I talk a lot about socialization with young puppies both in my seminar Understanding Your New Puppy, and in Puppy Kindergarten class. But even after laying a firm foundation in early puppyhood, socialization is an ongoing process, as Karl reminded me over the last few days. He recently began showing fear towards unfamiliar men in new situations. So as a reminder to you, and to myself, I wanted to review some information about effective socialization. While this information is generally referring to puppies, it is just as relevant to socializing older dogs.
Why is Puppy Socialization Important?
• It is normal for dogs, or any animal, to fear unfamiliar things.
• Socialization means getting used to new things through exposure.
• Puppies have a critical “socialization window,” between 6-16 weeks, when they are open to new experiences.
• Exposing puppies to new experiences in a positive way during this socialization window benefits them in three ways:
1. They become comfortable with the people, places, and things they are exposed to;
2. They are more confident when exposed to new experiences in the future;
3. And if they do become frightened, they recover more quickly.
While socialization benefits all dogs, certain breeds were developed to be more suspicious of, and reactive to, new people and changes in their environment. For these dogs early socialization is critical! These groups include:
• Herding breeds like Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Heelers, and Cattle dogs
• Protection breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Great Pyrenees
• Asian breeds like Shiba Inus, Chow chows, and Akitas
How to Socialize your Dog
Socialization should be both safe and fun for your puppy.
Until your puppy has had all of his shots (about 4 months) avoid places where you find
lots of other dogs, like parks and pet stores. For as long as you can you should carry your
puppy whenever you leave your house or yard. When you begin to introduce your puppy
to other dogs choose healthy, calm, and friendly dogs that you know well.
Provide your puppy with lots of opportunities to explore and investigate his world, but don’t force him into scary situations.
Never allow people to pet your puppy unless he approaches them first. Meeting new
people will be more fun for your puppy if they offer him tasty treats before petting.
Dog Socialization Check List
• Of all ages, sizes, shapes, and ethnicities
• Men (including men with beards and mustaches)
• School age children
• Wearing costumes, uniforms, hats, backpacks, sunglasses
• Carrying objects
• Using canes, wheelchairs and crutches
• Homes of friends and family
• Vet clinic
• Pet store (carry until 4 months)
• Parks (carry until 4 months)
• Sporting Events
• Banks (where allowed)
• Outdoor cafes and restaurants
• Garden shops, home center stores
• Outdoor shopping malls
Sights, Sounds and Surfaces
• Vacuum, smoke alarm, garbage disposal, lawn mower, alarm clock
• Cars, motorcycles, trucks, busses, garbage trucks, fire engines
• Bicycles, skate boards, scooters, strollers
• Babies crying, children laughing, running, and playing,
• Thunderstorms, fireworks, sirens
• Walking on: grass, cement, rocks, dirt, wood chips, metal grates, artificial turf, tile, carpet, stairs, hard wood floors
• Other dogs of all sizes, breeds and ages
• Livestock, wildlife, and other pets
For those of you who, like me, may have fallen behind on your dog socialization practice, it’s time to get back to work!