Early socialization is important for puppy development. Yet, many puppies missed the opportunity and other aspects of puppyhood socialization due to different reasons. Some dog owners might not have had time. Others didn’t know how to. Adopted dogs, on the other hand, have unknown histories and come from different backgrounds.
Socialization is one of the most important aspects of dog training. Navigating through a puppy’s socialization can be confusing.
How to safely socialize a puppy? How to use socialization as part of dog training? We try to answer some of the important questions.
Why do we Socialize Dogs?
Here is the simplest answer. The more and the better you socialize your dog, the more calm and well-behaved your pup will be. You can solve many behavior problems through socialization.
While many dog owners believe socialization is only socialization with other dogs, the reality is different. It is a much broader term. Socialization is exposing your dogs to as many things as possible. That means exposing your pet to different people (male, female, adult, young, kids, elderly), different situations and different areas, and different dogs.
And during that exposure, you want to associate every event with something positive. For example, if you want your dog to love kids, when you socialize him with kids, give them treats of higher value. This way, your dog learns that kids have the best treats and he will love spending time with them.
How do you socialize a dog?
The technique for socializing a puppy is quite simple and easy. You go and introduce your dog to a new environment, person, or anything in between. Praise and encourage the good behavior (or the behavior you want your dog to show). Usually, that is calm and polite behavior.
Praise the positive response you want. But if you get a negative response, stay calm and ignore it. Do not punish your dog. Punishment is not sufficient. It only tells your dog what he is not allowed to do while you are here. It doesn’t tell your puppy what is the positive behavior you want.
So, when you get a negative response, remain calm and ignore it. Go back a step, and continue socializing. Create positive associations in the early stages. It is easier to go forward then.
Remember, socialization requires effort, discipline, commitment, and everything else. Laziness will result in negative behavior from your dog.
When to Socialize Your Puppy?
One of the mistakes dog owners make is they wait too long to socialize their puppy. You socialize your puppy the day you get him home. No, that doesn’t mean you can take him out and bring him to the dog park and expose him to a dozen of other dogs.
The day you bring your puppy home, you expose him to other people. You can call your friends. Or call relatives. Or just expose him to different devices in the home.
New puppies should be exposed to:
- Unfamiliar people
- Unfamiliar dress
- Body handling
- Urban environment
- Water and woods
- Different types of flooring and ground surfaces
- Common neighborhood objects
- Other animals
Between 3 and 12 weeks of age is the sweet spot for puppy socialization. Before your dog gets all the vaccine doses, you can expose him to different people, kids, flooring, ground surfaces at home, and many more at home.
Mixing it up
As we said, you have to expose your dog to a variety of people and dogs. In terms of people, that means men and women, but also children and the elderly. You want your dog to learn that there are different people. How can you do this? Well, you can call your friends to hang out at your home.
How many people do you think would come to hang out with a young and happy puppy? Your puppy will go from one human to another, receiving praise and rewards. Do not make the mistake of allowing your dog to hang out with the same people over and over again. He might grow wary of anyone that is not that person.
When you socialize your dog with kids, give them higher-value treats. We mentioned this before. Kids can act goofy around dogs. They might frighten your dog. But if you give them higher-value treats, your pup will love them. He will make a positive association instead of a negative one.
Here are some rules:
- Stay calm and confident if your dog acts scared
- Do not push your dog into an unfamiliar and anxious situation
- Tell people to pet your dog only where their hands can be seen, on the chest or chin
- Give your puppy treats to make a positive association with new people and experiences
Where can you socialize your dog?
We said before that going to the dog park in the early days is a big mistake. Why? Because there you will find a dozen of dogs. You cannot be certain that all of them will act friendly toward your dog. Or between themselves.
One mistake, one dog fight, and your puppy might be scarred for life. So, with that in mind, where are some places where you can socialize your puppy?
Well, start from trails. There, your puppy will meet lots of dogs, but one by one. He will not meet them all at once. And you decide which pup you want your dog to sniff.
Go to the park where kids are playing. Or call a friend and go to a school where there are lots of kids. Do not go alone, you might look creepy.
Hiking trails are another place you can go. There, your dog will meet people and dogs they can play with. Or, you can arrange a puppy date with another friend.