For your puppy, everything is new and exciting, and sometimes scary. Every first experience they have with an outside force—other dogs, people, the vacuum cleaner, nail clippers, baths—can shape the way they view this particular object or experience in the future. During the formative socialization period (i.e., 3 to 12 weeks of age), ensure new experiences are positive, and create a solid foundation for your puppy using positive reinforcement. The time and effort you spend socializing your puppy will allow them to enjoy a life of happiness, security, and confidence. Here are five perks to socializing your puppy.
#1: Behavior—your puppy will be less likely to have behavior problems
While genetics play an important role in your puppy’s personality, by creating positive experiences when introducing your pet to new people, places, and objects at a young age, you are building their trust. When the time comes for training, your puppy will look to you for direction and support, and will generally be easier to teach.
#2: Your puppy will be friendlier toward strangers
To ensure your puppy learns to be comfortable interacting with strangers, introduce them to as many people as possible, including people who do not look like you. Seek out opportunities for your puppy to meet unfamiliar people, including:
- Men with hats or beards
- Elderly people
- People in wheelchairs
- People carrying umbrellas
- People on bikes or skateboards
Carry a pocketful of treats on your walks, and offer them to your puppy when they appropriately initiate interaction with someone new. Treats will help keep these initial interactions positive, show your puppy that strangers are not scary, and will make walks and having visitors to your home much easier.
#3: Your puppy will interact more positively with other dogs
Puppies without adequate socialization often become fearful, anxious adults who struggle to interact with other dogs. Because they lack confidence and are unsure how to engage in appropriate play, they may misconstrue other dog’s body language, and act out of insecurity and fear.
To foster positive early interactions with other dogs, enroll your puppy in a puppy socialization or training class, to introduce them to other dogs and people in a calm, structured environment. These interactions will help your puppy learn body language and to understand cues and signals from other dogs, as well as how to engage in appropriate play.
#4: Your puppy will have more options for interacting with the world
The world becomes much larger for a dog who has received adequate socialization as a puppy.
If your dog is fearful and anxious, simply walking can be scary and unpleasant—for your dog and you. A puppy who lacks adequate socialization often is afraid of new situations and new people, which can limit their options for exercise, future canine social interaction, and fun outings like sitting at an outdoor patio with their favorite human. Letting your puppy explore new environments will help them become confident in new places and with other dogs, and they will enjoy their walks, tagging along with you to dog-friendly establishments, and making new friends.
#5: Your puppy will be easier to handle
Dogs require a lot of care and maintenance, including, grooming, nail trimming, teeth brushing, and sometimes medication. When you first bring your puppy home, ensure you take time to get them used to being handled, especially in sensitive areas. Play with their ears, handle their paws, lift their lips, give them baths, introduce them to a toothbrush and nail trimmers, and brush their coat often. During these new and sometimes unpleasant tasks, reward your puppy with treats and plenty of praise to help form a positive association. While your dog may not ever love these necessary tasks, socialization, desensitization, and positive reinforcement will help your pup feel more secure and safe no matter the situation. And, your Town & Country Animal Hospital veterinary team will appreciate a dog who is happy being handled.
#6: Your puppy will experience less anxiety overall
Anxiety is no fun for people—or pets. Without proper socialization during puppyhood, your dog will likely become anxious and fearful, which will mean their world is scary. By exposing your puppy to as many new situations as possible during their socialization window, they’ll be more confident and calm as an adult.
Caring for a puppy is a lot of work, and it’s important that you are committed to their training and socialization at a young age, so that they can enjoy exploring the world around them without fear or anxiety. If you have questions or concerns about your puppy’s behavior or physical wellbeing, or would like to schedule a wellness exam and get them up to date on their essential puppy vaccinations, contact our Town & Country Animal Hospital team to schedule their next visit.
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