Socializing your puppy is the most important way to have a happy and confident dog for the rest of his or her life. When do you start doing it, why should you do it, and how is the best way to go about puppy socialization?
The best time to be socializing your puppy is between 7 weeks and 4 months of age. Starting right around two months of age gives you plenty of time to get your puppy up to speed and allows you to take your time with it.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior offers some very good reasons to make sure that your puppy is properly socialized. The number one reason is that it will prevent many behavioral issues later in life. Their official statement reads:
“Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.”
That’s a scary thought. But it’s true that a dog that isn’t properly socialized is going to potentially be undesirable and dangerous to other animals and people.
So how do you go about socializing your puppy successfully? Here are a few steps.
Keep introducing him or her to new sights, sounds, and smells. Constantly inviting your puppy to experience new stimuli helps he or she connect with you.
Make every experience positive. To ensure your puppy’s overall happiness, you always want to be positive, even when the puppy may wander off or do something inappropriate. This is when redirection comes into play, as it will reinforce positive behaviors.
Involve your family and friends. The more than your puppy interacts with people other than yourself, the better-behaved your puppy will be. By getting your puppy involved with more and more people, this helps your puppy build a social circle just as a human does.
Take baby steps just as you would with a child. Your puppy is a child just as a human child would be. It’s OK for your puppy to not master socialization all at once. Just make sure you make a little progress with him or her every day.
Take your puppy out in public. After mastering socialization within your own home, it’s time to see how your puppy reacts in public. Taking your dog for a walk is a very important part of a dog’s health. Learning how to properly interact with strangers, both people and animals, is the last major component of teaching your puppy proper socialization skills.
If you find you’re having difficulty socializing your puppy, you can always choose to take your young pup to puppy classes. These classes are especially helpful in helping socialize your puppy with other puppies, another very important part of socialization. But by following these few simple steps, your puppy should be well on his or her way to being a happy, well-adjusted dog for life.