The Importance of socializing your Puppy
How to Socialize Your Puppy?
Dog owners put in a lot of effort when it comes to taking care of their pets diet, exercise, and health check-ups. However, there is one aspect that they often neglect. And that is socializing their puppy. But why is it important to socialize your puppy?
Dog socializing is defined as a training method that helps the dog (or any pet) become comfortable with the society it will be living in. It is also the process of exposing your dog to various smells, textures, and sounds so they are adaptable with any situation they encounter.
But why is it important for you to socialize your puppy? And how do you start the dog socialization training? Let’s take a look in the guide below!
Benefits of Socializing your Puppy
A well-socialized dog will have the benefit of experiencing numerous situations in the most positive manner during the early months of life. This in turn becomes one of the biggest benefits for your dog in the shape of his enhanced confidence. As a dog owner, you will never put your dog in a situation that is unpredictable for him. However, he should always have the opportunity to explore new things and people without being aggressive or fearful.
The more confident he is, the easier your life as an owner will be, and the happier he will be. Here are just a few benefits that you can expect from taking the time to socialize your puppy:
- He will be more confident and able to adapt to changes.
- Bonding with your dog will be more organic.
- Decrease any stress or anxiety your dog will feel during vet visits or hospitalization
- Makes grooming easier
- Gives you plenty of location options for walks (dog parks, canine day-care, neighbour-hood park)
- Reduces barking at people passing him
- Reduces the risk of excessive barking
- Makes car travels easier
- Makes relocation less stressful, in case you have to leave the dog temporary or permanently
- Decreases the dog’s lack of willingness to go outside and mingle with others.
- Helps them be prepared for the addition of a new pet or a family member.
- Decreases the risk of canine separation anxiety
- Makes training easier and more enjoyable
How to Start Socializing you Puppy?
Now that you know the many benefits of socializing your puppy now is the time to start training him to be more adaptable with his surroundings.
Remember, dogs can be trained to socialize at any age. However, experts recommend starting the process when the puppy is around 2 -4 months old. At this age, a dog’s curiosity and the inclination to explore the outside world outweighs any fear or anxiety they may have of the unknown. Therefore, you will have an easier time exposing your dog to various situations, without too much coaxing.
Socializing your Puppy inside the Home
Sights and Sounds
Get your puppy accustomed to the everyday sights and sounds inside the house. For example, turn on vacuum cleaners, blenders, dishwashers, hairdryers, and other appliances that make a lot of noise in front of your dog. Watch your puppy’s reactions.
Dogs are especially afraid of vacuum cleaners. They are like aliens to them due to their sound, odours, and bulky size. If your dog does react negatively keep the machine nearby so he becomes accustomed to it. Turn it on few a few seconds – talking soothingly to your puppy. Keep doing this of a period of time until he starts to ignore the sound. If your dog responds to treats give him one each time he accepts the noise. Any household noises your puppy reacts to, do this same training so that he becomes desensitized to the noise.
Outside the house
If you have a yard, take your dog outside and let him sniff and explore. But make sure to keep him on a leash if your garden isn’t dog proofed so he doesn’t run away. Also, you’ll need to keep an eye him at all times to ensure he doesn’t eat anything he shouldn’t. A young puppy will have a sniff or chew at anything his mouth comes in contact with. Everything will be exciting to him and he’ll feel the need to test things with his mouth. If he does find something he finds interesting and you think it could do him harm distract him. When socializing your puppy never shout, make a fuss or pull him away, this may pique his interest more. Use a chew or toy to guide him calmly away.
Socializing with Humans
It is important to socialize your puppy with humans, and in my opinion, I think it is one of the most important. To get well-rounded socialization with humans, your puppy needs to meet as varied a group as possible. Start by inviting people you know such and friends and family to your home and have your dog get comfortable with the guests.
Don’t let your guests overcrowd your four-legged companion by force, such as trying to pick him up or dragging him towards them. This can often happen where small children are around, as they too get excited and want to forcibly cuddle the dog or want it to play. Instead, you must let the puppy make the first move and approach each member at its own pace.
However, if the puppy remains reluctant, have your guests offer a treat towards the dog in a calm unhurried manner. Ask them to be patient until he becomes more comfortable with the interaction. If he continues to be reluctant ask your guests to ignore him and get on with their own socializing. Keep the environment friendly and entertain your guests as normal, allowing the puppy to wander around investigating each guest at his own pace. Spend the time with your guests without putting the limelight on the puppy.
