Who doesn’t love puppies?! One of the first things we have to think about when we bring our furry little bundle home is how to properly socialize him or her. However, we don’t only need to get them used to other dogs, but to anything they might encounter throughout their lives! This may seem like a HUGE job, but there are some definite benefits to having a confident canine.
So that means exposing your puppy to all kinds of things is enough, right? Not exactly! We need to make sure that our puppy is experiencing positive interactions, so they aren’t afraid. Using lots of treats and calm praise will help make things positive.
There are a lot of different things to consider when socializing a puppy. Firstly, you want your dog to be comfortable around people. Dr. Sophia Yin, a well known behavioral specialist, recommends introducing a puppy to people of different sizes, ages, shapes and ethnicity, as well as children of different ages.
It is crucial to get your puppy used to sounds, as a dog’s hearing is much better than our own. Sounds like thunder, the doorbell and babies crying will be much easier for your dog to react to if they have a positive association with them. You can find most of these sounds on the internet (sites like YouTube). You can play them for your puppy, starting with the volume low and working your way up, making sure to reward calm behaviour with treats or play.
The most important thing to remember when socializing your puppy is to watch their reactions. You want your puppy to be relaxed no matter what situation they are in. Your puppy may be feeling scared or overwhelmed if they start panting excessively, tucking their tail, pulling their ears back or freezing up. If at any point your puppy starts showing signs of fear or anxiety, take a step back and re-introduce the stimuli at a continuously lower level until the puppy is relaxed then work your way back up.
Properly socializing your puppy is a lot of work and a big commitment, but it is well worth it in the end.
If you have a new puppy, take a look at this checklist from Dr. Sophia Yin's website!
Dr. Juanita Ashton, BSc, DVM, ACDBC-IAABC is a certified Canine Behavioural Consultant, and one of the owners of the Elmsdale Animal Hospital
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