You want only the best for your puppy. As soon as he has had all his shots you’re going to take him to puppy class or find a trainer. But while you’re waiting you can get started on the very important job of socializing your dog.
Socialization is about much more than meeting and playing with other dogs. It’s about exposure to sounds and objects. It’s about learning to be comfortable alone. There’s a vital learning period where puppies are curious and unafraid, and you should take advantage of it.
It’s like teaching a child a second language when they’re very young. An adult can learn, but it’s much harder. But with puppies, after 16 weeks they enter a fear period, where exposure to new things can be frightening, and those fears can last a lifetime. Use a Puppy socialization checklist and positive reinforcement to have as many happy socialization exposures as you can.
“Puppies begin learning at birth and their brains appear to be particularly responsive to learning and retaining experiences that are encountered during the first 3 to 16 weeks after birth.” – Robert K. Anderson DVM, Diplomat, American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and Diplomat of American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
You can start socializing your puppy as soon as you get him. To fully socialize your puppy you should expose him to a multitude of new things in a pleasant way. Pair the exposure with wonderful treats. If the puppy is frightened of an object, stop and remove it. Try again, another day, but keep the object farther away. Let the puppy choose to explore it, and give him treats as he gets closer to the object.
Expose your puppy to different sounds like sirens, trucks and barking. Handle your dog by touching him everywhere, pretending to clip his claws or do an ear exam. Body handling is a vital part of proper socialization. Get him used to different surfaces he may encounter, like the metal exam table at a vet’s office. Bring him in a car or on a train. He should encounter all types of people, different ages an appearances, in wheelchairs, with canes. When you have your vet’s clearance you can join puppy play groups, or form your own play group. Be very careful about dog parks. Learn about body language before you go, by using an app like Dog Park Assistant or Dog Decoder.
With proper exposure, and positive reinforcement, dogs can learn to feel safe when left alone or with a new friend. They will not fear thunderstorms, or a visit to the vet. You can prevent problems that plague many owners later in their dogs’ lives.
Remember, quarantine serves an important purpose. You must talk to your vet if your dog is going to leave your home. Even if you carry him, he may still be at risk. And only your vet knows your dog’s health problems and where he is in the immunization process.
Read the following articles and bring them to your vet to open the discussion.
This article is from ABRIonline.org, a great source of information from the American Humane Association Animal Behavior Resources Institute
I highly recommend you follow Dr. Yin’s Animal Behavior Blog. If you have children, look for her free posters aimed at teaching children about the body language of dogs. They show when to approach, when not to approach, and how to approach a dog safely. Good for adults too.
This is from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Their site is mostly for the trade, but they do have a lot of information for pet owners too.
Ian Dunbar is a huge proponent of early socialization. Please read about The SIRIUS Puppy Raising Initiative for Dog Professionals: Breeders, Veterinarians, Pet Stores, Trainers, and Shelters and look for his free downloads BEFORE you get a puppy.
And read this post for some great tips to help you bring up your young puppy.
Please remember two things:
1. There is no timer on your dog. The socialization window does not close at exactly sixteen weeks. But their brains are open to learning at approximately 3 – 16 weeks and you should take advantage of that time. With proper exposure, and positive reinforcement, they can learn not to be afraid of the world. They can learn to be alone, not to fear thunderstorms, they can learn patience, learn not to be spooked by strangers. You can prevent problems that plague owners later in their dogs lives.
2. Quarantine serves an important purpose. You must talk to your vet if your dog is going to leave your home. Even if you carry him, some vets believe he will still risk exposure. And only your vet knows your dog’s health problems and where he is in the immunization process. Learn what the proper time is to take your dog out. Which shots he’s had, and how much exposure he can have to other dogs. Is it okay to place him on the sidewalk, or should you carry him? Consult your vet to be safe.
I see so many adult dogs with problems that could have been prevented with proper socialization. I’d love to help you start your puppy off right. Contact Graceful Canine