Puppies are normally friendly, curious animals that come into the world lacking in a ready knowledge of humans and the world around them.
They need to be taught about bicycles, cars, trips, and other animals and people in general. If not given the chance to learn these things, a puppy can often grow up to be fearful, antisocial, insecure pets. This situation can usually be avoided, with early exposure to a wide variety of sights, sounds, people, places and things. The best time to start socialization of a puppy is after seven weeks of age.
The first three months are the most important in the physical and emotional development of a puppy’s life.
If proper socialization is not begun before this time, behavioral problems such as timidity, fear or aggression may occur.
When socialization is started, keep it a quiet and simple as possible. Begin with a one on one introduction to people or other pets. Gradually increase the number of people, noises and situations. After your puppy has been properly vaccinated, invite friends and their pets to come visit. Have them approach and play with your puppy. Visiting that occurs in their own home will often make the puppy feel more secure about new situations.
When your puppy feels secure in meeting new people in this manner, start taking him on as many walks and outings as possible. Try to avoid high-risk areas such as public parks where the risk of disease is highest. Also try to take these outings during the quieter times of the day and as the puppy becomes more secure, increase the chances of new stimuli.
Always reward your puppy with praise when he or she is exhibiting desired behavior. Treats are also an excellent encouragement that can even be given to new people as a reward. As soon as you have taught your puppy to sit, insist he does so whenever meeting new people. This will produce a more acceptable pet that doesn’t lunge or jump on visitors.
Remember a puppy that grows up in a restricted environment can often show fear or aggression when meeting strangers.
Even if there are no children in the household, it is best to introduce the puppy to some at a young age. It is highly unlikely a dog will live its entire life and never encounter a child. If a puppy is never given the opportunity to play with children in the early months, it may never be comfortable around them and can even see them as a threat that needs to be put in its place.
Training classes are an excellent way to socialize your puppy. Many instructors allow puppies as young as three or four months to participate. These classes are designed to train not only the puppy but the owner as well. By teaching the owner proper training techniques, he or she has a much higher chance of successful socialization. These training classes can often be found at community colleges, pet stores, veterinary clinics and phone books.
When trying to socialize your puppy, it is important to remember positive reinforcement of an acceptable behavior is desired over physical punishment. Swatting with your hand or a rolled newspaper, thumping on the nose or rubbing a puppy’s nose in it’s own feces can often teach fear of a human hand, timidity or even cause a puppy to become a fear biter.
Training and socialization of your puppy requires time and commitment on the part of the owner. If done properly, the results are well worth the effort involved when you have a socially friendly dog that causes pride in the owner.