We’re sure you’ve heard of the importance of socializing your puppy, but perhaps you’re not sure how to go about doing so. Here are our best tips for a well-socialized puppy!
You should be aware that your puppies socialization actually begins with their interactions with their mother and siblings. Their key socialization period is from birth to 16 weeks of age. During this time, puppies ‘learn the ways of the world’ from their moms, and learn all about playing, wrestling, and safe interactions with others from our siblings. Puppies learn ‘bite inhibition’ (how hard they can bite before it hurts) by playing rough with their siblings. This is why it’s important that your puppy stays with her mom & litter mates for at least the first 8 weeks of life- taking them home any earlier could result in a poorly socialized puppy.
Once you bring your new puppy home though, all of those socialization needs will fall into your hands as the new Pet Parent. It’s important to teach your puppy that the world is a happy place, to ensure that they’ll grow up into a well-rounded dog. Properly socializing your puppy is key to ensuring that you can enjoy a lifetime together.
By socializing your puppy to a wide range of people, pets, places, and experiencing, you’re broadening their world and allowing them to think more things are acceptable. This results in a dog that you can trust, and take most places with you, knowing they’ll react positively in new situations.
During puppyhood, it’s important to try to expose your puppy to all the sights and smells she’s likely to encounter as an adult. Some ideas include:
- Riding in a carrier in the car for short trips (puppies do have a tendency to get car sick- be warned!)
- Taking a trip to a pet friendly pet store (once your puppy is fully vaccinated)
- Visiting a veterinarian
- Visiting a groomer
- Learning that visitors come to the home
- Playing with other dogs and puppies (look for a puppy play group in your area)
- Playing with a cat and/or other pets
- Exposure to all sorts of new toys- textures, sounds, shapes
- Going out and visiting new parks, and places together
Always watch your puppy for fearful behavior and body language during a new experience. If they become fearful, or overwhelmed, it’s important for you to step back, and offer them some reassurance (and a treat!) By doing so, you can help them to learn that even scary situations can be OK if you give them a chance. If your puppy is very fearful of something, don’t push the issue too hard- you can create a phobia that your dog will deal with for life. Instead, back off a bit, and give your puppy some space. Talk to them reassuringly, and give them a tasty treat to help them re-relax.