Dogs are not much different from humans when it comes to the need for socialization skills. But just like us, some dogs are more introverted and others are much more extroverted. Both kinds of dogs can be your best friend. So why is socialization important?
If your dog has good manners and is well-adjusted to being in situations outside his everyday activities, he is going to be much happier, making him a better companion. A socialized dog that can adapt quickly to changes in his environment—new dog walking by the front yard, a birthday party full of strangers in his house, traffic racing by on the road, etc.—is a dog that will not react in an unexpected way.
When you start training your puppy, you want to control the environment. Allow him to learn in an ordered setting that gives him time to develop the necessary social skills to flourish. By not preparing him for new situations, he could develop anxiety and insecurity which could cause him to lash out.
When do you start socialization?
The best time to start is as early as possible. Your puppy will continue to learn socialization skills throughout the first year of his life; however, starting them at three months is an accepted beginning period.
Did you know the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has a kernel of truth to it? If you want your puppy to be accepting of new animals—maybe even a pesky cat—you are going to want to start during his first three months. As an aside, you can teach an old dog new tricks, but this is about puppies. Puppies learn to socialize easier than older dogs.
Some trainers and vets recommend letting your puppy stay with its mother and littermates in a home with a human presence for its first 7-8 weeks to build a socializing foundation. The next two months mark an important time in your puppy’s life as he learns about his environment.
Handling your puppy during the first five weeks of his life will often lead to a dog that possesses more confidence, matures faster, and explores new situations without fear. This dog is less likely to develop social anxiety or suffer from stress. A puppy that has spent a good part of his first couple months in an enclosed cage away from contact with other dogs and humans is unlikely to have received the proper stimulation to become easily socialized.
Don’t rush into it. Take it easy. Don’t throw him into the deep end alone. Stay with him in these new situations. Watch him and observe for indicators that he is becoming uncomfortable or frightened. Remove him. Praise him. And maybe wait a day or two before putting him back in that situation.
If he’s adapting quickly, reinforce the behavior in a positive manner with encouragement and treats.
Be willing to accept that your puppy may have limitations. He may not be ever be fully comfortable around children or other dogs. Don’t force him into it. He will let you know his limits.
Perfect Paw puppies come from working farms in Arkansas. They are accustomed to being around kids, other dogs, and often cats, horses, and chickens, too, from the beginnings of their lives. They are more likely to socialize well. This is something to consider when you think about where to buy your puppy.