Socialization is the process of learning to be a part of society. Socializing in terms of puppies means to help them learn about a human society so they can be comfortable as a pet in human society. Here society does not mean only people but also environments, buildings, sights, noises, smells, animals, and other dogs.
Most puppies are curious creatures and they get used to the everyday things they encounter in their environment naturally as they grow up. After reaching a certain age, they start getting more suspicious of things and hence, start to explore on their own. Socialization is an important part of a dog’s development as it teaches it to leave comfortable and not get scared of birds and leaves or a new plant it comes across every day. As it grows up it learns to react to new things with a healthy dose of caution to protect itself from something that could truly be dangerous.
Best Age for Puppy Socialization
Puppies are most curious to learn new things and accepting of new experiences when they are 3 to 12 weeks old. After that age, they start developing a cautious nature for anything they haven’t yet encountered. When a puppy enters the cautious phase, which is 12 to 18 weeks old, it starts getting harder and harder to socialize easily as it may not be in the space to accept new things or enjoy something new. After the 18- week mark, it is next to impossible to teach a dog something new or get it to interact with a new thing, or help it become comfortable with something it finds frightening.
Importance of Puppy Socialization.
Socialization is important for the dog and the human to co-exist happily and safely. It does not only make it convenient for the owner but also makes the dog a safer, relaxed, and enjoyable pet. Socialization makes them adaptable and easy-going as they get more comfortable in a wider variety of situations than un-socialized dogs. Hence, they do not behave fearfully or aggressively when interacting with something new. Well-socialized dogs are relaxed in presence of honking horns, cats, cyclists, veterinary examinations, crowds, and long stairwells, which makes them easier and safer to live with than dogs who react fearfully in these situations.
Socialization is not an all or nothing kind of thing. You can socialize a puppy in ranges as suitable for your dog and you, a bit, a lot, or a whole lot, all kinds of socialization are still socialization. The wider the range of experiences you expose your pal too, the relaxed and composed in will be in a wide variety of situations as an adult.
How to Socialize a puppy?
Socialization is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a long process and requires exposure to all the types of people, animals, places, sounds, and experiences that you expect your dog to be comfortable with later in its life. Depending on the lifestyle you expect for your dog, the training might include the sight and sound of trains, garbage trucks, schoolyards, playing/screaming children, crowds, cats, livestock or crying infants, and more. Although it is impossible to expose a young puppy to everything it will encounter in life at once but the more elements that you cover during the peak socialization or the most curious period of 3 to 12 weeks, the puppy will more likely be able to generalize all its prior experiences and make it a habit of finding something familiar in every new situation.
What is My Role When I Socialize My Puppy?
Your role is to make the whole experience easy for your pal. You have to make sure that the exposure is not overwhelming for the pup. The goal is to make it more comfortable with each experience and not more worried every time you expose it to something new. For example, maybe you are planning to have all your friends meet your dog but once but some puppies can be overwhelmed at the sight of a group of strangers, all trying to interact with it. The rule of thumb for puppy socialization is to keep noticing and analyzing your puppy’s reaction whenever you expose it to something so that you can tone things down when it seems at all uncomfortable. At the end of a socialization experience- compliment the puppy with praise, petting, a fun game, or a special treat.
Yes, there are puppy classes for socialization purposes and they are great. If you don’t know how to socialize your puppy or where to start, have your little dog attend puppy kindergarten classes. These are classes designed for the training and early socialization of puppies. A typical puppy class consists of off-leash play and play-fighting which helps puppies to socialize with each other. The classes are to teach them to be gentle with their mouthing and biting, and it also gets them used to being handled by a variety of people. Some classes even include exposure to odd and new sights and sounds with the help of props, CDs of sounds, and theatrics with costumes to normalize the puppies to a wide range of life experiences.
To conclude, Socialization is an essential part of a dog’s life as it helps it in the puppy years to develop into a happy, fun, and safe companion. Most pet parents find it convenient and more enjoyable to live with a dog who is socialized and stays relaxed with strangers, gets along well with dogs, and adapts easily to new experiences. While most dogs are very impressionable when young and can learn to take everything in stride, some are born with genetic predispositions that can make the task difficult or impossible. Socializing your puppy gives it the greatest chance to develop into a dog who is comfortable in its environment and lives its life happily.