Socializing your puppy is key to ensuring that you have a happy, confident, and well-adjusted dog and should be at the top of your to-do list when welcoming a new puppy into your home. Lots of pet parents think that ‘puppy socialization’ means introducing your puppy to other dogs, but there is a lot more to it than that.
What is socialization?
Socialization is the process of introducing your puppy to everything and anything, from different types of people and places to objects and
situations they’ve never seen before. It teaches them to build relationships, and how to act and behave when faced with new experiences. The goal is to expose your puppy to just about everything and have them look to you for guidance, while being confident in themselves.
Some things that this process should include are:
- People of different ages
- People of different genders
- People of different races
- People with and without disabilities
- Other dogs and different animal species
- New places
- New sounds, smells and sensations
Although this may seem like a lot for a young puppy to handle, your dog’s brain is actually most capable of processing and accepting these new experiences between 5-16 weeks of age. This timeframe is commonly called the puppy socialization period, and puppy parents should aim to expose their puppy to as many positive experiences as they can during this time. Puppies’ minds are especially impressionable during the socialization period, and bad experiences can make just as much of an impact as good ones. Aim for only positive experiences with your puppy, and never hesitate to remove them from a situation where you feel they are in danger or extremely nervous.
The good news is that young puppies are typically happy go lucky and tend to approach new things with curiosity more than fear, we just need to make sure we are using this to our advantage!
Remember: When introducing puppies to new things, we want them to look to us for guidance and approach new situations with confidence. It is our job to set them up for success!
Although all puppies should be socialized, not each one will grow to be a dog who is sociable, no matter how much training you have put in. Their personality will also play a role in any future anxieties or interactions. Some dogs are born more fearful or timid. But the more socializing you do at a young age, the less likely a dog will be to react with fear or anxiety in new places or situations. That’s the goal with puppy socialization, we want to help our dog to understand that no matter what they come across, they can be comfortable, confident, and look to their handler for guidance.
If you find that you are not as confident as you had hoped at socializing your new family member, or you’re having trouble, there is not harm or shame in reaching out to a professional to point you in the right direction and help you both become more confident together!