It’s that time again… the holiday season! Since we know this is a time people often decide to bring home a puppy, we thought we’d do a series on puppies! Our first topic of the series is Socialization and why it is so important. Before we get there, we’d like to remind you to do some serious thinking before you bring home a puppy. We ALWAYS encourage adopting from a local (reputable) rescue or shelter… the Branford Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter and the CT Humane Society are great shelters; there are a number of great rescues in the area as well, such as Thank Dog Rescue and Companion Pet Rescue are two local CT rescues. When you bring home a puppy, you have a short period to expose them in a positive way to all sorts of things in the world, so that they grow into a rock solid dog (see more about this below). You’ll also want to start off your basic manners work early, so that you don’t end up with an unruly adolescent dog! We’re happy to help – we offer both group classes, private training, and day training (working with your dog while you’re at work). Give us a call!
Now… on to what socialization is, why it’s so important for your puppy, and how to DO IT RIGHT!!! For more information, please contact me, Bryony Aviles, and we can get you started on the right foot with your new puppy.
What is socialization?
Puppy socialization is the process of introducing your puppy to the world in a way that will help him be confident and unafraid of new people, dogs, other animals, places, sounds, sights and things. The most critical socialization window occurs before the age of 12 weeks, and that window is considered to be closing by 5 months. Generally the younger the puppy is when he is socialized, the more quickly and easily he gains confidence. Although dogs continue to learn about the world after that time, these early months are critical! Many reactivity issues are simply a result of inefficient socialization.
But puppies love everything already!
Sure they do. Until the early stage of their development draws to a close. At that point, they become wary of other dogs if they have met too few. And down the road, puppies can become shy or growly around children or strangers, too, unless they have met and enjoyed meeting a bunch of them.
Under-socialized dogs are at much greater risk of developing all sorts of behavioral problems stemming from fear—aggression, agoraphobia, and reactivity towards certain people and animals, for example. Teach your puppy that the world is safe and prevent behavior problems in the future.
How to socialize your puppy.
- Each socialization exposure must be fun for your puppy! If he is forced to confront fears he’s not ready to handle, the process can backfire and create a fearful/aggressive response. Go at his pace, and at a distance he feels safe. Your puppy should be the one to initiate each approach to something new and be allowed to retreat when needed to feel safe.
- Socialization includes generalization. Though your puppy may be fine with the toddlers or dogs in your home, that does not mean he is fine with all children and dogs. It is a great first step to join a puppy class, where your puppy will meet and interact with more dogs and people, but it is also important that you get your dog out and about to continue to meet new and different people and places.
- Pair treats with exposures to make good associations. If your puppy is worried about those children he sees running across the street, it can help if the sight of the children makes cheese suddenly appear. Or if he doesn’t like his paws touched, a brief touch followed by a lick of peanut butter from a spoon can make paw touches easier to handle. If he will not take food, that is a good indication that you need to back up and lower the intensity of the exposure with more distance or less pressure.
If your puppy seems to be fearful of certain things and doesn’t gain confidence quickly, contact a trainer. Remember, socialization is time-sensitive, so it is important to address the issue as soon as possible! We’d love to hear from you! let us know where you’ve taken your puppy around Branford, East Haven, or Guilford (all the CT shoreline).