Puppy Socialization: The First Step to a Well-Adjusted Dog
By: Jeff Noce, Voyce President
Most of us find them irresistible with their big eyes, soft ears and insatiable curiosity about the world around them.
Like children, puppies soak up everything – good and bad – so this is a critical time in their development. Therefore, it’s important to put effort and energy into teaching them skills and behaviors that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. While it may be tempting to put it off, the type of adult dog you will eventually have is largely determined by what you do with your puppy now.
Socialization is one of the best things you will ever do for your puppy. A well-socialized dog is able to meet and greet humans, children and other dogs in a polite, calm way. He or she also has the skills to appropriately deal with new situations, people or objects.
Some owners think that socialization is as simple as putting their puppy in lots of new situations and meeting lots of people and other dogs. While that is part of the equation, the real key is to make sure the experience is a positive one.
For example, instead of setting them down in the middle of the dog park and letting them become overwhelmed and possibly frightened, opt for a more controlled approach. Ask a friend to bring her dog-friendly dog over for a play date or enroll in a puppy class at your local training facility. Experiences like these will help create positive associations for your pup.
Other ideas for socialization are:
- Invite people over to meet your pup. The more diverse, the better. Try to make sure your puppy gets to know men, women and children of different ages, ethnicities, sizes and manner of dress.
- Take your puppy with you to pet-friendly stores and let him explore the aisles, ride in the basket (if he’s not too big), and meet other pets and people.
- Alter things in your environment to help him learn to adapt to change. For example, leave an open umbrella in the backyard, move a chair to a different part of the room or hang something from the ceiling.
- Get your puppy used to loud or unexpected sounds by playing different types of music, slamming the door, popping a balloon, etc. Avoid scaring your puppy by keeping sounds low or far away at first.
- Take him to the vet between visits for treats and love from the staff. This will help him view the clinic as something to look forward to and may reduce white coat syndrome.
- Teach your puppy to tolerate grooming and handling. Touch his paws and ears often, raise his lips to examine his teeth, gently brush him, bathe him, and clip his nails regularly.
Remember, never just throw your puppy into an unfamiliar setting or situation. Instead, gradually increase his exposure and give plenty of encouragement, praise and treats. Always watch him for signs of stress and remove him if he seems overly anxious. End the experience on a positive note and try again on another day.
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