. This may sound odd to some, but there are men and women out there that spend most of their time alone or with a few close friends. If this is the case, your puppy needs to meet other people to make sure that he/she can feel comfortable in almost any circumstance. You need to make sure that your puppy is introduced to people “types” that he/she is not around all of the time. Once you leave your house, your puppy will be meeting will all sorts of people. You want your puppy to enjoy his/her first time on a “trip” and not be worried about all the “new” people around him/her.

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