Socialization is exposing your puppy to as many different environments and stimuli within their environments as possible. The crucial age to begin this is from 5 to 16 weeks of age. They should be introduced to other puppies and other dogs gradually and in small numbers so as not to overwhelm as they learn how to interact. When playing with other puppies always ensure that your puppy has a positive experience. Pair them with other pups of similar age and similar size.
When they are playing together, praise your puppy for playing well. This means not pinning down another pup or backing another pup into a corner, or when wrestling with another puppy not letting them wrestle for more than 30 seconds. If they do, part them, as remember when puppies or dogs are wrestling, their adrenalin level starts pumping and if they are not separated this is where what started off as simple play can turn into a tiff and then a fight. Equally do not allow other puppies to do any of the above to your pup. If supervised properly this is where your puppy will learn “balanced play”.
At this stage your puppy should also be introduced to children and adults and the is key is to introduce them to a variety of people of different ages, genders, sizes, different ethnicities, people wearing hats, normal glasses and sun glasses, people wearing backpacks, holding an umbrella, wearing boots, heavy coats as people appear bigger. All the attire that your new puppy is likely to see people wearing when they go walking down the street or when they go to the park to get them used to those things at a young age so that nothing fazes them.
Take your pup on car rides to get them used to being driven around remembering to ensure that they are always secure and by that I do not mean sitting on your lap! They should either be secured with a pet seat belt which can be purchased in any pet store and should always be used with a harness on, or in a crate or pet carrier.
Introduce them to shopping centers, both indoor and outdoor and into stores that allow dogs so that they get used to crowds of people. A trip to your local pet store where again they may see other dogs will be fun, but, always remember if your puppy is not fully vaccinated they should probably be held in a pet store as there could be or could have been dogs that have gone in there who were sick and as your new puppy has not built up their full immunity yet they need to be protected.
Different noises and objects within the home are also important things to get your new puppy accustomed to. Get them used to the vacuum cleaner, the swifter, the noise of a kettle whistling, blenders you may use, the dishwasher, washing machine, dryer etc. Remember some of these objects are much larger in size and noisy to a young, small puppy and can therefore seem quite scary. Use treats to pair them seeing these large objects or hearing those weird noises so that they associate those large scary things with something delicious and tasty! Noises and objects outside the home are also important for your new puppy to get used to such as lawnmowers, garbage trucks and other trucks, motor bikes, skate boards, tractors if you live in the countryside. Ensure that you introduce them to people, places and noises gradually. Young puppies can get overwhelmed and tire easily so make a plan and do things daily with them but in short, positive bursts using tasty treats and giving lots of praise.
Another very important exercise to do with your pups is handling. Make sure that you get them used to being stroked them from their heads down to their tails, running your hands down their legs and touching their feet. Some dogs can be very sensitive to their feet being handled so take care to do this gently giving plenty of praise and using treats so that they have a positive association with this. Also get them used to having their ears stroked and touched. Dogs that have floppy ears which can collect a lot of dirt will need to get used to their ears being cleaned regularly so get them to enjoy this and remember when cleaning a dog’s ears only clean the outer bits of the ear. NEVER clean the delicate area inside the ears as you can easily cause damage.
An important fact to remember during the crucial socialization period is that puppies have two fear imprint periods. The first is from 8 to 10 weeks and the second is between 6 months to 14 months. During these developmental stages if they have bad experiences for example with another dog, a person, a child maybe pulling its tail, a loud noise, a large object, a visit to the vet etc this can cause them to carry fear of that thing, children or people looking a particular or dressing in a particular way for a very long time. Work can be done to help overcome this, but, better to take the care that they only have positive experiences during these times especially.
Above all remember that the period of socialization is extremely important so take the time to plan things so as not to overwhelm or flood your puppy, do it in a positive way using treats and praise to ensure that you later have a healthy and confident dog who can handle life in its environment.
Do you have question or challenges with your dog or just want to share you own experience with other readers? Feel free to comment below and stir up the conversation!
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