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Articles > Dogs

Puppies - The Key Time for Socialization

Topic: Socialization

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When someone gets a new canine addition to the family, it is such an exciting happy time and everyone can hardly wait to hold, play and snuggle with the puppy. Along with the responsibility of feeding and looking after your puppy properly there is also the tasks of socialization and training to consider. Socialization is the very important process of introducing a young puppy to new and unfamiliar things including places, people, animals, surroundings, situations, objects, sights and sounds.

The socialization process should start at a very young age and be continued throughout the puppy’s lifetime. The most critical learning window for a puppy is between four and sixteen weeks of age after which it is harder to shape or influence a puppy’s attitude or opinion. Their brain accepts and learns about new experiences quicker at a young age, just like with younger children learning new things compared to adults. You can socialize dogs at any age but it is more difficult on older dogs as they have often picked up inappropriate or unproductive responses, which you have to work to change. It is better to prevent problems than having to rehabilitate, so working within the critical learning window of a puppy is certainly a huge advantage.

Introducing your puppy to new experiences helps it grow into a well-adjusted, friendly, happy, outgoing, confident pet that is a joy to have around. Early socialization results in having a pet that remains confident, relaxed and calm in any place and situation. Signs that a puppy requires socialization and obedience training include hyperactivity, anxiety, fearfulness, shyness, or aggressiveness. Socialization gradually exposes the puppy to new things, which the dog will view as normal instead of threatening. Some of the hazards of a poorly socialized dog is an unpredictable animal that may bite when put in a potentially fearful situation or could run away in fear and become lost or injured.

The key time for socialization is at a very young age and an excellent way to begin starts with enrolling your puppy in a doggie kindergarten or puppy class. An excellent way for people with very little dog experience to learn socialization skills, puppy kindergarten is also a wonderful way to bond with your puppy and have fun, while benefiting greatly from well run classes. Unlike adult dog training classes, puppy classes teach handling skills, puppy behavior and ways to deal with issues such as housetraining. Your puppy gets to meet other puppies and learn to socialize by interacting with them.

Some puppy kindergartens also have a few older dogs in the program, which help coach the puppies on acceptable behavior. Always monitored, doggie playtime teaches puppies how to behave suitably around other puppies and dogs. A well run puppy socialization class with good instructors will have a positive impact on your puppy’s life. Other benefits of puppy kindergarten along with socialization include having a puppy that loves being around other dogs and going to dog gatherings and events. The puppy has a fun, weekly, supervised outing where you and your pet acquire a great working relationship.

If your puppy had problems with other dogs and people, these classes help them gain confidence instead of growing up into a defensive, fearful animal. If you have trouble locating a puppy kindergarten in your area, look for a puppy obedience class that centers on positive training methods that also helps with puppy socialization skills. Along with learning socialization skills, you and your dog will begin to develop a deep bond that will last a lifetime.

Often, between the ages of eight to eleven weeks, puppies will suddenly develop fears they never had before. Called a ‘fear period’, your puppy may be all right with someone or something one day and be terrified the next. Fear periods are also very common and will often crop up at other times up until around eighteen months. It is important during these periods to be patient and not to expose the puppy to anything new until it is calm again.

It is important for your puppy to develop positive social skills and associations, which means a controlled introduction to many different kinds of things and events. If you systematically and gradually introduce your puppy to new situations, places, people and other things, he will become a confident, well-adjusted animal. The goal is to have a puppy that responds confidently and calmly to any situation, without any adverse reactions. It is important to have total control over all situations, places and socialization environments. Look for a variety of places activities to constantly expose your puppy to new experiences.

All the experiences and situations your puppy encounters will have an effect on the way he handles future experiences, whether they are different or the same as previously experienced. The greater number of new experiences you expose your pet to when he is young, the less likely different and new experiences will traumatize your puppy when he is older. It is important to introduce your pet to new places, people and situations such as going for car rides and walking in the park, where there are different smells and possible distractions and encounters. Introduce the puppy to people with glasses, wearing hats, in wheelchairs, riding bicycles, different clothing, in uniforms, children, people with strollers and more. Be creative when coming up with new experiences that will help your puppy cope in any situation. Show the puppy things that are noisy such as the doorbell, telephone, clock radio, hair dryer, vacuum, traffic, and television in a calm and non-threatening manner.

Make sure you positively reinforce appropriate behavior by giving a small treat and a lot of attention when your puppy responds appropriately to something new. If he or she appears frightened or aggressive, back away, allow the puppy to calm down and approach more slowly. Talk to the puppy, maintain close contact and provide reassurance. Your voice can provide a lot of support to your dog, keep your tone positive and light, don't yell or panic as this will only upset the puppy further and add to any confusion.

Other articles under "Socialization"

Article 2 - "Senior Dogs and Socialization"
Article 3 - "10 Tips For Ongoing Socialization"
Article 6 - "Breed Traits And Socialization"

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