Like children, young dogs need to be exposed to a lot of different stimuli in order to learn and to grow accustomed to changing environments. This way, they don’t become overstimulated and possibly agitated every time they are introduced to a new person, place, or situation as they get older. According to the ASPCA, socialization means “learning to be a part of society.” Consequently, if you’d like your dog to be good both at home and when out in the community, it’s imperative they get proper training in the form of socialization at a young age.By attending a class like Puppy Kindergarten, you can learn the skills necessary to properly socialize your puppy.
When to Socialize Your Puppy
When your puppy is young, between the ages of 3 and 12 weeks, they are confident and full of energy, perfect conditions for learning new information. This is when you want to teach them about the world they will live in. If you plan to attend a group puppy training class, which is highly recommended, you’ll need to wait until they’ve at least received their first Parvo vaccination so they can interact safely. Don’t wait too long though, because after 18 weeks, the window of opportunity for socialization closes rapidly.
What to Include During Socialization
Attending puppy classes and taking your puppies to meet well-behaved, vaccinated older dogs are just a couple of strategies to include in your puppy’s socialization. Don’t stop there though. Take the skills you and your dog learned during class and use them in all kinds of situations. You want to expose them to as much stimuli as possible, without overwhelming them of course. For example, during socialization, it’s a good idea to:
- go new places often
- try out different types of environments (indoor/outdoor, city/country)
- meet new people (at home and while visiting other places)
- interact with (or not to interact with) new animals
- hear new sounds (Don’t forget the vacuum cleaner!)
- investigate new objects
Socialize Your Puppy with Care
While socializing, remember that your puppy is just learning. Even if you do all of this at the ideal age, your puppy’s response will not always be ideal. Let him go at his own pace and be prepared to intervene when necessary. If the first try does not go well, it’s OK to take a break and try again. Some situations may be more difficult for your puppy than others, but don’t give up. Practicing will show him that there’s nothing to be scared of and that you’re there to keep the situation safe. You’ll also want to give lots of praise and treats during this time to make positive associations with all the new things he’s experiencing. Attending a class like Puppy Kindergarten will make those critical first few months much more effective in positively shaping your puppy’s temperament for the rest of his life.
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