Puppy socialization is extremely important. One of the main influences on a puppy’s adult character is the amount of socialization it receives in the first 12 weeks of life. This is because dogs are designed to be especially receptive to interactions with new people, dogs, places and experiences while they are young, so they grow up to be comfortable with everyday events.
Puppies are programmed to be the most accepting of new experiences until the age of about 12 weeks. If the puppy has not experienced something by 12 weeks old, it must be “uncommon” enough to merit caution! From 12 weeks forward, the opportunity to socialize becomes smaller but socialization at any point is still worth doing. Socialization should continue for the first year of a dog’s life. Since most puppies are with the breeder until 8 weeks, you can see why it is important to choose a breeder who begins socialization before you bring the puppy home. Dogs that are not socialized may become fearful or over reactive, and can be difficult to live with.
One of the major differences between humans and dogs is the speed at which we grow up. A human takes 18 to 21 years to mature, whereas dogs mature around one and a half years. A week in our childhood is a relatively short period of time, but to a puppy it represents a large part of their puppyhood. Therefore, it’s important to make the most of the early weeks with your puppy. Deep and lasting impressions are formed at this age, and they will be remembered throughout a dog’s life.
Let’s look at ways to socialize your puppy so you can get started right away. First choice is Puppy Kindergarten class. Puppies in Puppy Kindergarten classes learn to be well-behaved, in addition to getting a chance to meet a room full of people and to play with other pups off-leash. Another idea is to visit your local park. Take treats along and when children ask to pet your dog, ask them if they would like to give your puppy a treat, too. Take your pup to any youth sporting events or small fairs. Go to your town’s downtown. Stand outside a bagel store or supermarket and have people pet your dog as they exit the stores. Throw a puppy party and ask friends to come over and handle your pup. Set up doggie play dates for your pup to play with other friendly dogs.
Dogs can benefit from socialization at any stage in their life, but it is the early weeks that have the most impact.
Nancy Suhr, of For Christy Dog Training, offers private, in-home training sessions as well as small group puppy classes and private training sessions by appointment at Oldwick Animal Hospital. Nancy can be reached on 908.797.7144. Oldwick Animal Hospital can be reached on 908.439.2470.