The Importance of Dog and Puppy Socialization

Young puppies are adorable!!...Which is why they often get away with jumping, chewing, and misbehaving. The thing is, they are learning from every moment of their lives whether you like it or not. This is why it's ideal to start training and socialization them as soon as you bring them home. In other words, teach and reward them for good manners and create enjoyable experiences when exposing them to any and everything they might encounter in their life (aka socialize them). Hint: Give treats helps make it a positive and successful experience!

After four months, this window begins to close and your puppy may become cautious of new people, children, dogs, sounds, items, and the list goes on.

That's not to say that you can't socialize an older dog. You might just need to backtrack if there are things that cause your dog anxiety, whether it's the toaster or the beeping from your phone. Need help? Reach out to me about private dog training.

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The big lesson here—Don't wait to start training! Slowly introduce new items, sounds, people, etc, using treats to create a positive experience. You may want or need to start with the item or noise far away, using recordings if needed, in order to reward your dog for calm, relaxed behavior. Note your dog's response! Literally, keep a journal so you can note improvements or regressions, being specific as to what item, person, etc you were focusing on.

Did they get stressed and growl, nip, or bark? Did they try to run away and/or freeze? Or, were they calm and relaxed, either focusing on the treats or so relaxed that they didn't even need them. If they are upset in any way, try again another day with the noise, item, person, etc further away, quieter, or whatever helps not only reduce it's negative effect on your dog's emotional state but creates a positive experience.

Here is a list of some things to incorporate socialize your dog to as early as possible...
Handling:
  • Checking the ears
  • Examining the mouth and gums
  • Opening the eyelids
  • Squeezing the feet
  • Handling and trimming the toenails
  • Pinching skin
  • Poking the skin with a capped pen
  • Touching and squeezing the nose
  • Poking the nose with a capped pen
  • Cradling puppy in your arms or along the seam of your pants while they are their back
  • Holding your dog in your lap
  • Holding puppy upside down (if physically capable)
  • Holding puppy on their back while giving belly rub
  • Hugging your puppy
  • Pulling the collar (gotcha)
  • Grabbing puppy by other part of body
  • Wiping body with a towel
  • Putting on head halter
  • Putting on a harness
Unfamiliar Dogs:
  • Dogs who play well
  • A dog who will reprimand puppies with appropriate force and restraint for getting into their personal space
  • With puppies who play well and do not get overly aroused
New Surfaces:
  • Concrete
  • Slippery floors such as hardwood, linoleum, or marble
  • Metal surfaces such as manhole covers, vet hospital scales
  • Wobbly surfaces such as BOSU® ball, a board on top of a book or unbalanced thick tree branch, a wobble board (also a great workout!!)
  • Stairs
  • Wet grass
  • Mud
  • Ice, frost, or snow if you will live in such areas
Objects with Wheels:
  • Skateboards
  • Rollerblades
  • Garbage cans
  • Shopping carts
  • Baby strollers
  • Wheelchairs
  • Bikes
  • Cars
  • Buses
  • Motorcycles
  • Electric scooters
New Environments:
  • Suburban neighborhood
  • Residential city streets
  • High traffic city
  • Shopping mall parking lot
  • Inside buildings
  • Dog-friendly event such as an expo or agility trial
  • Location of several different dog training classes
  • Vets office
Unfamiliar People:
  • Women
  • People of many ethnicities
  • LGBQT
  • (Tall) men
  • Men with deep voices
  • Men with beards
  • Elderly
  • People wearing
    • hats, helmets
    • boots
    • hoodies
    • backpacks
    • sunglasses
  • People with canes, walking sticks, walkers
  • Teenagers
  • Children standing as well as playing
  • Toddlers (walking and sqealing)
  • Infants (crawling)
  • People running by
  • Indigent or homeless people
Other Animal Species:
  • Cats
  • Horses and livestock
  • Any types of pets you may have
Scary sounds*:
  • Thunder
  • Fireworks
  • Babies and kids
  • Alarms
  • Dogs barking
  • Doorbell ringing
  • Traffic (like downtown)
  • Jack hammers
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Toaster
  • Phone noises (different app notifications, etc)
  • Sirens

*If you can't get around these sounds frequently enough or at a level where your dog can have a positive experience, play videos on the internet starting across your home. Try to make them as realistic as possible.

Man-made Objects:
  • Pots and pans
  • Blankets or rugs being shaken (making a snap!)
  • Brooms
  • Balloons
  • Umbrellas
  • Bags blowing in the wind
  • Sidewalk signs
  • Garbage cans in the house
  • Garbage cans outside
  • Plastic bags blowing in the wind
  • Large plastic garbage bags
  • Metal pans or other metal surfaces
  • Metal-pens

Want more tips and help training your dog? Sign up for my next round of dog training classes or, if you want to get started today, I also offer private dog training.

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