Did you know that every experience your puppy has with people, other dogs, objects and noises when he is between seven and 14 weeks of age has a tremendous impact on the dog he becomes? Many fear and aggression issues dog owners face stem from improper socialization during this critical period. Such problems can make life with your dog quite stressful and often have a negative impact on his life as well; they can make it difficult to take your dog for a peaceful walk, to the vet or to a relative’s house.
So how should you go about socializing your puppy? The two most important things to remember are:
1. Do your best to expose your puppy to everyone and everything thing he may encounter later in life. This includes people of different ages, races, sizes and genders; people in wheelchairs or with walkers, and people wearing things like big hats or puffy jackets. It also includes dogs of different sizes and sexes, both spayed or neutered or not. Don’t forget about cats and other small animals, as well as noisy things like motorcycles and weird-looking things like umbrellas.
2. Keep all of these encounters positive. Dog parks are a bad idea for young puppies because one negative encounter with a not-entirely-friendly dog could frighten your puppy so much that he comes to fear all dogs. New people, objects and experiences should be accompanied by great things like treats or a favorite game. Do your best to keep these encounters low-key. Until your puppy is older, marching him right up to a motorcycle with its engine roaring, or into a birthday party full of six year-olds will not be a positive experience for him. Instead, you might begin by watching a schoolyard full of children or an idling motorcycle from across the street.
Putting these principles to work for those few crucial weeks will help to ensure a happy, relatively stress-free life for you and your dog.
Further Reading and Viewing
-Before and After You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar; Ian Dunbar also offers much valuable information (some of it available for free download)
-Perfect Puppy in 7 Days- by Sophia Yin; the Socialization Checklist which is available as a free download.
-Puppy Primer by Brenda Scidmore and Patricia McConnell
Guest Contributor–Danielle Grand has spent the last decade working to parlay her affinity for animals into a dog training career. While earning her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, she was involved in an experimental study on canine cognition. She has also obtained her dog training certification from Animal Behavior College and attended numerous dog training seminars conducted by respected behaviorists. At home in New York’s capital region, she works closely with colleagues and mentors to expand her expertise; she hopes to help forge strong, happy relationships between many dogs and their humans.