Socializing your new puppy: it's never too soon.
Raising a Companion
You cannot explain to a puppy that a car is a car, that a vacuum is a vacuum, that a baseball hat is only a hat, and the kid riding a bike is just a kid riding a bike. Everything is new to a puppy, everything is strange. Good breeders will do their part in acclimating young pups to a variety of sights, smells and sounds. The problem is, not all pups come from good breeders, not all dogs come to us as pups, and most importantly, socializing process is not something with a beginning and an end, it's an on-going effort on the part of the owner to ensure that the dog is familiar and is comfortable with what the world has to offer.
It is our job to gently and patiently introduce the world to the pup, going at his pace, slowing down, but never stopping. As soon as you bring your puppy home, you need to create a plan for keeping your dog familiar with different kinds of dogs, object and people.
Socializing with other animals
- When you bring home an 8 week old pup, you should already be signed up for a puppy class. This will be one of the few outlets for your pup to play with other dogs, and to begin to learn the rules of the dog world outside of their puppy litter.
- Invite, or visit, as many friends and relatives with healthy dogs as you can. Your puppy should be used to seeing different dogs, and should never go for too long without positive interaction with other canines. It will become your job for a while to seek out safe socialization for your puppy at this age.
- At the same time, avoid going to a dog park,even if you have a good one down the road. Wait until all necessary vaccinations are done.
- Consider going to a local farm or visiting a stable, if they allow dogs on the property.
- You may also try to sign up your pup for a puppy day care, if you have a good one in your area. This is one of the options that might have to wait until your puppy isi properly vaccinated.
Socializing with objects
- Allow your pup to sniff and play with plastic milk jugs, let them sniff the vacuum cleaner when it's turned off.
- Pull out different jackets, shoes and hats. Try them on in front of your pup.
- Carry boxes with your puppy on a leash.
- Explore the garage.
- Examine your car with plenty of treats inside and outside.
- Go to the park and explore.
- Take your puppy out for a walk along a quiet road to expose them to cars. The progress to busier streets as they are growing up. Ice-cream truck, trash bins, school buses - the more they can absorb and be okay with, the better.
- Visit a dog-friendly cafe or a store (call a few place, everyone has a couple of dog-friendly businesses in the area).
Socializing with people
- Invite people over for the sole purpose of socializing your pup. You don't want to overwhelm your puppy with 15 guests surrounding and wanting to play with him, but a small groups here and there will do the world of good. Instruct children on the appropriate way of interacting with your pup, provide treats!
- The goal is for your pup being comfortable with every age group, every approach, every voice.
- Get your pup accustomed to seeing people on bikes and scooters.
- If you are waiting until your pup has a full round of shots to begin this process - you are missing critical time in your pup's development.. Especially with large, powerful breeds your socialization work needs to begin right away. You need to seek out safe ways to accomplish this goal, but you cannot wait until puppy is 4-5 months old to begin introducing her to other dogs and people.
- If you are planning to stop socialization when your pup is 6 months old, you are making a mistake. Dogs are still growing at this time and developing a sense of self, and taking in the world. They go through stages that can either resolve or embrace irrational fears. As a result, you need to remain vigilant, and to continue to expose your puppy to a variety of environments, dogs and people.
- Do not assume that this work can be accomplished in one day. Overwhelming your puppy with visiting 10 different places in one day will not do the job. This is a process where patience and consistency will help your pup to become a confident and calm companion that can come with you anywhere and everywhere.
- Do not stop taking your pup out if you hit a roadblock! One day, at the age of 5 months my pup decided that she no longer accepted kids riding bikes up and down the street. This didn't mean that we stopped out daily walks. This meant that in addition to group classes, we began working with a professional trainer to help guide us through this stage.
If your puppy is scared, do not pet him, do not drag them to the source of their fears, just put a little bit more distance between you and the object, and distract your puppy with a toy. If your puppy knows simple commands like "Sit" and "Paw", try to get their attention by asking to perform for you. As soon as they calm down, move a little bit closer. Most importantly, do not give up on this process, and seek professional help when you and your pup need a little bit more guidance.