Who doesn't love puppies? I mean, puppy videos make a killing on YouTube, and we all know it's because they're cute!
However, even the cutest puppy can grow up to become an adult dog with behavioral issues when it's not well socialized.
Socializing your puppy early on is the perfect way to teach your new pet about the environment around you, get it comfortable around people, and most importantly, around other dogs.
However, there is a fine line between socializing your puppy and accidentally making the world a little bit too exciting (after all, you want your dog to choose you over the world).
So, what is proper socialization? Where should you start? And how do you create balance while socializing your puppy?
We answer all these questions and more in this week's episode of Dog Sense, so tune in now to learn everything you need to know about fear periods, when to start socializing your puppy, and the importance of adventure walks.
What Is Proper Socialization?
“What do you consider proper socialization?” is a question we get all the time. To us, proper socialization is all about teaching your puppy about the environment around you. The secret is creating optimism in your puppy and teaching it that new places and people are great, but you’ll always be better.
Many think that to socialize puppies properly, they have to take them out and let them experience absolutely everything. But that kind of plan usually backfires, because their puppy ends up thinking everything else is more important than the owner. Even worse, this method can unintentionally create fear in the puppy, and believe me, you don’t want that!
Everything is about balance, and puppy socialization is no exception. If you went to a mall and everyone around you stopped to hug you and talk to you, you’d probably be annoyed and a bit terrified (I know I would) after a while. It’s the same for puppies. It’s important to teach puppies that yes, they can go and greet people, they don’t have to be afraid of strangers. But it’s also crucial that your puppy learns not to engage with everyone.
In the end, this is what you have to keep in mind: a walk with your puppy isn’t about engaging with everybody else. It's about engaging with you.
When Should You Start Socializing Your Puppy?
A lot of veterinarians say that you shouldn’t take your puppy outside until it's fully vaccinated. However, if you do wait, you’ll miss a critical window of opportunity.
Those first sixteen weeks are some of the most important times in a puppy's life, and you want to take advantage of that period as much as possible.
Now, of course, don't go around taking your puppy to dog parks. However, you should be taking it out!
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior states that you should be socializing your puppy even if it's not fully vaccinated yet.
Their 2011 paper states that puppies as young as eight weeks old should go to puppy kindergarten classes. The risk of not taking them out and socializing them is higher than the risk of them catching a bug in their puppy classes.
There are also other ways to socialize your puppy. How can you do that? Well, you simply need to be smart about it. Take your puppy out on walks to the woods, the beach, etc.… (just make sure there are no bears or dogs around).
You need to get your puppy walking on different surfaces and in different places (city, countryside, when it’s snowing etc.…). Your puppy needs to experience this early on, because if it doesn’t, you'll have a lot on your plate once your dog hits a fear period.
What Are Fear Periods?
Many dog owners have never heard of fear periods, but this is an integral part of every puppy's life, and you need to know how to handle it.
The first fear period usually hits puppies when they’re between eight and eleven weeks old. And that's okay. It's a natural process, but we do want them to go through it and come out as unscathed as possible. This is why you must learn everything you can about puppy body language
and supervise your dog as closely as possible.
The second fear period comes during late adolescence, usually when the puppy is between six to fourteen months old. When your dog is going through that, my advice is simple: be mindful. Your puppy is going to freak out at some things it never cared about before (garbage bags are usually the enemy), and you have to be sensitive to its fears. Always stay calm and collected and try to instill confidence.
The Importance of Adventure Walks
My final advice is to go on adventure walks with your puppy during the socialization period. The concept of adventure walks is easy: simply take your dog somewhere safe (I like to go to the woods), keep it off-leash, and go on a walk. The goal is to teach your puppy to follow you.
Of course, your dog will wander; it’s natural. However, what you can do is hide somewhere, and once your puppy notices, it'll start looking for you. Let it find you. When that happens, make sure not to feed it. You don’t want to relieve the stress with food. You want to relieve it with your presence.
Adventure walks are not only a great way to socialize your puppy, but also excellent for body strengthening, relationship building, and obedience training. Plus, you get to explore the world with your puppy! Isn't that fun?
Socializing puppies is one of the most crucial steps in their training. Doing it as early as possible is a great way to help them be comfortable around you and other dogs and learn more about their environment.