Pug Puppy Dog 000030352606 Full copyDo you have a new family member? When a new puppy is added to the family it is a big change for everyone. Not only are you dealing with the house training and the chewing and all the other very normal puppy behaviours but there is also the training. Those cute puppy behaviours quickly wear out their welcome as the puppy grows to full size. Training is essential to instill the manners that will make your puppy a good member of society. The better your dog's manners, the more places your puppy will be welcome. In addition to the basic obedience, it is incredibly important to socialize your puppy so that your pup is comfortable in lots of different situations.

What do dog trainers mean by socialization?  In the very simplest of terms, it means exposing your puppy to as many things as possible is a very positive way while they are in their critical socialization window.  The canine socialization window closes at about 4 months of age.  So when you think about it, if you get your puppy between 8-12 weeks of age and then your vet will advise you to limit your puppy’s activities until they have received the two sets of vaccinations, the remaining window to socialize is very short. 

What if you don’t socialize?  The absolute primary reasons dog trainers stress socialization is to ensure your puppy grows up into a well-adjusted adult dog.  The more your puppy is exposed to new things when they are young the less chance they will develop fearful behaviour of new things as they get older.  If a dog is fearful of something, you will often see reactive and/or aggressive behaviour as a result.  Working through fearful behaviour requires a lot of patience and time. The renowned dog trainer Dr. Ian Dunbar has been very vocal in saying the risk of future behaviour issues as a result of poor socialization outweighs the risk of exposure to disease.  The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour (AVSAB) has also issued position papers on the topic.  

What can you do to ensure your dog is socialized?  The key here is to ensure your puppy is socialized in a positive way.  Just exposing your pup to new things and they are terrified is not socialization.  It is abuse.  Socializing is the process of exposing your puppy to new things and making it a positive and enjoyable experience for them.  The most common things puppies develop a fear of are children, men, loud noises, fast movements/wheels, handling/touch, new dogs and new environments. The list of new things is extensive but here is a snapshot to consider:


New People:  Dr. Ian Dunbar says that you should expose your puppy to 100 new people is the first month in their new homes.  New people include people of all sizes, ages, ethnicity. People wearing hats, sunglasses, hoodies, walking with canes, walking poles, in wheelchairs etc.

New dogs:  Puppy classes are a great way to socialize your dog in a controlled setting with other puppies.  Plan play groups with other puppies or with calm, neutral, patient older dogs.  Don’t forget to socialize with other animals eg cats etc

New Surfaces:  Grass, concrete, carpet, tiles, snow, stairs, wood etc

Loud Noises: Busy roads, city streets, horns, doorbells, vacuum cleaners, thunderstorms, fireworks etc

Fast Movements: Skateboards, bikes, wheelchairs, baby strollers, cars, runners/joggers, quick hand movements from a person or child etc

Handling/Touch: Develop sensitivity with being touched on the head, paws or hind end or being touched by someone unfamiliar eg. vet or groomer etc

New environments or things: Travelling in a car, crate, inside stores or other buildings, umbrellas, bags blowing around, garbage cans, vet offices, groomers etc

Remember that if you get your puppy in the summer, snow will be a new thing and vice versa.  It is not unheard of puppies who won’t walk on the grass when the snow melts.  If your puppy is used to seeing you in jeans and a t-shirt but then you suddenly appear in a hoodie with sunglasses glasses or wearing a backpack it can be scary.

A great resource for puppy socialization is the Socialization Checklist provided by the late Dr. Sophia Yin.  It sets out a comprehensive list of things to consider when socializing your puppy. 

We all want our puppies to grow into confident canine family members.   A well thought out socialization plan can go a long way to making this a reality.

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