Puppies, like the humans that adopt them, are social animals. They need the interaction with other puppies to function in regular society. Unfortunately, a pup you may obtain from your local pet store may not be socialized. In fact, depending on where the puppy comes from, they may not have been properly brought up. It's sad to see unsocialized puppies trying to make their way in the world. They don't get along with other dogs and can be loud and aggressive because of it. If you're someone who walks their best animal friend every day, having a socialized puppy is among the most important of your considerations. But why is socializing a puppy that important? Here we seek to answer that question.
Understanding Puppy Socialization
Socialization is the process where a puppy learns that other dogs aren't threats and that they're safe to interact with. Things like sniffing each other and engaging in play that doesn't harm the other dog are learned at this stage. Typically, the window for socialization in puppies lasts between the first three and twelve weeks after they're born. They're strong enough to play with others at three weeks, and up to twelve weeks, they figure out what counts as socially acceptable and what isn't. This fundamental understanding helps them to be more social without the fear of them losing their tempers and getting aggressive with other dogs or humans.
Vets and animal behavioral experts have known for some time that intensive breeding programs tend to impact the socialization of puppies significantly. These breeding programs supply pet stores with dogs and puppies for sale, with breeding going on at a massive scale. The downside of this mass-breeding is that the puppies are removed from others and kept in small cages for an extended period. After this, the puppies are shipped out to the pet stores, where families usually adopt them at around eight weeks old. Unfortunately, this leaves very little time for socializing the puppy, and the result is a grown dog that is psychologically damaged.
Research on the topic shows parallels between humans and dogs. As a human baby that isn't comforted and nurtured at the start of their lives develops deep-seated psychological problems, so too does a dog that isn't socialized. In many cases, if the puppy is adopted after their socialization learning period has elapsed, they may end up showing off lousy behavior in public and might even attack other dogs or humans on sight. If you're walking your dog every day, your furry friend may turn into a deadly hazard for other people. Socializing your puppy is an integral part of raising them to be obedient and faithful companions.
The Results of Poor Socialization
As we noted before, poor socialization as a puppy leads to aggressive behavior in adult dogs. Typically, dogs that display symptoms of anxiety or phobias are those that weren't properly socialized as puppies. While products like a cuddler dog bed might help them with anxiety, it's not a simple fix. Mental problems for both humans and dogs can last a lifetime. In many cases, the damage poor socialization does can't be reversed. No matter how long you own your dog, he or she will always display the symptoms of losing out on that critical bonding period. So how does a caring, loving owner socialize their puppy most effectively?
Puppy Preschool Options
Puppy school courses are an excellent way for your puppy to get to grips with socializing with other dogs. These programs usually run for around four (4) weeks and can be a lot of fun for your puppy. Not only will he or she have a lot of other dogs close by to play with and get to know well, but they will also bring much-needed exercise. Ask around before choosing a puppy preschool. It would be in your puppy's best interest to board with a school that has a good reputation. Several veterinary centers have their own puppy preschool. Ask your vet if they offer one or if they could recommend one for socializing your tiny fur baby.
Planning The Socialization Process
Since you're on such a tight time budget, you should plan out as many experiences as possible to help with socializing your puppy. It would help if you got as many different interactions as possible, and the best way to do so is to develop a checklist for your puppy's socialization. Ideally, you'd want them to get used to:
- Many different breeds and sizes of dogs
- Household noises that might scare them or give them anxiety (the doorbell, the vacuum cleaner, etc.)
- People of different sizes and ages
- Potentially dangerous items like balloons, plastic bags, etc.
You can develop your own checklist or download one online. Several places offer an in-depth explanation of the things you should include in your socialization plan.
Take The Necessary Precautions
When you start socializing your puppy, the chances are that you'll be doing so before their initial vaccination period is completed. While this isn't a serious worry, you should be careful about the situations you put the puppy in before they're ready to deal with them. To be safe when socializing your puppy, you should pay attention to a few tips, such as:
- Avoid taking your puppy to public dog parks. It might seem like the best place to encourage socialization, but many of those dogs haven't been vaccinated. It's not likely that you'd be able to ask an owner for their pup's vaccination papers, and letting your puppy play with an unvaccinated dog before they finish their course of treatment is a risk. It's safer to avoid these parks altogether.
- Puppy School is an excellent option for pups after their first vaccination. It offers the depth of play and interaction that you expect while being home to dogs that have also completed their course of vaccines.
- Avoid parks and anywhere that has shade and dirt. It's not just because your puppy could get really dirty (and we know how much they hate baths). Parvovirus can survive for a long time in shady areas or in the soil, but it's less likely to remain viable on sunny concrete footpaths. Having your puppy play on shaded areas, whether it's a park or the lawn of your friend's home, introduces infection potential.
- Beaches are okay. The amount of sand and sun makes it difficult for dangerous viruses to remain viable for any significant length of time. You may have to carry your dog in your arms through any park areas to make sure they stay safe, however. Stick to the sand as much as possible. Try to avoid taking your puppy into areas with shade or dirt.
Additional Tips for Socializing Your Puppy
Puppies tend to be more open to new experiences during socialization. Even so, you need to pay attention to their behavior, so you can spot any problems before they occur. A bad experience during socialization may color their perception for the rest of their lives. To help your dog be more successful in socialization, you may want to keep these in mind:
- Watch your puppy's behavior and body language. If you find that the activity is making them anxious or they have an adverse reaction, you may want to consider toning it down or taking a break. Typical tell-tale signs are if your puppy is cowering or you can see the whites of their eyes. This sort of fear is not suitable, and you should rescue them from their anxiety.
- If you have friends that have dogs with all their vaccinations, you should take your puppy to meet them. Meeting many different sizes and breeds of dogs is a good practice for socializing a puppy. If they have kids, let your puppy meet them and learn to play with them. Keep a close eye on these interactions, though. It would help if you made sure that nothing happens that will cause your puppy to start being afraid of humans or other dogs.
- Get your pet used to being cuddled and touched. This interaction helps with their communication in the future with others who want to play with them. It also allows them to feel genuine love and connection with humans so that they can learn that we're not all scary.
Socialization Is a Small Window
When you get a puppy, regardless of where it comes from, you may need to figure out your socialization plan very quickly. You have a small window to ensure that your puppy learns how to behave in public with others. Ensuring that they get the right kind of socialization makes it easier to go out for walks with them as they grow older. A socialized puppy won't get scared or anxious and will be less aggressive with other dogs and humans. The foundation you lay down during socialization will impact your pup for the rest of their natural lives.