In the same way that it takes human beings some time to get used to a new environment, our furry friends also require a period of socialization. In the early weeks of a puppy’s life, the owner can take the animal through a series of baby steps to socialize it. In this article, you can learn more about why socializing puppies is important and some of the potential benefits it offers. You can also find some easy steps to socialize your puppy during the critical socialization period.
Is It Necessary to Socialize Puppies?
If you are thinking of getting a puppy and trying to figure out what you’re going to need, socializing might be a new term to you. Socializing a puppy is teaching it to behave well in the presence of other animals and human beings. This does not come naturally, and as a pet owner, you must patiently take your young animal through the socialization steps to prepare it for its life ahead.
You may be wondering if socializing puppies is necessary at all. It is both important and necessary to socialize your new puppy. Not doing so in the early weeks of its life could lead to long-term challenges in how it interacts with others and in how friendly it is. In the following sections, you can find out more details on the benefits of socializing a puppy are, the right time to start, and the practical steps of getting it done.
Advantages of Socializing Puppies
As mentioned already, socializing puppies isn’t a nice add-on to pet care, it is an essential part of giving the animal essential life skills and helping it cope in a completely new environment.
Here are some of the distinct advantages of socializing puppies:
- It teaches your puppy to cope with new environments and situations.
- Socializing helps your puppy to be well-behaved when it is around humans and other animals.
- A socialized puppy is more relaxed and not aggressive even in uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations.
- It keeps your dog and those around it safer.
Just like a human parent does their level best to give their kids the tools and training they need to succeed in life, socializing a puppy can prepare it for all the different experiences and situations that might come it’s way in the future. Since socializing a puppy is so important, how and where do you start? The most essential thing you should know when you have a new puppy is that there is a critical socialization period for a puppy.
Schedules for Socializing Puppies
The early days in a puppy’s life are critical for its behavioral development. Socialization is not a one-time affair and continues as the puppy grows, but the earlier the training has begun, the better. The typical recommended socialization age for a new puppy lies when it is between 7 weeks and 12 weeks old, although a puppy is ready to handle new experiences at just 3 weeks. You don’t want to start socializing the puppy during the first days or week of its life because it still needs to settle into its new life and is not yet ready to be plunged into full-on learning situations.
Many people have questions about whether you should only start socializing a puppy once it has completed all of its vaccinations. You do not have to wait for all the vaccinations, but it is advisable to only start the socializing process once the first round of vaccinations and deworming have been carried out at least a week before.
Past 12 weeks or 3 months, it is still possible to train and socialize a puppy, even though the critical window in a puppy’s development has passed. It might take more time and patience and your puppy might have to unlearn some aggressive behaviors, but it is still worth the effort.
As a quick point of reference, here are some of the things you should aim to teach your puppy at different ages in its first year.
By the age of 2 months, your puppy should:
- Behave well around people and humans
- Eat gently
- Not bite hard
- Walk on a leash
- Sit or stand when told to
By 4 months, aim for your puppy to:
- Know how to obey more advanced commands
- Be potty trained
- Start grooming
At the age of 6 months, your puppy has probably lost its baby teeth and grown its adult coat, but it’s not considered an adult until around 1-2 years. As far as dog training and socialization, at 6 months you should aim to:
- Teach the puppy more advanced training using a step-by-step approach
- Train your puppy to learn to stay or sit still for long periods and ignore the distractions around better
Socializing your puppy is not a walk in the park, but with patience and a bit of know-how, you can train your puppy to function well in a dynamic world.
Steps to Socializing a Puppy
It’s time to talk about the practical steps of socializing a puppy, but just before we go into that, you need to know a few basic things about the entire process. Socializing a puppy involves exposes it to new experiences and new sights, sounds, and smells as well as taking it to interact with new people and animals.
It is necessarily a slow process, and you have to take your time to not overwhelm the puppy with a sensory overload and too much change in a short space of time. Too much too soon can become stressful for both your puppy and you.
There is more than one way to socialize a puppy. You can use a combination of approaches, including home socialization, socialization classes, and organizing playtimes for your puppy with other puppies.
Here are some easy steps you can take to start socializing your puppy:
- Take your puppy out more- Even if you have plenty of backyard space for your puppy to play in, the key to socialization is exposing your puppy to new environments. Something as simple as taking your puppy for a walk around the neighborhood every day can be an important part of socializing it. Doing this allows the puppy to see new spaces and hopefully some unfamiliar human beings and animals as well. Your puppy can also benefit from the exposure to new sounds and smells that it might not get at home.
- Dog classes- If you need a little outside help with training your new puppy, it doesn’t hurt to explore the dog class opportunity. Many people appreciate the support this can bring as it helps them meet other local dog owners as well. A dog class is a safe space for your puppy to get more socialize with methods and tactics prescribed by an expert.
- Let your puppy meet other animals at the dog park- One of the keys to effective dog socialization is giving your animal enough time to interact with fellow dogs. One of the best places to get this kind of environment is at a nearby park or special dog park. You can get a long leash to allow your dog to run around, but if you feel the location is safe and your puppy is ready, you can also let it run free without a leash. Other excellent ways to expose your puppy to other animals are going to the pet store and organizing a play date for your puppies with a fellow pet owner.
One of the things we have not touched on much is the importance of positive reinforcement when it comes to socializing a puppy. What this means is that when your puppy does something right or makes new strides in the socialization process, you can reinforce this progress with a small reward.
It’s very useful to carry around some dog treats when you are out and about. If your puppy has a positive and pleasant interaction with another animal, for example, you can reward it with a tasty snack. Over time, these rewards can help to solidify the learning that your dog is doing.
Keeping a positive approach in puppy socialization has proved to be a more effective method than the fear-based approach involving lots of punishment and harshness for every misstep during this crucial stage in the young animal’s life.
During the important period of puppy socialization, here is a quick checklist of some of the new experiences that you should aim to expose your puppy to:
- Other dogs
- New people
- Water bodies like bonds
- Different environments, including parks, woods, and urban areas
- A range of clothing items such as hats, scarves, jackets, and sunglasses
- A range of surfaces like concrete, lawn, wood floors, and sand
If getting a puppy is on the cards for you in the new future, it’s never too late to find a socialization class near you or plan how you are going to socialize it. The earlier you start within the puppy’s critical development period, the better.
You can make the socialization experience a fun adventure for your pup and yourself as you guide it through new experiences and keep the environment positive with plenty of positive reinforcement. There are various ways to go about socializing a puppy, but the key things are to take it slowly, start early, and make it fun.