When you bring a puppy home, you obtain a source of unconditional love, fun, and companionship. However, this is not all you get when you bring a puppy in. You also bring in a hoard of responsibilities that you, as a dog guardian, are supposed to carry out. You may be rethinking your decision if you have heard stories of dogs going into aggressive mode, ripping up shoes and furniture, destroying houses, and showing signs of separation anxiety. Fear not. All of these problems have one root cause. The absence of training and puppy socialization. This is the problem that I am here to solve today.
Training and puppy socialization is a crucial part of bringing up a puppy. These factors go hand in hand with proper exercise, nutrition, and bonding time. If you do not provide your pup with the necessary socialization skills, your pup will not know how to behave when greeted by other animals or guests inside your home or outside. Therefore, socialization is a non-negotiable part of dog training.
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Why is socialization a must?
Socialization allows your dog to understand how he is supposed to behave in a variety of situations. Whether you are having guests or taking your dog to the dog park, your dog needs to understand the right manner to behave. Under normal conditions, the mother dog is the one responsible for teaching her puppies how they are supposed to act in certain situations. However, when you adopt the dog, you must ensure that the puppy learns proper behavioral and social cues.
When dogs have been properly socialized
And trained, they are much more confident, happier with themselves, and show fewer chances of developing aggression. Proper socialization also makes it much easier for you to control your dog in a social setting. This way, you will not have to restrict your dog to a room or crate when guests are over. Your dog will be free to mingle with them and interact with their pets as well. This will also make it possible to provide a wholesome experience to your dog by allowing him to make friends in the dog park.
Those dogs who are not properly socialized or trained are amongst the bunch that land up in shelters every year. Let’s look at it in a different manner. When a child is born, the child does not know the right and the wrong behavior. It is the responsibility of the parents to teach this child how to behave in society, greet others, treat friends and a variety of other factors. Similarly, when a dog is born, the puppy does not know how to behave in the right manner. It is the responsibility of the dog guardian to train the puppy in proper social and behavioral cues. Therefore, it is not the puppy’s fault that the puppy does not know how to behave. It is the guardian’s fault for not training the puppy the right way.
Why should you socialize your puppy?
The next question that may arise in your mind is why socialization is needed at all. Training may be needed to prevent separation anxiety, provide the dog with enough exercise, ensure that the dog is well behaved on walks, etc. However, where does socialization fit into the picture?
Socialization is a crucial part of the puppy training process. When you socialize your puppy, you help the puppy become acclimatized to all the smells, sights, sounds, and responses in his immediate environment in a positive manner. A proper socialization experience can prevent your dog from being fearful of kids, riding in a car, meeting other dogs, or greeting guests. Proper socialization also means that your dog knows the right cues and the right way to behave when greeting guests or other dogs.
As per experts, dogs who are confident and well-adjusted have less chance of developing aggression later in life. Dogs who do not have the proper training show signs of aggression by three years of age. Socialization allows your puppy to understand how to behave in a variety of situations and how to interact with different people. Through socialization, your puppy will understand the right manner of greeting others, how to be calm when in the presence of kids, and how to feel completely at ease in the presence of strangers.
Benefits of puppy socialization
Puppies love company. They may not know how to behave in the presence of strangers, but they do know that they love to be around humans. Therefore, this time must be used by dog guardians to conduct proper puppy socialization and turn the puppy into a well-behaved dog by the time he reaches adulthood stages.
The process of socialization starts by introducing your puppy to different and new environments frequently. These can involve a stroll in a dog park, walking a few blocks down the road, having some guests over, etcetera. Whenever you are out with your puppy, you constantly train and correct the behavior of your puppy. You teach your pup the right way to interact when your puppy comes across strangers, other animal companions, or dogs. Eventually, and with regular practice, your puppy will learn which behavior is acceptable and which is not. This will make him well-behaved and obedient. Here are the most common benefits of puppy socialization.
Dogs need socialization to develop confidence. This helps them face new situations and strangers. Dogs who are not socialized will not know how to behave in the presence of strangers. They may react aggressively. This aggression is not because of anger. This aggression is because the dog is fearful of strangers. Therefore, socialization aims to remove the fear that the dog may feel toward strangers.
