Much like human children, dogs are born without the social skills that they need to successfully live alongside their owners or other animals in the household. Instead, these are proficiencies that need to be taught as she grows. This concept is known as socialization.
What is puppy socialization?
The concept of socialization is to help your new puppy get used to the various sights, sounds and smells around him in a positive and engaging way. In doing so, your puppy should grow into a well-adjusted adult dog who is not overly fearful or anxious of new people, new animals and new situations. Instead, she can adapt to them without exhibiting any behavior that could be considered extreme.
How old does my puppy need to be to begin the socialization process?
It is extremely beneficial to puppies to start handling them as soon as they are born. This ensures that they don’t know any different and are not disturbed or anxious by human touch. However, between 8 and 16 weeks old is primarily considered to be the target age during which intense socialization begins. This is because the speed at which puppies mature is rapid, and if you miss this window of opportunity, any undesirable behaviors that she develops then will be all that much harder to change.
How to socialize your new puppy
If you haven’t had a puppy before, you probably have very little idea what needs to be done to effectively socialize her. Your vet will be happy to assist you with the socialization process and give you the benefit of their experience and knowledge. In the meantime, here are some of the key things that you should be doing to introduce your pup to the big, wide world.
Introduce her to new people
Strangers can cause stress, anxiety and even fear in adult dogs who haven’t been socialized. As such, it is important to get your furbaby used to meeting a variety of different people as soon as you can. This will help her to understand that humans aren’t threatening, and in fact they generally enjoy the company of a canine companion. Start by introducing her to friends and family members that may regularly visit your home. Get them to get down to her level so that they don’t appear threatening and let her approach them rather than the other way around. This enables her to make contact if she wants to, or to retreat if she feels vulnerable. Once she has got to grips with meeting adults and children she is likely to come across fairly often, and after she has had all of her vaccinations, get her outside so that she can come across strangers on her walks. Again, let her make contact on her own terms, don’t force the issue.
Introduce her to other animals
Whether you have other animals in your home at the present time or not, it is still very beneficial to socialize your puppy with other creatures. Puppies learn best by playing with others that are the same age, so it is worth asking around to see if there are any socialization or training classes that you can take her too. These are useful for teaching her basic obedience but are also an ideal way to get your pup socialized. In addition to this, go for walks in dog parks so that she can come across all shapes, sizes and breeds of canine, as well as the usual park wildlife. Once she can master a walk in the park without fear, she can feel comfortable with pretty much any animal, even those that are bigger than she is.
Introducing your puppy to new environments
Walks form an essential part of your pup’s care and you will probably be taking her out at least a couple of times each day. This enables her to find somewhere to do her business, as well as giving her all-important exercise. However, walking in the neighborhood can be a scary experience for a pup that doesn’t know the area and whether it presents any hazards or if she is safe there. Over time, try and walk your puppy to lots of different locations so that she can get used to the different sights, smells and sounds around her. You should also make sure that you walk your puppy at varying times of the day so that she can get used to the concept of day and night.
For more tips on how to socialize your new puppy, please feel free to contact our experienced, canine-loving vets in Pelham AL. Call Oak View Animal Hospital at 205-433-0600 to learn more.