Teaching a puppy or a dog proper socialization skills is vital to the safety of both your dog and other dogs and people with whom he comes into contact. A properly socialized dog is a happy dog, and a joy to be around for both humans and animals. A poorly socialized dog, or one with no socialization at all, is a danger to other animals, other people and even his own family.
The younger the pup, the better results, perhaps around 12 weeks of age.! It is possible to socialize an older puppy, but it is challenging to achieve maximum results after the all-important 12 week period has passed.
A dog that is properly socialized will be neither frightened of nor aggressive towards either animals or humans. A properly socialized dog will take each new experience and stimulus in stride and not become fearful or aggressive. Dogs that are not adequately socialized often bite because of fear and such a dog can become a hazard and a liability to the family who owns it.
Improperly socialized dogs are also unable to adapt to new situations. A routine matter like a trip to the vets or a friends house can quickly stress the dog out and lead to all sorts of problems. There are so definite do's and don't when it comes to socializing any puppy properly.
Let's start with what to do.
• Make each of the socialization events as pleasant and non-threatening for the puppy as possible. If a puppy's first experience with any new skill is an unpleasant one, it will be complicated to undo that in the puppy's mind. In some cases, early trauma can morph into a phobia that can last for a lifetime. It is better to take things slow and avoid having the puppy become frightened or injured.
• Try inviting your friends over to meet the new puppy. It is essential to include as many different people as possible in the puppy's circle of acquaintances, including men, women, children, adults, as well as people of many diverse ethnic backgrounds and ages.
• Also invite friendly and healthy dogs and puppies over to meet your puppy. The puppy needs to meet a wide variety of other animals, including cats, hamsters, rabbits and other animals he is likely to encounter. It is, of course, essential to make sure that all animals the puppy comes into contact with have received all necessary vaccinations.
• Take the puppy to many different places, including shopping centres, pet stores, parks, school playgrounds and on walks around the neighbourhood. Try to expose the puppy to places where they will be crowds of people and lots of diverse activity going on.
• Take the puppy for frequent short rides in the car. During these rides, stop the car once in a while and let the puppy look outside the window.
• Introduce your puppy to a variety of items that may be unfamiliar. The puppy should be exposed to everyday things like bags, boxes, vacuum cleaners, umbrellas, hats, etc. that may be frightening to him. Allow and encourage the puppy to explore these items and see that he has nothing to fear from them.
• Get the puppy used to a variety of objects by rearranging familiar ones. Merely placing a chair upside down, or placing a table on its side, creates an object that your puppy will perceive as totally new.
• Get the puppy used to standard procedures like being brushed, bathed, nails clipped, teeth cleaned, ears cleaned, etc. Your groomer and your veterinarian with thank you for this.
• Introduce the puppy to everyday things around the house, such as stairs. Also, introduce the puppy to the collar and lead so that he will be comfortable with these items.
There are, of course, some things to avoid when socializing a puppy. These socialization don'ts include:
• Do not place the puppy on the ground when strange animals are present. An attack, or even a surprise inspection, by an unknown animal could traumatize the puppy and hurt his socialization.
• Do not inadvertently reward fear-based behaviour. When the puppy shows fear, it is reasonable to try to calm it, but this could reinforce the fear-based behaviour and make it worse. Since biting is often a fear-based behaviour, reinforcing fear can create problems with biting.