Congratulations! You’ve just got a brand new family member! There’s a lot of excitement going on, and everything is new for both you and your pup.
By Guest Blogger, Dylan Dove, President of Barkspot
You realize that along with the incredible joy, you now have big responsibilities as well. The importance of the first few months of your puppy’s life cannot be overemphasized. During the first few months, your puppy goes through a time that will permanently shape his future. You can give no greater gift to your puppy during this period than gentle yet firm training. Training from an early age, including socializing, is the key to preparing your puppy for a happy life.
First on the puppy-training agenda is socializing. We’ve all met dogs that are fearful or aggressive with everyone and everything new. If you want your puppy to grow up to be a friendly and well-behaved dog, you need to socialize with him – but not many people know how to socialize a puppy.
Socialization is a process that introduces your puppy to new people, animals, places, and situations in a positive manner. A well-socialized dog aware of his new “pack” rules is confident and comfortable in the world he lives in. And the world can be an overwhelming place for a young pup – it’s filled with noisy dinner parties, people of various appearances and smells, vacuum cleaners, other dogs, and so much more.
Start Socializing Early
When should you start socializing with your puppy? As soon as you get him! Typically, a puppy’s socialization period begins when he is seven weeks old and lasts until four months old. This concise window of time is the prime period to socialize him. Although older dogs can be socialized, the process will be more difficult. Therefore, you should make socialization your priority when you get your puppy until he is four months old. Don’t wait or waste any time!
Expose Your Pup to Different Environments
The first way to socialize your puppy is to expose him to as many different sounds, sights, and smells as possible positively. You can start in the home, where there are many items your little dog has never encountered before. Let him slowly explore all the different sounds, such as the vacuum cleaner, hairdryer, washer, squeaky toys, or loud music.
Next, practice your puppy walking on all kinds of surfaces, such as carpet, grass, gravel, and hardwood. In addition, let him experience walking upstairs and downstairs.
Taking your pup for a walk is always an excellent way to socialize him. It will help him grow comfortable with the world around him, including driving cars, people walking by, traffic signs, and so much more! If you visit family and friends, take your puppy along and use it as a learning experience for both you and him. Make your puppy feel familiar and safe being out in the real world.
Introduce Your Pup to New People the Right Way
Socializing should include a wide variety of people. As with everything else, you should start gradually. Taking your puppy to a parade or music festival can be overwhelming for him and impact him negatively – he may take fright and expect crowds of people or noisy environments to be scary. Start slowly introducing your pet to know people, starting with your family and friends.
If your family and friends have kids, it’s best to keep a close eye on how he interacts with them. Interrupt any negative behavior immediately and ensure that the child is never in harm’s way. Remember that it’s a two-way street, so if you have small children, teach them immediately that hanging on the puppy, pushing him, squeezing him too hard, or pulling his tail are all things that are no-gos. Puppies can react differently to people who appear and move differently. Let your puppy interact with each person of the family and allow a relationship to develop.
Never let your puppy jump on people. If you allow him to jump on people during socializing, this habit will progress into his adult life and make it difficult to deal with later. Of course, it is adorable to have a cute little puppy run and jump up at you. However, it might not be desirable when he has grown up to be a full-grown 100-pound dog! Teaching your dog the sit command is a good way to overcome jumping. If your dog is calm and sitting, give him attention. If he is jumping and going crazy, turn your back and give him no attention. It may take a bit of time, but he will realize that a calm approach gets him more attention than jumping.
Meeting Other Dogs
Your next question might be, “How do I socialize my puppy with other dogs?” Again, the answer is to start slowly. For example, taking your puppy to a park or pet shop with heavy dog traffic may result in a bad experience.
Puppy socializing classes are a great way for you and your pet to learn a few tricks for good dog-to-dog socializing. You can invite over a friend with a puppy or a friendly dog and set up a puppy play date. On the other hand, you can find a puppy class run by an experienced trainer.
If you’re introducing your puppy to a new dog, it is best to do it on neutral territory. Normal behavior can include sniffing, peeing, nose bumping, rolling over, excitement, or barking/yipping. Allow the dogs to approach each other and only intervene if the behavior is negative. Signs of negative behavior are ears pushed backward, growling, or biting.
Dogs and children can be one of the best combinations in life – if they get along with each other. Supplementing positive first interactions early in your puppy’s life will ensure that your dog will be kid-friendly. Similarly, it would be best if you gave children rules on how to behave around your dog.
This was already touched on a little earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again. Children and puppies need to grow up with mutual respect and understanding for each other. It would help if you introduced your puppy to kids by taking him to a park and allowing him to observe children from a distance. Children can often be energetic, loud, and erratic. Allow your dog to accustom to these behaviors.
If you have kids living in or visiting your home, you must always be present! Let’s face it – both puppies and kids can be unpredictable. To ensure that neither of them gets hurt, never leave them alone together. With older children, you can use your judgment to determine when it is appropriate for them to spend time without you around.
Ensure the children follow proper dog etiquette, such as asking you before touching your puppy and being gentle. Pulling ears and tails or throwing their arms around your puppy’s neck may negatively impact your puppy’s perception of children.
Always aim to make every interaction with children a positive one!
Remember that the whole world is a new and strange place for your puppy. A truck passing by, kids running around in the playground, an old lady in a hat – these are familiar sights and sounds for you but may be scary for your pup. Your responsibility is to use every encounter as an opportunity to make a positive association. The prime time for training and socialization is open only for a short period of four months, so get started as soon as you can.