The best way to socialize your pup is to provide positive reinforcement when your pup acts in the desired manner. With positive reinforcement, your pup will start associating new people and new environment with a positive experience. This will set a feedback loop that will allow the puppy to understand that new experiences are not always dangerous. New experiences can also be fun and entertaining.
Reduces fear and increases happiness
The primary reason dogs feel anxious is because of fear. If your dog is afraid, he will feel anxious and will either bark excessively, constantly howl or engage in destructive behavior brought on by separation anxiety. Therefore, it is your responsibility to make sure that your dog has a safe environment. The best way to make your dog comfortable in his immediate environment and as well as the outside environment is to provide proper socialization. When your dog goes out into dog parks and makes new friends, this will develop your dog’s confidence in himself and reduce the chances of aggression. With proper socialization, the bond between you and your dog will also grow. Your dog will learn to accept your decisions because he knows that you have his goodwill in mind.
Once your pup has been exposed to a variety of experiences during the puppy socialization stages, he will be stress-free, less fearful, and happier. Engaging with other dogs will also release adrenaline and provide proper mental stimulation. This keeps your dog excited, happy, and healthy.
Travels made easier
Are you planning to go on a trip with your pup? If your dog has been properly socialized, traveling will be a breeze for both you and your dog. Planning to go to the beach? You have to first train your dog to be accepting towards strangers and enjoy the company of humans. If this is not the case, your dog will feel miserable in the presence of people he does not know. He may start to act out as well. Therefore, socialization is crucial if you want to take your dog out on trips with you. You can plan a quick weekend getaway to a nearby pet-friendly resort or even take your dog to a pet-friendly restaurant.
Easier trips to the vet
If your dog is reactive, taking your dog to the vet may turn out to be a nightmare. This is why experts always advise conducting proper puppy socialization. With proper socialization, your dog will not be afraid to go to the vet’s clinic. The more your dog is exposed to a variety of environments in a comfortable manner, the more comfortable he will be if he suddenly has to meet and greet strangers.
You may also have to take your dog to the vet for vaccinations. If your dog is already well settled and properly socialized, the wet visit will not be a traumatizing experience for your pup. However, if you have a reactive dog, going to the wet can cause incredible trauma.
If you have not socialized your dog to the environment of the vet’s clinic before, you should spend some time showing your dog around the clinic so that your dog becomes acclimated to it. Offer him a few treats so that he starts associating the clinic with a positive experience. This way, the pain of the needle is not what your dog will remember on the next vet visit. He may remember the treats and look forward to getting some nice treats on visiting the vet’s office.
Improves and deepens your bonding with your dog
This is not only true about socialization. Any kind of training you provide your dog helps deepen the bond the two of you share. Dogs are very understanding creatures. They can understand human body language and figure out what we want from them. When you train your dog, you not only pick up on the cues your dog is giving you, but your dog also picks up on the cues you are giving him.
When you start puppy socialization, your puppy learns to trust you. He learns that he can trust your judgment with being around strangers, commuting, meeting new dogs, etc. This is crucial for the establishment of trust between you and your dog. Your dog also understands that if he is ever in danger, he can look forward to your help. When your dog is out playing with friends, if the other dog tries to hurt him, your dog knows you will come to the rescue. These are crucial factors that your dog must understand. Once your dog realizes this, he will be more inclined to trust you.
If you are asking a trainer to socialize your dog, then your dog may develop a bond with the trainer. Therefore, as a guardian, it is crucial that you also play a part in the training and puppy socialization process so that the bond you have with your dog deepens as well.
You can get the help of a professional dog trainer if you are finding it hard to socialize your puppy on your own. However, try to stay by the side of your puppy when your puppy goes for socialization. This way, your puppy will also associate you with a positive experience.
When should you socialize your puppy?
The best time to socialize your puppy is the first three months of the puppy’s life. However, it is not advisable to take your puppy out for socialization unless your puppy is fully vaccinated. Therefore, you must wait for the vaccinations to get over before you can take your dog to the dog park. Before the vaccinations, your puppy is susceptible to a variety of infectious diseases like parvovirus, canine distemper virus, rabies, and a variety of other infectious diseases. Therefore, it is advised that you take your puppy out for socialization only once the vaccinations are done and over with.
