Puppy Socializing: The Complete Lowdown on The Crucial Stage
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Most new dog owners will regularly talk about getting their puppy to follow basic commands and mastering toilet training but there’s another huge element that tends to be ignored. As the title may have already given away, we’re talking about puppy socializing.
The importance of this stage should never be understated. Research has shown that those dogs who were not socialized properly during their early life are more at risk from behavioral problems. This in itself should pinpoint exactly why you should focus on it heavily, as we investigate the topic in full through the course of this guide.
Why should so much emphasis be placed on socializing your puppy?
Before we get into the ins and outs of how to socialize your puppy, let’s start with the reasons why you simply have to do it.
As we all know, dogs are one of the most sensitive animals around and communicate more than most. However, during the first twelve weeks is where their life can really be shaped – this is the period where they encounter new situations, and approach these new situations with a completely open mind. In terms of socializing, this means that they start to learn about body language (in both humans and other dogs) and learn how to bond properly.
If a dog fails to learn how to socialize properly during this time, research has suggested that there is a bigger chance that behavioral problems could be encountered in the future. Sometimes, these problems can be so severe that a dog may have to be sheltered – so it’s a topic that you have to get right.
One of the big misconceptions is that an aggressive or anxious dog is one that has been mistreated in its youth. In actual fact, in a lot of cases, these behavioral traits only occur because they weren’t socialized early when they were starting to learn about communication in their early weeks. It doesn’t matter how much training they receive as they age, it’s very hard, perhaps impossible, to rewrite history and provide them with that elusive social interaction.
What sort of socialization should you expose your puppy to?
As we’ve already highlighted, there’s a relatively small window to socialize your dog sufficiently. In fact, for a lot of owners this window is even smaller, with many not taking their dog home until they have at least reached several weeks of age.
As such, it’s crucially important to expose them to the ‘right’ forms of socialization in these first twelve weeks. Let’s take a look at some of these.
This one won’t come as a surprise in the slightest. Again, this is the time where your puppy can learn about the body language of other dogs and how to address them appropriately. It’s something that can reduce the risk of dog aggression or anxiety in the future.
While socialization to people in general should be encouraged, it should go without saying that children are categorized slightly differently. They tend to be more excitable, have higher-pitched voices and can just prompt different reactions from animals. Therefore, subjecting your puppy to children can prepare them perfectly for later life.
So far we’ve looked at “living things”. Well, socialization can revolve around the way in which your dog is treated as well. If you can get your puppy used to being touched, being medically assessed and all of the other “standard” processes, you can make the tasks much simpler in the future.
Socializing with traffic might seem to be a strange phrase, but it’s very true. Whether its cars, bikes or even skateboards – it again gives your puppy the opportunity to find out how to deal with them in those elusive first weeks.
Admittedly, this might be a little difficult to “arrange” – but you certainly shouldn’t be trying to shield your puppy away from any loud noises during those first twelve weeks. We’re talking about the likes of fireworks, storms and even alarms – the sort of noises that can cause distress, but will be much easier to cope with in the future if they were experienced at a young age.
Are there any safety considerations related to puppy socialization?
As we’ve just seen, there are a whole host of situations that you should be looking to expose your dog to during those initial few weeks. With that being said, there are several safety concerns that you should keep in mind.
These twelve weeks are also the time where your puppy is susceptible to a whole host of problems, particularly as they won’t have completed their initial vaccinations. Take a look at the following advice to minimize the risk of problems and illnesses developing through socialization.
Exercise caution with public places
Most public places are going to be questionable at this period, for the simple reason that you don’t know what other dogs have been there. As your puppy hasn’t yet been vaccinated fully, they run the risk of picking up a whole host of health issues by other dogs that have been there. Additionally, if the area is quite unknown to you, you’ve also got to ask yourself if you can be sure that you’re not going to come across other anxious dogs which may cause problems with your socialization.
Be wary of grass
Grass is a puppy’s dream – it tends to arrive in large open spaces and they can roam around as much as they desire. Unfortunately, it’s something which can be the perfect host to parvovirus.
On the flip side, this is a virus which doesn’t tend to survive on concrete, or anywhere which is subjected to direct sunlight. Before those initial vaccinations are complete – make sure you bear this in mind.
Don’t be afraid of carrying your dog
If you’re not sure about the safety of a place – don’t be afraid to pick your dog up. Any area which has been frequented by other dogs is going to be risky – even a friend’s house. These viruses can last for a couple of years so even if a dog doesn’t reside at a house, there’s a chance that the virus may still be historically lurking around.
A final point on puppy socialization
Let’s clarify a few things we have been over so far, and finish with some tips on how you can get the most out of your puppy’s socialization period.
Again, this is the time where your puppy can get the most out of new experiences. At the same time, care has to be taken to ensure that these experiences aren’t negative and have side effects for later life.
Throughout the period you should be keeping a close eye on your puppy and ensuring that they don’t seem to be issuing any signs of anxiety. If you do find this, stop the activity or at least tone it down.
You should also be making sure that you recognize and credit good behavior whenever possible. Whether it’s with treats or just good old praise, this is the period where your puppy can really get to grips with his behavior and set him for later life.
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