Socializing your pet dog whilst he is still a puppy is crucial to ensuring he becomes – and remains – a properly adjusted, well behaving dog for life. Read on as we give you some pointers on how to do it right.
When you should socialize your puppy
First of all, what is the proper time to start socializing your new canine companion? The key socialization period for most dogs is from the age of 7 weeks up to 4 months of age – this is the time-frame that will permanently shape her future personality and coping skills, and is when you should start exposing her to as many different sights, smells, sounds and people as you can. Your puppy’s ability to adapt to new situations later in life will depend on it.
Introduce you puppy to new sights, smells and sounds
As we have just seen, the key idea behind socializing your dog is to get him used to the experience of encountering new sights, smells, sounds – and people and other animals. If your dog learns early on to associate the stranger and unfamiliar with something positive, he will become a much more confident and robust dog later in life, and will have a lot less difficulty adapting to new environments and situations. Therefore you should, during your dogs critical socialization period, expose him to as many new sights, smells, sounds, people and textures as you can. Take her on lots of different routes when you go walking together, introduce her to many different kinds of people (old, young, etc) – and other animals as well! – come up with a variety of games and activities for your pooch to try out.
Makes things positive!
This is very important – when exposing your dog to all of these new stimuli, be sure that he associates them in his own mind with something positive and worthwhile. You can do this by rewarding your dog with lots of praise and treats when he behaves well in these situations! And make sure you stay positive as well – for example, if you become nervous and unsure of yourself in novel situations, then this will rub off on your dog, and he will carry your attitude with him into adulthood. Sort out your own issues before you do the same with your dog!
Baby steps, baby!
Don’t rush things, and do too much, too fast. Over-exposure to too much novel stimuli, too quickly, will overwhelm your dog and make her fearful of new situations. For example, when acclimatizing your puppy to the experience of being around new people, and in particular new groups of people – start slowly, introduce him to one or two new family members to begin with, then gradually expand his circle to include one stranger, then two, then several etc. Just as you would when introducing your pup to a new house, opening rooms for our dog to explore one by one with the help of pet gates. Because if you immediately throw your dog into a very busy environment like a party or public place crowded with people, he will not know how to handle it, and will become fearful of large gatherings of people in the future.
In the same vein, when taking your dog out of his comfort zone and introducing him to new environments, proceed slowly and take baby steps. Don’t throw him straight into a busy public place, gradually expand his horizons until he is comfortable going to the park, walking down a busy street, and so on.