Breeders also have a responsibility toward puppy socialization. If you are purchasing a puppy from a breeder, the socialization process has already started before you bring your puppy home. How the breeder interacts with the puppy is a crucial factor that will go a long way in deciding how the puppy grows up to be.
If the breeder mishandles the puppy and instills fear in the heart of the pup, the pup may have a hard time adjusting to its new home and may require a longer socialization period to attain the same level of socialization as another dog who has not been mishandled. Therefore, it is crucial that you get your puppy from a breeder who is responsible and loves the puppies as their own. The breeder should also encourage the puppy to interact with adults and children alike. These factors are crucial in shaping the puppy’s socialization cues. Good breeders also provide the puppy with proper stimulation of inside and outside environment, crates, smells, variety of sounds, sights, etcetera.
How can you start with puppy socialization?
If you, as a dog guardian, want to start the process of puppy socialization, these are the steps you will have to follow:
Introduction of the puppy to words, new sights, sounds, and smell
The world is a very unusual and strange place when you see it from the eyes of a puppy. Every time the puppy comes across something, the puppy is inquisitive and wants to explore it. This is the chance for the dog guardian to make a positive impression on the pup. The more you socialize your pup during the puppy stages itself, the better it is for the adult life of the puppy. Start with kids. Bring in kids, guests, and other dogs and expose your puppy to them. Here is a checklist for you to mark off during the socialization process.
Have the puppy meet the following people:
- People walking on the carpet
- People walking on hardwood
- People walking on tiles
- People walking on linoleum floors
- Meet an old person
- Meet the young person
- Meet someone who is in a wheelchair
- Meet someone who’s using a cane
- Meet a person who has a beard
- Meet a person with a mustache
- Meet a person carrying an umbrella
- Meet a person wearing a hoodie
- Meet a person wearing sunglasses
You may not necessarily find all of these people during your dog’s puppyhood stages. The crucial factor here is to make your puppy familiar with as many different sights and sounds as you can. This is also the perfect time to start the crate training process so that your puppy has a positive environment to go to in case they feel afraid.
Associate puppy socialization with positive reinforcement
Negative reinforcement never works. Punishing your dog never works. I don’t remember how many times I have said this, but you cannot expect yourself to bring up a well-rounded and well-behaved puppy if you punish your dog. Therefore, always use positive association, whether you are socializing your dog or training.
Keep a check on the treat quantity.
During the process of socialization, every new thing that the puppy comes across should be associated with a reward. This way, the puppy will learn to associate kids, strangers, other dogs, etc., with a positive experience. If you don’t want to overload your puppy with treats, you can reduce the portion of treats that you are providing your puppy from the regular food amount. This way, you can regulate your puppy’s feeding schedule and make sure that your puppy does not become overweight. Furthermore, you can also break the treat into smaller pieces so that it’s easier for your pup to digest.
One crucial piece of advice I have to give here is that you should keep your nervousness under check and show an immense level of patience. Puppies are quickly distracted. However, this does not mean that they are stupid. Puppies can easily sense if you are afraid or frustrated. If you show either of these emotions in front of your pup, your training will become infinite times harder. Therefore, be patient with your pup, and do not be nervous when introducing your puppy to another dog. Your dog might be feeling afraid too. He will derive confidence from you. If you are already afraid, you will multiply your dog’s fear. This is not good for the socialization process. This way, you will raise a fearful dog instead of a confident one.
Involve all the family members
You need to challenge the comfort zone of the puppy in a manner that is not intrusive. Therefore, for the socialization process, you should involve every member of the family. The puppy should be comfortable hanging out with any of the family members. If you have a kid in the family, involve the kid in the socialization process. Many puppies grow into dogs who are afraid of kids because they have not been socialized properly from an early age. Therefore, make it a point to involve kids in your socialization process.
Progress slowly and gradually.
Do not put too much pressure on your puppy at one go. Puppies can get distracted very quickly. This will increase if you put a ton of pressure on your pup. For example, suppose you want to acclimatize your puppy to ten family members. However, you cannot have all ten of them hovering over the puppy at one go. Get your puppy used to one member and then next, and so on and so forth. The integration should be slow and gradual. If you suddenly bring ten strangers into your pup’s life, your pup may start to feel overwhelmed and anxious and display a fearful response like aggressive behavior towards your family members.
