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Socializing Your Puppy

Socialization is critical to your puppy. What does socialization mean? Socialization essentially means you are exposing your puppy to the outside world. The critical learning period for socialization is from birth to 16 weeks of age. This time period will shape your dog and, if not done correctly, can affect your dog in their adult years. Puppies are vulnerable to negative experiences throughout this time so it is important you make every experience a positive one. Exposing your puppy to other puppies, other dogs, other people, new noises and new experiences in a positive and happy manner will provide you with a well-rounded, happy dog.

When should you begin socializing your puppy? Socialization should begin shortly after bringing your puppy home. This should not be done in public places, though. You should also be certain the other dogs or puppies your puppy is playing with are up-to-date on vaccinations (most puppies are not fully vaccinated until 15 to 16 weeks of age). Puppies can easily contract diseases by walking where other dogs have been and picking up even a trace of fecal matter or bodily fluid.

If your puppy isn’t able to go into public areas, how could you possibly socialize her? Well, one way is to invite friends and family who have fully-vaccinated dogs to your home. This will allow her to get to know other people as well as other dogs at the same time safely. You may also visit their home with your puppy which would provide her with an all-around new experience where she can experience new sights, sounds and smells.

When you are at the veterinarian’s office, you should not allow your puppy to greet dogs you do not know. The dogs at the veterinary clinic may be ill which could potentially expose your puppy to a contagious disease. Carrying your puppy into the veterinary clinic and allowing her to sit on your lap is recommended.

There are some general rules to follow during the socialization process. As mentioned before, every experience must be a positive experience. During the socialization process, your puppy should always feel he or she has a ‘safe area’ if he or she were to become overwhelmed at any point. Sometimes, the commotion becomes too much for your puppy and she may want to escape to a quiet place for a few moments. When they’re happy, you will be able to tell. Their ears will be perky, their eyes will be big and you will notice them actively attempting to be interactive with the situation. If you notice your dog cowering, with their ears down, licking their lips, tucking their tail or generally appearing overwhelmed or unhappy, direct the puppy to their ‘safe spot.’ Socialization should never be forced.

What types of behavior problems can be prevented by socializing your puppy? The main behavior issue which is prevented is often anxiety. Dogs with anxiety are often those who have not been socialized properly (Note: Insufficient socialization is not always the reason but accounts for many dogs with anxiety). Anxiety in dogs often derives from fear of an experience. Dogs who have been socialized fear less because they have been exposed to more.

Anxiety often accompanies aggression. Socializing your puppy also prevents aggression in many cases. A socialized puppy is accustomed to greeting other dogs, greeting other people and welcomes new experiences. This results in your dog being less likely to show any signs of aggression.

If you have any questions or would like additional information regarding puppy socialization, please visit Amber L. Drake’s website at www.AmberLDrake.org.

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