The Importance of Socialization

I can’t count the number of times that I have had owners contact me about their dog being fearful or aggressive. The majority of the time this issue could have been avoided through proper socialization. Socialization of a dog when he or she is a puppy helps create a happy, confident and well-adjusted dog.

This process starts with selected a responsible breeder. I will have to give credit where credit is due on both my Doberman and Malinois the breeders were proactive and sent pictures of the puppy’s interaction with the outside world, objects, people and sounds. I was even encouraged to visit and interact with the liter.

I am getting a bit off topic but being a responsible breeder is a very important job. When a liter arrives, it turns into a full-time job. It is their gentle hands and guidance that help build their confidence It is the breeders that start off the socialization process by interacting with the puppies, introducing toys, play, surfaces, noises and people Around the 7 week to 4 month period the interaction and exposure that we give them make a huge difference in how they will turn out as adults.  Proper socialization can keep dogs from being fearful of riding in a car or fearful of strangers and children. It helps them to be a well-adjusted member of our family capable of enjoying daily life with us wherever we may go.

Remember when you were a small child? The entire world was exciting and new? This applies to your puppy as well. Be creative with socialization. Take the puppy to new places, introduce them to concrete floors, linoleum, tile, hardwood. Tractor supply and Lowes are two pet friendly locations that allow for new noises, sites and interaction with people. The automatic doors are definitely something that could startled dogs. Make this positive let them see a person in a hat, in a wheelchair or with crutches. People old and young should be part of this process. Keep it positive and have small high value treats. I always use chopped up hot dogs but that’s my preference. Small meaty treats do wonders thus creating these new things as fun and exciting.

Some important things to remember here are to not rush it. Puppies can become overwhelmed so don’t try to do everything in one day. Remain calm, they can sense your emotions and often mimic what we are feeling.  There are several good checklists online that allow for a way to stay organized as well as allowing us to see things we may not have thought about.

One of the most important things you can do is to seek out a puppy class. While my puppy classes follow the AKC Star Puppy layout they often seem like play to newcomers. These classes are designed for interaction with other people and puppies. Here we can introduce them to puppies and people of all sizes. I introduce noises, surfaces and items such as walkers and wheelchairs to the puppies. They get used to being handled and groomed by another person and learn a few basic obedience skills such as sit, down and coming when called.

The bottom line…. this is a fun and exciting period in your dog’s life. Have fun, stay positive and let’s keep it playful.

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