Puppy Socialization Tips!
Socializing your puppy can be a very daunting task! If you ask the internet, you’ll find yourself more overwhelmed and confused than you thought possible. Here are our favorite tips on proper socialization garnered over years of working with puppies and their owners:
Every Dog is Different
As much as we would like this to be the case, there is no recipe for socialization! Every dog is different and it is important to consider this when socializing a dog. What might work for one dog could be a disaster for another. In the coming weeks, we’ll cover socialization tips for different puppy personalities we see frequently.
The socialization window starts to close around 12 weeks, and is typically closed by 16 weeks. This means you should start socializing NOW, not wait until your puppy is fully vaccinated. As stated in the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Puppy Socialization position statement “The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.” We follow and recommend following their guidelines, which state: “In general, puppies can start puppy socialization classes as early as 7-8 weeks of age. Puppies should receive a minimum of one set of vaccines at least 7 days prior to the first class and a first deworming. They should be kept up-to-date on vaccines throughout the class.”
Quality Over Quantity
Quality always wins over quantity. Focus on making sure every experience is positive, not neutral or negative. Goals of how many people or dogs to meet are great, but not at the expense of having lower quality experiences. Remember our goal of socialization is not to expose dogs to everything in the world. This is simply impossible. Our goal is to teach them that novel things are good, not scary. Good experiences accomplish this, neutral or bad experiences do not.
Needs change as the dog changes
Behavior is fluid. It changes. Remember this. Just because your puppy was super confident at a crowded place yesterday doesn’t mean he will be today. Adjust your plans to the puppy you have today, not the puppy you had yesterday.
Protect Your Dog!
Above all else your job while raising a puppy is to protect your puppy. Watch your puppy, watch the environment and make sure your puppy doesn’t get himself into a situation that scares him. If things aren’t going as planned or your puppy is scared, get out of that situation, don’t wait to see if it gets better on its own. Stay calm and relaxed. Protect your puppy. Your puppy needs to learn that you will keep him safe and not put him in situations that overwhelm him.
Evaluate your goals.
What are your goals for your puppy? Do you want him to be a well behaved family pet that is confident and relaxed when people come to visit? Make sure people visit when he is young. Plan to go camping? Make sure he is introduced to car trips, tents, and hiking. Introduce your young puppy to puppy friendly versions of things they are likely to see as an adult.
Keep Fear Periods in mind
Your puppy is likely to go through several fear periods throughout his life. These fear periods typically last a week. You will notice that your puppy is worried about things that never used to bother him during these times. It is important to be extra careful during fear periods, as puppies can easily learn that they were correct, the world is scary. It is still important for your puppy to get out and see the world, just be extra careful not to overwhelm your puppy.
More than just dogs!
- Socialization is much more complicated than just meeting other dogs. It includes meeting new people, going to new places, learning that noises and novel objects are good, and meeting and working around appropriate dogs.
Raising a puppy is hard, chances are at some point things won’t go as planned. A child will scare your puppy, your puppy will growl at the vet, an off leash dog will run up to you, or something blowing in the wind will cause a puppy melt down. Try not to panic, instead remove your puppy from the situation (while feeding treats if he will eat), step back and come up with a plan to create positive associations with the situation in the future. Then enact your plan!
Keep them Brave
If you are lucky enough to have a brave puppy keep them that way! Brave puppies still need to be carefully exposed to the world. They are at high risk of getting into a situation that ends up being frightening simply because they ARE so brave. Be proactive and keep them from scaring themselves!