A critical part of raising a well adjusted dog is socializing your puppy. Through socialization, they learn to fit into society, both human society and the dog hierarchy. Your goal is a calm, well adjusted dog who is doesn’t think it’s his job to keep the postman from stealing your letterbox.
Un-socialized dogs won’t know what to do in new situations or when introduced to new dogs and people. This can lead to them showing aggression or fear in unfamiliar circumstances.
Socializing starts when a puppy is still with his dam and with his breeder. A puppy’s first introduction to canine body language and pack structure starts around the three to four week mark, when he starts playing with his dam and litter mates. The breeder plays an important role in socializing a pup, by giving them positive early experiences with people.
The ideal age to bring your new puppy home is when he is eight weeks of age. From eight to twelve weeks of age is a very important period for socialization. During this time your pup is open to learning and enjoying new experiences. You need to take advantage of this small window of opportunity to increase your puppy’s social development. Invite friends and family to visit, and expose your pup to gentle children, all of which will teach him that people are friendly and nice to be with.
Puppy preschool can be good for your young puppy provided the instructor is accredited and understands pack structure. The right instructor and a well run puppy pre-school allows your puppy to meet and play with other puppies of a similar age and level of development. A good pre-school instructor can help you teach your pup some basic obedience and work on your communication skills. This will strengthen the bond between you and your new best friend.
During this time, it’s a good idea to take your pup walking, and expose him to noisy places such as busy roads, train stations and even markets. This helps him to learn that these places are not scary, and will make it easier to take him to such places in the future.
As your pup grows, continue his obedience training so that he grows into a confident, well mannered companion.
Off-leash parks and beaches are other places you can socialize your puppy but care must be taken to see that he is not intimidated. Many owners do not have control of their dogs, and your pup may be frightened by unwanted advances from a larger dog. It may be better to keep your puppy away from these areas until he is more mature. Make sure your puppy is up to date on vaccinations, as there will be an increased risk of contact with disease in public places.
Taking on a new puppy means you will need to work to socialize him well. You need to look at it as an investment in his future. A good job on your part will lead to a well adjusted and happy companion who knows his place in the mixed human-canine pack.
For more information on socializing your pet visit: Oregon Veterinary Medical Association