If you’re a dog owner, I’m sure that at some point in your dog-owning journey you’ve heard that you need to socialize a dog. If you’re new to dog-owning or have recently adopted a new pup, don’t skip this post. It is crucial for your puppy to develop into a well-balanced and happy dog.
Alright, so you know you should socialize your puppy. But why? And how?
The “socialization” process is a very important part of your puppy’s life. Especially between 3 weeks and 12 weeks of age. At this stage is when puppies are most sensitive and receptive. It’s the sweet spot to socialize a dog.
During this stage, you should expose your pup to as many new and unfamiliar things as possible. This means exposing him to new people, situations, environments, textures, sounds, and more.
Sometimes you’re not able to do this with your dog in the perfect stage. It may be because you adopted him at an older age or he was very fragile and ill as a puppy and you had to keep him indoors. But it doesn’t mean it’s too late! It may take longer and a bit more of your patient but you can still get there.
Why Is This Important?
Dogs that haven’t been properly socialized as pups tend to have a harder time dealing with anything that is unfamiliar to them. This means they have a constant feeling of insecurity which leads to stress and anxiety.
A dog that has constant feelings of stress and anxiety ends up developing behavioral issues. Examples of this are fear and aggression.
According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, behavioral issues are the main cause of death in dogs under three years of age. So having a well-socialized dog can actually save his life!
Dogs with behavioral problems are usually reactive towards people and other dogs.
Do you want your dog to develop into a relaxed, happier, and enjoyable furry friend? You’ll need to make sure that he’s comfortable with a wide variety of situations as possible. That way, he’s less likely to feel fear or become aggressive when faced with something new.
But, to socialize a dog isn’t just about exposing him to new things and that’s it! You should watch these interactions closely and your dog’s reactions to them. That way you can make sure that he has a positive experience.
Socialize a Dog With Humans
A great way to start is by taking your dog out and walking around the neighborhood. This will help him become more comfortable with the world and the people around him.
You should also expose your dog to as many people as possible. Men and women. Younger and older. Fortunately, not a lot of people will say “no” to holding an adorable pooch!
And that takes us to another point. Your dog should be cuddled and handled often so he gets used to having people touch his mouth, paws, ears, nose… everything!
Needless to say that you should be careful when doing this not to harm him. And if there’s a treat involved, that also helps in creating a positive experience!
To socialize a dog also means to get him used to different sounds. This means kitchen sounds, your phone ringing, TV sounds, cars driving by, and so on. Be careful not to introduce too many sounds at once as this can overwhelm him.
Another very important thing to get him used to is to having people approach his food bowl while he’s eating. That way he won’t develop “resource guarding aggression” in the future. Walk up to your dog while he’s eating and drop a treat inside his bowl if he allows it. Then walk away.
Get him used to you walking up to him and picking up his bowl. You can also leave a yummy treat inside before giving him his bowl back.
Your dog should also learn not to bite people’s hands. To do that you should give him appropriate toys that are safe for him to chew. And, whenever he bites you too hard while playing, make a sudden noise – like a loud “Ow!” – and end the game there. That way he’ll learn it’s not OK to bite that hard.
Socialize a Dog With Other Dogs
While walking around your neighborhood or a park nearby, you’re likely to cross paths with other dogs. So it’s good that your dog gets used to them so he doesn’t have a reactive behavior towards them in the future. This is one of the biggest things you can do to socialize a dog – letting him interact with other dogs.
A great way to start this is by taking your dog to a dog park but not letting him in. Let him watch the other dogs. Every time another dog comes near your pup for a sniff, give him a treat. That way he’ll associate being around other dogs to a good thing!
While walking around with your dog, it’s normal that you’ll start meeting the same dogs. That can be a great opportunity to schedule play dates.
Make sure that the other dog is friendly before letting them go for a “meet-n-sniff”. Let them interact enough time for them to get acquainted but not too long that your dog gets tired.
It’s important that you know your dog’s signs of discomfort.
As with anything about your dog, make sure the whole family is on board with how you’re training your dog. Consistency is key!
Whenever introducing their puppy to new situations it’s normal for some people to feel some fear.
Everything will be alright. Stay calm and confident even if your puppy acts scared. Don’t push him into a situation he’s not comfortable with but also don’t make a fuss out of it if he seems scared.
It’s always good to keep some treats at hand. It always helps in creating a positive experience.
A great way to get your dog introduced to new situations in a controlled and safe environment is by taking some dog training classes. That way he’ll meet new dogs and people.
Remember that the world becomes a little less scary as your puppy gets used to more and more things in it.