The Most Important Thing to Teach Your Puppy – Socialization
When they first bring home a new puppy many people immediately focus on obedience.
While obedience training is great and starting as early as possible will set your puppy up for success it is not the most important part of raising a puppy, contrary to the old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” there is no time limit through obedience training, we can teach a dog to sit at eight weeks old or we can teach a dog to sit at eight years old, while the training will go easier if your puppy is learning right from the beginning you can also train older dogs to the same level with just a bit more work and patience; so rather than overdoing your obedience training your first priority as a new puppy parent should be socialization.
Socialization is creating purposeful positive experiences for your puppy to prepare them for life in the human world, a lot of dog owners are not aware that puppies have a critical socialization window, this is a brief window of time where young puppies must be introduced to anything you would like them to cope well with as an adult; depending on the puppy, the critical socialization window closes anywhere between 12 and 18 weeks of age, what happens to your puppy during this most important stage of development will have a direct and long-lasting impact on their behavioral wellness as an adult. Under-socialized puppies will have behavioral problems, the severity will depend on the individual dog because there is such a limited window of opportunity for socialization; it should always take priority over obedience training at this young age.
Let’s take a closer look at socialization; there are a couple of key points to keep in mind:
1. Socialization is not the same thing as exposure
It is not enough to just expose your puppy to lots of things; you must ensure they are having a positive experience.
2. You must let your puppy go at their own pace
Forcing your puppy into situations before they are ready will negatively impact their experiences, let your puppy explore the world in their own time you can encourage them and reward them but don’t rush them.
3. If in doubt add some space
Your puppy doesn’t have to be right in the middle of something in order to have a positive socialization experience, if you’re ever worried that a situation may be too much for your puppy, add some distance.
4. The more socialization the better
Your puppy needs to have as many quality socialization experiences as you can fit in before their critical socialization window ends.
Now that you understand why you should socialize and how you should socialize you need to know what to socialize.
Most people have a vague idea that puppies need to be socialized to dogs but this is only a small part of your socialization checklist.
Let’s go over some of the basic categories:
The most important part of this section is socialization to other dogs, depending on their personality and breed your puppy should be socialized to anywhere between 50 and 150 dogs before they reach 16 weeks of age, easygoing breeds can get away with less and high-energy breeds, over-exuberant breeds, anxious breeds, and breeds that have a tendency towards issues with other dogs need higher numbers. Not every encounter needs to be an up-close-and-personal meeting, it is just as important to teach your puppy that there are dogs that they don’t get to meet. Try to socialize – the biggest variety of dogs you can find, different ages, sizes, play styles, colors, and breeds. Other animals should also be part of your socialization checklist.
Throughout their lives dogs are expected to put up with handling from humans it’s very important that they learn to love being touched and restrained by humans for their safety and happiness and for the safety of the humans handling them as well.
Remember that puppies have far more sensitive hearing than we do, socialize them to a variety of noises ensuring they make positive associations by pairing with fun things like food or play.
Locations and experiences:
If you have visions of taking a dog with you to places during their life, be sure to socialize them to those types of locations now.
As with dogs you should socialize your dog to a wide variety of people characteristics that dogs often have trouble with include facial, hair, sunglasses, deep voices, different gates, bulky clothes, and unusual Heights, be sure to socialize to all of these.
Your puppy needs to gain confidence to walk on a variety of surfaces; often new Puppies are carried a lot and miss out on socializing to the feel of different things under their paws.
I hope this article has helped you to learn something about the importance of socialization 😉
I strongly urge every new puppy parent to enroll their puppy in a well-run puppy school that uses reward based methods as close to eight weeks of age as possible even if you were doing well with your obedience training on your own, a well structured puppy school will teach you how to set your dog up for behavioral wellness and coach you through the socialization process please.
Feel free to share this and help spread awareness on this topic best of luck with your new puppies and happy socializing.