When puppy owners think about training their pet, most automatically think about commands such as “Sit!”, “Stay!”, and “Roll over!”. However, while these are all great actions for your puppy to learn, some trainers consider properly socializing your pup to be one of the most important training activities you can do with them – in addition to house training your puppy. Socialization can definitely be started at the home level and we have provided some tips and tricks for successful socialization below.
What is Puppy Socialization and why is it important?
Basically put, puppy socialization is teaching your dog how to be a part of society. It is the key to having a happy, well-adjusted and confident dog and can prevent so many future issues, such as aggression, fear, separation anxiety, etc. Socialization means getting used to interacting with human beings and other dogs, as well as other kinds of pets, surroundings, noises, scents, etc.
With effective socialization, a puppy will become used to a variety of experiences as well as learn how to engage with unknown scenarios with confidence and ease. They will grow into a dog that is less likely to be fearful of common triggers, such as children, car rides, thunderstorms, etc and that is more likely to be well-mannered and content.
Not only does puppy socialization produce a happier dog, but it is also linked with a healthier dog as well. It is a helpful way to prevent stress and anxiety in dogs, which can take a toll on your dog’s health. Unfortunately, euthanizing dogs due to their behavioural issues is also quite common and effective socialization is a vital way to prevent this possibility.
When should I start socializing my puppy?
Socialization is best started as a puppy when their brain is still developing and before they have developed too many bad habits or been exposed to trauma. Ideally, your puppy will have already started being socialized before you even bring them home!
Most puppies are most accepting of new experiences when they are between 3 and 18 weeks old, after that, they gradually become more wary of the unknown. Therefore, it is your job to start your own puppy socialization process as soon as your pet joins your family.
How do I start socializing my puppy?
The two most important ideas to keep in mind when you begin socializing your puppy are: introducing new experiences and keeping a relaxed and positive atmosphere. If you show your puppy that the unknown can be positive, they will be less likely to fear it.
Involve all the senses:
A socialized puppy should be able to handle experiences for all of their senses. Let them explore their new environment so they can get used to all the strange sights. Turn on things that make noise, such as the radio, the dishwasher, the hairdryer, the vacuum, etc, starting with the least to most loud. Make sure that you are keeping a close eye on your puppy during this process so you can reinforce the positivity the whole time and also keep them out of trouble.
They should also become accustomed to the sense of touch, both when they touch things and when they are touched by others. They should experience different surfaces, like carpeting, tiles, and grass. They should also experience being petted and scratched, as well as having their ears, paws and teeth touched. This will help them be more comfortable when visiting the vet.
Family and friends:
In the first few weeks with you, be sure that your puppy is socialized with a number of different humans as well. It is important that anyone else living in the household is involved with the socialization. Your puppy will get used to different looking and smelling people, and it’s also a good idea to introduce humans who are different sizes or are wearing different things (such as a hat, umbrella, oversized jacket, etc). Teaching your puppy at a young age how to interact with human children is a vital part of this socialization process. All of this should be carried out with as much positivity as possible
Dogs and other animals:
Once your veterinarian has cleared your puppy to interact with other animals, you should set up some time for them to interact with other dogs. If you have friends or family with well-mannered dogs, setting up a supervised playtime. It’s important for puppies to learn how to interact with other dogs at a young age so that they aren’t too intimidated when they are older. You should also make sure that the dog they are interacting with for the first time isn’t too aggressive or dominant, as you don’t want your puppy to be frightened off. It is also a good idea to start getting your puppy used to other animals as well – they should start getting used to seeing common animals like cats, birds, squirrels, etc.
Walking and public spaces in Seattle:
When your puppy seems to have become accustomed to all the sights and sounds of your home and yard, you should start moving to more public spaces. Taking your dog for walks will allow them to encounter new but common experiences in Seattle such as different kinds of vehicles, like cars, garbage trucks, city buses, as well as different kinds of people and their dogs.
You can also take your puppy to different places, like your friend’s home, a pet store, the vet offices, where you are still in control of what your dog is experiencing but can open their world up even more. When your puppy is ready, you can also start introducing them to the dog park, where they will learn how to interact with all kinds of other dogs. It’s important to start this introduction slowly and make sure that your puppy knows where you are and can leave the situation if they are uncomfortable every step of the way.
How professionals can help:
One on one training sessions:
When you introduce a new puppy to your family, it’s always a good idea to hire a certified trainer to help set you on the right path. The trainer can help you with a number of new skills that your puppy will need to learn, such as commands, potty training, leash training and, of course, socialization! A professional will be able to easily spot any social issues your puppy might have or any bad habits they are developing, and correct them before they are too ingrained.
Attending puppy classes:
Puppy classes are a wonderful place for your puppy to become well socialized with other dogs as well. There will be a trainer that can help with how puppies should be introduced to each other and how to handle any unexpected situations. You and your puppy will learn how to approach new scenarios from a professional and will be able to bring these lessons into the real world.
Socialization is one of the most important activities you will do with your new puppy to ensure a happy, confident dog. Taking these steps while they are young is vital to prevent having anti-social problems in the future. Consult with a Professional Seattle Dog Trainer and having them work directly with your puppy in order to ensure that they become as well socialized as possible.