In this week’s Sunday Surgery, we’ll be taking a look at the basics of socializing your dog. This is an area that can cause a lot of confusion amongst dog owners, and there is certainly a lot of misinformation floating around on this topic.
In today’s article, we’ll strip everything down to the very basics and give you some pointers on how to get started with socialization.
What is Socialization?
Like a newborn baby, a puppy is born without knowing how to interact with their family- socialization is the process through which a puppy learns the key skills that allow it to communicate with it’s family and be comfortable in its environment.
Socializing a puppy involves ensuring that they meet and have pleasant encounters with as many adults, children, dogs and different environments and situations as possible.
Why is Socialization Important?
For you to enjoy a lifetime of happiness with your dog, they will need to be able to get on with other individuals, humans and animals alike, and deal with a wide range of environments and experiences.
A puppy that is well socialized will grow up to be a happy, friendly dog who can handle any situation that they encounter, enjoying the time spent with their owner.
On the other hand, if a puppy is not properly socialized, they may become aggressive or fearful as they mature. They may be frightened when they encounter new situations such as a trip to the vet or riding in a car. Unfortunately, the natural response for a fearful dog who has no way of running away is aggression.
Aside from aggression, there are other behavioral problems in adult dogs that can be caused by fear. The source of this fear is often a lack of proper socialization and enough different experiences whilst the dog was still a puppy.
By properly socializing your dog, you can go a long way to preventing any problem behaviours in the future.
How do I socialize my puppy?
Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes we see new dog owners make is that they become worried that socializing their dog is a difficult process and something that they won’t be able to do. In reality, the opposite is true- socializing a dog is very easy, you just need to take action and actually do it!
Your puppy needs to experience as many different sights, sounds and smells as possible during the first year of their life, though it is important that this is done gradually so as not to underwhelm him.
No matter what your puppy’s breed or size, the time to start socializing him is now- the more he takes in at a young age, especially in the first year of his life, the better he will be set up for the future.
Plan for your puppy to have several new experiences every day- taking him out as much as possible will expose him to a wide variety of situations and introduce him to a large number of new people and dogs.
It is important to make sure that these encounters are enjoyable for your puppy- plan ahead and keep in mind that puppies have a short attention span so keep them brief to begin with, increasing the amount of time spent on new interactions as your puppy gets older.
Puppy classes are a great way to both train your puppy in a properly supervised environment whilst at the same time continuing the socialization process. Your puppy will have the chance to meet and interact with a number of different people and their dogs, with the added benefit that you will be exposing him to a new environment whilst doing so.
Vaccinations and Socialization
Young puppies are much more susceptible to disease than older dogs as their immune systems have not yet had chance to fully develop.
As vaccines usually can’t be administered until your puppy is around 6-7 weeks old, you can potentially miss out on valuable socialization if you keep him isolated during this time. However, it is possible to strike a balance and begin the socialization process whilst protecting your puppy from disease. Simply stick to the following guidelines, and you will be able to socialize your puppy whilst avoiding infection.
Until your puppy is fully vaccinated:
Do not allow him to mix with dogs whose vaccination status you do not know
Do not take him to parks or walk in other areas used by other dogs
Instead take him to ‘dog-free’ areas, carrying him if necessary to avoid other dogs
Do you have any more questions about socializing your puppy? Is there anything else that you’d like us to discuss in next week’s Sunday Surgery? We’d love to hear from you! Simply use the comments section below or send an email over to email@example.com with your thoughts.