Bringing a new dog into the house can be a very exciting time. There is a lot to learn and a lot to teach to help your new best friend become a member of the family. Aside from teaching your dog basic commands, getting your puppy on a feeding schedule and house training, it is important to socialize your puppy. When a dog is well-socialized, they will be more at ease with new people, new dogs and new situations.
Here are four tips you’ll want to keep in mind during the process of socializing your new best friend.
Most puppies come home after they have reached 8 weeks of age. Your puppy should be used to being handled lovingly and patiently by people. He may be a little fearful of new people, but should not be overly shy or afraid.
It’s important to have your puppy start socializing between 8-to-16 weeks of age, which is when young dogs are most able to take on and learn from new experiences. As your puppy comes up on 5 months, the socialization window starts to close.
A Variety of Experiences
Puppy socialization starts with exposing your puppy to many of the experiences he will encounter in his life. This includes activities like being picked up and gently handled by people, riding in the car, visiting the veterinarian, visiting a friend’s house and answering the door. This is a good time for your pup to meet people other than the ones they are living with, such as children and older individuals. It can be as simple as taking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood to get them used to the sights, sounds, and smells of their surroundings. Taking a walk will also expose him to louder sounds he may not hear at home like trucks, sirens, and airplanes.
Experiences with other dogs are an important part of socialization as well. Group training classes are a great way to meet other dogs with a trainer there to help you read your dog’s body language. Meeting a friend who has a dog who likes other dogs and has been vaccinated can help to start a new friendship.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) recommends that pet parents begin socialization classes for puppies as early as seven to eight weeks of age, and seven days after the first set of vaccines. The American Veterinary Medical Association, along with other dog health and behavior experts, agrees with this recommendation. Seven to ten days after your puppy completes his full set of vaccinations, you can also visit a dog park for more experiences.
Rewarding Your Dog
Treats can be a great way to incorporate reward-based interactions for your dog. Start by finding a treat your dog really loves, like Bil-Jac Little Jacs Training Treats. These treats should be seen as high value for your dog and something you use during socialization and training. When your dog is having a positive new experience, such as with a dog or new person, reward them with a treat. This lets your dog know that this is a positive socialization activity and they are doing great!
Knowing When Enough is Enough
While having positive experiences is the goal, be sure to monitor your puppy for any signs of distress during socialization. Learning your dog’s body language can help identify when it might be time to leave a situation. Actions like panting, yawning, or putting their tail between their legs can be signs of stress.
Treats can be a good way to indicate if dogs are stressed as well. If your furry friend won’t take their favorite treat, it may be a sign they are ready to take a break.
When you can tell your dog is stressed, make sure you stay positive. This is all new for your dog. The best way to help them deal with stress is to show you understand your pup is feeling uneasy and give him or her distance from the activity.
Build Confidence with Socialization
Socialization is an important part of having a happy, healthy, well-adjusted puppy. Once your puppy begins to be more comfortable in new situations, you can build on these experiences so that they become more and more confident in their surroundings.
How does your puppy show you love? Share your story with us in the comments!