If possible, you can also invite people in wheelchairs, those that use walking sticks, or unusually loud talking individuals. Have your guests carry items as well – such as a hat, umbrella, and large purses. Puppies may often be reluctant to interact with a tall person or somebody in uniform. These situations need to be introduced slowly and calmly to get the puppy accustomed to a variety of scenarios.
Vets always encourage dog owners to gently play with their pet’s ears, paws, and teeth to get the puppy used to being touched. This will help when a medical or grooming procedure is required, which is likely to become a common part of their life as they grow.
As a dog owner, I love doing this and take every opportunity to stroke and caress my do from head to toe. My dogs love it too and close their eyes as if they’re having an expensive massage at the spa.
Here, it is important that you are as gentle as possible when socializing your puppy this way. Provide lots of encouragement as you make it a habit of checking your dog’s ears, nails, and teeth periodically, in fact, you’ll find it will be your puppy encouraging you. Give lots of treats to reluctant dogs for good behaviour as well to encourage them that the physical touch is highly rewarding.
Socializing Outside the Home
Sights and Sounds
Daily walks offer a great opportunity to expose your dog to new sights, sounds, people, and even texture. Once you have leash trained your dog, take him outside. Start with less crowded areas and gradually move to places where he can see and hear skateboards, bikes, passing cars, loud noises and other people.
Give him closely observed opportunities to hear traffic, fireworks, sirens, and other sounds that he is likely to hear during his life.
If your dog barks or responds negatively in any way, stay calm and avoid scolding or tugging on their leash. Instead, walk away in a different direction using soothing but firm commands until he calms down. Don’t make the mistake of always avoiding those situations as he’ll never get the opportunity to desensitize himself from the anxiety. Make sure to continue the training as suggested but with shorter exposure training until he gets used to them.
You’ll need to get your new puppy used to travelling to prevent any problems in the future that may inhibit your own travel arrangements. Begin by taking your puppy for short trips in your car to help reduce carsickness and travel stress. If you take long road trips frequently, get him used being in crate, carrier, or harness. To make travelling with your dog a breeze you’ll obviously need to take all the necessary precautions. Once he is used to being in cars and trucks travelling with will become the pleasure it is supposed to be.
Places to start socializing your puppy
Take your dog to the local grocers, hardware store, malls and other populated shops. Let him experience other places and people without interacting too much with an unknown dog.
As your dog becomes comfortable, gradually move your way to dog parks and let him watch the other dogs from a distance. Avoid taking an anxious puppy or even an older dog to parks. Instead, walk your dog around the perimeter so he becomes used to seeing his counterparts playing and having fun.
Don’t be discouraged if your puppy doesn’t respond positively to the first few visits, not all puppies are confident at first. Taking him frequently and enforcing positive interactions will slowly make the trips pleasant.
Take it Slow
While training your dog, it is important to keep in mind that dogs are extra sensitive. If they find you stressed or nervous, they will also react in the same manner. Maintain a calm and confident attitude throughout the training period. Don’t be harsh on your dog and take each phase slowly.
The key to success is consistency and patience. Especially with an older dog who will take a longer time adjusting to new situations. Be patient and keep trying until you get the results you expected.
When socializing your puppy make sure you treat him sporadically for his good behaviour. Give him lots of praises and avoid pulling, tugging or scolding your dog for any negative behaviour.
If all fails, you can contact a professional trainer or a dog day-care to help your pet adjust with other pets and humans. Work with your veterinarian as well and take their advice on how to make your pet comfortable with his surroundings. Above all, keep your pet updated with the required vaccinations as you definitely don’t want them to catch any illness from areas where a group of other pets gather.
Final Words on socializing your puppy
A puppy who is properly reared in their early weeks will more likely grow up confident, calm, and more amiable to learning new things. They are less inclined to respond to new experiences with fear or aggression, and will most likely become a good family dog.
Up to the first 16 weeks of age, the puppy is busy learning who is in their social group. He will find out who the people and animals are that forms his family, and how they socialize, play with and who they are building bonds with. You’ll need to continue with his socialisation so the puppy discovers all his new family and what his life with you is going to contain.
Try the above tips and you will surely have a happy and confident dog in no time. Good luck!