With the global pandemic still widely spread, it can be a challenge when trying to socialize a new puppy that you’ve brought home. Socializing your new puppy helps develop a confident, happy, and well-adjusted pet. Socialization in a puppy starts even before you even bring your new puppy home.
Puppies need socialization to adjust and grow happy and healthy. Socialization does start early, and it is a short window of time, from about seven weeks to about four months of age.
WHY SHOULD YOU SOCIALIZE YOUR NEW PUPPY?
Allowing your puppy to become accustomed to new sounds, smells, and sights helps to keep your dog (and your children in the home) safe. Puppies have sensitivity to emotions, and new environments can create fear and anxiety. Other abrupt sounds or smothering by children can initiate this fear, too, which could cause instinctive and harmful or aggressive reactions from your puppy.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior states, “behavioral issues, not diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.” They say that if you do not properly socialize a new puppy, you can unintentionally create behavioral problems within your dog that carry throughout its life and even cause an early demise.
That being said, it is also crucial that you do not try to socialize your new pup too soon. Ensure that you are not taking the dog out in public before it is adequately up-to-date with vaccines and recommended medications, as well as before it has taken time to acclimate to its new surroundings in the home. Typically, puppies are around seven to eight weeks old when they can start to be more active and social. You should contact your puppy’s veterinary care & animal hospital if you detect any health or behavioral issues as well.
HOW DO YOU SOCIALIZE A NEW PUPPY?
The breeder or location where you purchase or adopt your new puppy should start the socialization process. Breeders or shelter owners do this with gentle handling of the pup and allowing it to explore.
However, once the puppy comes home with you – this is when the authentic socialization period comes. To properly socialize a puppy, you should follow these essential steps:
CREATE A SAFE SPACE FOR EXPLORATION: Introducing your puppy to new sights, sounds, and smells is essential for its acclimation. A new home will feel strange, and more exposure to these new places, as well as all of the sounds that go along with it, should be introduced.
Let your puppy explore at its own pace. If you hover too much or try to encourage or place the puppy in situations, you could potentially force the puppy into an uncomfortable situation. Allow your pup the opportunity to sit back and watch or leave the area. The dog’s ability to choose will give it greater confidence and boost its curiosity to come back and see what is going on.
The puppy should have its own area, possibly with a blanket or dog bed, that it can feel safe in, which is where it should start before being introduced to the rest of its new home. Some specific suggestions you can incorporate include:
- Having the puppy walk from where the carpet is to the hardwood floor;
- Introducing it to young children so that puppy can experience how often they are handled; or
- Doing things like letting their toys run across the floor so that the puppy can see and hear them are helpful.
INVOLVE OTHER HUMANS: Any friends or family that may frequently visit the home should be sure to come by at this point to be introduced as well. Having the different people come and go demonstrates to the puppy that it will experience new people, new smells, and new sights from day to day.
It would help to remember that puppies can also sense emotions, so try not to act too scared or worried yourself in these new situations, as the puppy will quickly pick up on that fear. You should also make sure that anyone coming to visit or meet the dog should be aware of keeping their feelings in check as well.
START SLOW AND GRADUALLY BUILD: You do not want to make the mistake of overwhelming your new furry friend, so try not to do too much too quickly. Make yourself aware of the puppy’s limits in what they can handle each day.
Integration with new people should just be one person at first, then two people, and then more. Processes need to be introduced gradually, rather than trying to host a party with the puppy, which may cause fear and initiate a reaction.
KEEP THINGS POSITIVE: All of these new experiences and people are going to be scary for your puppy at first. A great way to keep things light and stay positive is by giving them treats and lots of praise to demonstrate that each new thing is “good.” Create the idea that anything new is fun, even exciting, to help drive that positive approach to new things.
CLASSES OR PUBLIC OUTINGS: Once you have gotten the puppy used to more and more new things, you can once again move outside of the comfort zone to expand its surroundings. You can enroll your puppy in classes to start teaching them basic commands and tricks, or you can start taking it to more public events like the pet store, a dog park, or even another friends’ house.
WHAT IF SOCIALIZATION IS NOT GOING WELL?
You need to know what is expected in your puppy’s behavior and what might warrant a call to the vet. Suppose you notice that your pup shows aggressive or fearful behaviors like growling, guarding toys or food, or hiding when new people come to the home, and it has not gotten better with socialization. In that case, you should probably call the vet to ensure that there is not some other underlying condition.
In some cases, owners cannot handle the burden of doing all socialization independently without help. That is okay, too! You are still a great pet parent; Do not be afraid to call upon a professional trainer to enlist more assistance in making sure that your puppy becomes well socialized and acclimated for a long, happy, and safe life with you.