Take it outside
Once you feel that your pup is gelling well with the family members and the other companion animals in the house, it is time to start taking your puppy outside. The aim here is to expand your puppy’s experience little by little. Do not take your puppy on a mile-long walk on the first day. Take him around one block. Once your puppy starts to feel comfortable with that distance, you can slowly increase it. Take your puppy to the local pet store or on a play date with another puppy. Once your puppy has received all the vaccinations, you can take your pup to the dog park and allow him to socialize with other dogs. However, be very careful and follow all the dog park safety protocols.
You can also take your puppy on different walk routes every time so that your puppy gets acclimatized to the different sights and sounds.
Enroll in puppy school
Once your puppy has received all of the necessary vaccinations, you can send your puppy to puppy classes. You should accompany your puppy to the classes since these classes are meant as much for the guardian as it is for the puppy. These classes provide the perfect environment for the puppy to make new friends, socialize and engage in learning the right kind of behavioral cues. These classes also provide a lot of exposure to other canines and humans. Since skilled dog trainers are available to supervise all the meet and greet, you can rest assured that your puppy is in safe hands.
Send the puppy to daycare.
Once your puppy has received all the necessary vaccinations, you can also send your puppy to a dog daycare. This is pretty crucial if you have long work hours and cannot be with your puppy throughout the day. The daycare is a perfect option for such a predicament. Your pup will get to interact with other canines and humans in the daycare. This way, he will learn puppy socialization. The daycare may also teach the puppy a few tips and tricks. Therefore, when you bring your puppy back, your puppy might just be a little bit wiser. He will also not feel bored in your absence, and there is less chance of developing separation anxiety when the pup has company and is kept mentally and physically engaged.
What about older dogs? Can older dogs be socialized?
Every dog is trainable and sociable. If you have an older dog who has not been socialized properly previously, you must make socialization a positive experience so that the dog does not develop any fear of the same. The best part about dogs is that they can be trained at any age. You will have to go slow and be gradual regarding the socialization process. Exposing your adult dog to too many stimuli at one go can make him fearful and aggressive. Therefore, always provide supervised socialization. Focus on reintroducing your pup to new smells, sounds, and sights in a slow and gradual manner, along with loads of treats, praises, and other forms of positive reinforcement. If your dog has aggression issues, you must work with a dog behaviorist to help reduce aggression and work on the socialization process.
Your love, patience, and positive reinforcement will help your dog overcome his hesitation and fear and come out of the shell he is hiding under. Gradually you may see an entirely different side to your dog that you may not have seen before.
Conclusion of puppy socialization
Socialization is as important as training. The importance of puppy socialization cannot be undermined. If you want a well-behaved and mild-mannered puppy, socialization is the key. If you are finding it difficult to train your dog on your own, you can always employ the help of a dog trainer or a dog behaviorist. However, it is best if you stick around during the training and help with it as well. This way, you will be able to deepen your bond with your pup and eventually take over the training process.
There is a myth that socialization should only be done during the early stages. However, this is not true. Whether young or old; all dogs can be socialized. For socialization, you must introduce your dog gradually to different sights, smells, people, animal companions, etc., so that your dog becomes comfortable at one level before moving on to the next. Try not to overwhelm your dog with too many stimuli at one go. Make sure that the meet and greet is always positive and that your dog is feeling comfortable.
If you want to know more about the different dog breeds, their psychology, training process, and care, please subscribe to The Happy Puppers. The subscription form is present in the sidebars. Your subscription will allow me to notify you of the release of any new blog posts. This way, you will stay updated with all the latest tips and tricks in the dog care industry. If you like watching videos, please subscribe to the YouTube channel of The Happy Puppers, Shruti, and Delta. Do not forget to ring the notification bell.
Share your experiences
How did you socialize your dog? What methods did you employ to make the socialization as easy and comfortable for your dog as possible? How much time did it take for your dog to be comfortable around other dogs and humans? Please share your experiences with others in the comment section below. Your experiences can help someone else become a better dog guardian.
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