Why, When and How to Socialize your Puppy or Dog
Socialize your puppy, you will be thankful in the future!
Learn why Early Socialization is so Important
Not many dog owners are aware of the fact that in puppies, there is a special window of opportunity during which socialization is crucial. Such transitional grace period is only open for a brief period of time, ranging from the fourth week of life up until the puppy is sixteen weeks old. Coincidentally, this period of the puppy's life matches with the time when puppies have not received all their immunization shots and are therefore more vulnerable to diseases. This has often been object of debate between veterinarians and dog behaviorists.
With the eagerness to get puppies socialized and enrolled in puppy classes on one side and the concern of potentially fatal disease such as Parvo on the other side, what is the best approach for responsible dog owners? The best answer appears to come from statistics. Indeed, according to Dr. R.K. Anderson “The risk of a dog dying because of infection with distemper or parvo disease is far less than the much higher risk of a dog dying (euthanasia) because ofbehavior problems.''
Socialization therefore should be top priority for all puppy owners across the globe in creating a canine companion that accepts well strangers, children, people of different ages, races and appearance, other dogs and pets. Because puppies are literally sponges during their peak socialization period, they can easily learn to accept a wide variety of stimulations that will leave a last long impression.
However, not all hopes are lost for owners of older dogs that have missed out on this important stage during puppyhood or owners of rescued dogs with an unknown past. When dealing with such dogs, socialization towards other people and other dogs or pets can be accomplished thanks to a process known as ''desensitation''.
In other words, dogs are exposed gradually to strangers, other dogs or pets until they reach a point of being calm and accepting of their presence. This may a difficult task at times that may require the intervention of a professional dog behaviorist, especially when the dog exhibits extreme states of mind such as aggression or excessive fear. Times should never be forced and the dog should not be put in situations that cause stress. With time, determination and patience however, many dogs can be successfully rehabilitated this way.
Socialization for a Well Adjusted Dog
A well socialized dog is generally a happy, well adjusted dog. These dogs are the result of a mutual work well done by both breeders and owners. Good socialization skills indeed are initiated in the breeder's home, when puppies are exposed to children and people and fully immersed into a home environment. From a young age these puppies are also be exposed to objects, sounds and different textures that encourage investigation from the puppy as it discovers the world surrounding him. A puppy raised with his litter mates and mom in a dark garage or shed, will be missing out these important stimulations and will likely grow insecure and fearful.
Once home with a new owner, the new owner must provide the remaining socialization. Puppy classes are great place to start since puppies will socialize with other puppies and other people. If you are rightfully concerned about taking the puppy to pet stores, parks or other areas where parvo may be a risk, try at least organizing parties in your home so you can create associations with people and other healthy, vaccinated dogs. Owners must remember to socialize their puppy as well with people of different races, children of different ages, disabled people, people on wheel chairs,elderly people, dogs of different sizes and breeds, and the more the better.
The recipe for a well socialized dog begins here. Miss out this opportunity and you may end up with a fearful, overly cautious dog, or worse, a dog with aggression or other serious behavioral problems. Please socialize your dog as much as possible, even if you own a guard dog or a dog that you will keep in the country. Well socialized dogs start on the right foot, and with the right guidance will very likely to bloom into great, happy well-adjusted members of society.
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For further reading
- The importance of Early Socialization in Puppies
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- How to Care For New Born Puppies
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- Puppy Life Stages: from Birth to Adulthood
The different stages of puppy hood Puppies as infants and toddlers go through different stages of their growth. These stages are characterized by both physiological and psychological changes which...