Puppy Socialization

Socializing a puppy, or exposing them to a variety of stimuli, is an important step towards raising a well-adjusted and happy dog that is neither fearful nor aggressive towards others and their environment. Dogs who are not socialized are often unable to adapt to new and unknown situations in the future. This can make for a dog that is fearful or aggressive with other dogs, animals or humans. Unsocialized dogs can be dangerous if they are not properly handled and trained.

Developmentally speaking, weeks 3 to 12 (or 14) are the period in a dog’s life considered the “sensitive” period of learning. It used to be thought of as the “critical” period of learning, but experts have found that dogs can sometimes make up for missed socialization later on if necessary (usually with the help of a qualified trainer and lots of patience). However, during this time in a dog’s life, it is very important for them to be exposed to a variety of sounds, people, animals and environments. However, it is important that interaction with these individuals and environments be a positive experience for the puppy.

How to Socialize a Puppy
One way to approach puppy socialization is to imagine all of the possible situations and stimuli with which your dog may come in contact throughout their lifetimes and expose the puppy to these or similar stimuli during this developmental period. Now, realistically, this can be a difficult task to carry out, but the objective here is to expose puppy to a variety of people, places, and animals, with positive interaction, so that puppy can grow to be a well adjusted and healthy dog.
During the socialization period, introduce your puppy to all different types of people—men, women, people of different ethnicities, old people, young kids, babies, people on bikes, people jogging, the mailman, etc. Having positive experiences meeting these various people can make your dog better adjusted and more sociable and friendly with new people she meets.

Introduce your dog to other dogs, cats and other animals. This one; however, comes with a caveat. Because puppies at this age are generally not fully vaccinated, it is wise to have your dog socialize with only fully vaccinated animals to protect your dog from disease. Furthermore, it is better to socialize your dog with other animals you know can be trusted and friendly towards your dog. This is because you want your dog to have a positive experience with other animals.

Bring your dog into a variety of new environments, including the car, stairs, thresholds, shopping centers, the vet’s office, the pet store, crowds of people, the park, playgrounds, and other places in which you want your dog to feel comfortable. Expose your dog to a variety of sounds, including the vacuum, emergency vehicle sounds, fireworks, thunder (if possible), the blender, etc.—essentially as many noises as possible in a positive and safe environment, so that your dog can learn to be comfortable with unknown noises.
Expose your dog to handling, including bathing and brushing, clipping the nails (or at least handling the feet), and touching of the ears, mouth, paws, and other areas of the body so she becomes comfortable with handling and grooming.

Some Words of Caution
Simply exposing your puppy to all this stimuli is not enough. The key to successful puppy socialization is to carry it out in a safe, positive, and slow manner. Furthermore, you don’t want to reward your dog for a fearful or otherwise undesirable response to a certain stimuli, as this can encourage the persistence of this behavior. You also want to be sure you are not exposing your dog to dangerous situations where they can be threatened, hurt or exposed to illness. This can increase the risk of lifetime phobias in dogs. It is also important not to rush the socialization process. Puppies need a lot of rest; exposure to a variety of new stimuli over an extended period may overwhelm, rather than properly socialize, your puppy.

Puppy Socialization and Training at Absolute K9
Our experienced trainers at Absolute K-9 can help you properly socialize your dog, while providing training and problem solving. During your training at Absolute K9, we not only work with you to learn how to properly socialize your dog but we help socialize your dog with other safe animals, people, public areas, veterinarian settings, and more. We bring our doggie-clients into a variety of environments as we train them. This way they not only become properly socialized but they also learn how to behave in real life situations, which is what you want after all, right?

To learn more about puppy socialization and training, please contact the experienced professional trainers at Absolute K-9 to learn more about our training options. We offer a free consultation during which you can ask all of your puppy questions, express any concerns you may have, and discuss your training needs and goals with an expert. We can be reached 7 days a week by calling (​800) 961-6442


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