Do’s and Don’ts of Socializing Your Puppy
By John Wade for Exceptional Canine
Showing off your new puppy to your family, friends and neighbors is a joy for you and gives him the opportunity to be adored by everyone he meets.
Although you might not realize it, these positive interactions are helping your puppy become properly socialized. Socializing your puppy is a must-do for both of you if you want him to grow into a well-adjusted dog that’s less prone to being timid or fearful of new things he encounters.
Socializing Your Puppy Begins Early
Socialization began with your pup’s mother and continued with the breeder. Now you’re the parent. So start the process the day you bring your dog home. The socialization he receives between 8 and 10 weeks of age is especially critical, as this is what is known as the “fear period.” During this time, his interactions with people and other animals should be gentle and reassuring. For example, kids love to play with puppies, but too much rough handling or screaming can scare a puppy and create a lifelong fear issue around children.
You have the most impact on socializing your puppy up to approximately 12 weeks of age. Gradually expose him to various sights, smells, sounds and situations, including:
- Infants, toddlers and adolescent boys and girls
- Adults and senior citizens
- Other dogs in the neighborhood and at dog parks
- Moving objects like cars, bikes and skateboards
- Rural settings with trees, water and other natural flora and fauna
- Urban locations with “downtown” sounds, like traffic
Just be sure you limit your puppy’s exposure to other dogs and animals until he has been vaccinated against canine diseases. And, when you’re not in your own home or backyard, keep him leashed or restrained until he’s trained to “stay” or “come” on command.
My Puppy Needs Socialization Help
Playing and interacting with other dogs and people is naturally fun for your pup and a good way to observe if his socialization process is going well. Some fear is normal and healthy. Imagine how you’d feel if a strange person 10 times your size approached you. That’s what it must seem like to a 10-pound puppy when a 100-pound dog runs up to him.
Some aggression is just a sign of your dog testing his boundaries, not a sign of more serious problems. But if you think your puppy is abnormally fearful or aggressive — for instance, if he snaps at every dog that greets him — consult a professional dog trainer.
Socializing your puppy is the best time investment you can make to help your dog grow up to develop a sound, friendly and outgoing temperament.
John Wade, aka “Ask the Dog Guy,” is a dog trainer, author, newspaper columnist and speaker. He has written several books to help pet owners and professional dog trainers and breeders, including Puppy Socialization — What It Is and How to Do It.