At Off Leash K9 Training, Birmingham (olk9alabama.dog), we get asked every day about puppies! People often bring home puppies, thinking: ‘How could this cute face create any trouble?’
It is with this attitude that newbie dog parents overlook the crucial puppy socialization phase.
The socialization of puppies is extremely important. Without socialization, you’re setting up your puppy for misbehavior. Talk to your vet, fellow dog owners, and dog trainers – they will all tell you the same thing – puppy socialization is important and needs to be done at the right age.
In this guide, we cover the basics of puppy socialization, such as:
- What is puppy socialization? What are its benefits?
- Practical tips for puppy socialization
- The right age and different stages of puppy socialization.
- And more…
What Does Puppy Socialization Mean?
You will get different answers to this question, such as:
- Getting your pup to meet other dogs and pets
- Having it get used to a variety of sounds and noises
- Attending puppy obedience classes
- Meeting children
Sure, these are all correct answers. But puppy socialization entails a lot more. It is a defense against a whole array of future behavioral issues.
In short: if you want your dog to be accepted, happy, welcomed, and safe in human society, you need to socialize it to human social norms.
Benefits of Puppy Socialization
Puppy socialization has the following benefits:
- It makes your dog less excitable
- It improves its learning capability and can enhance your pup’s cognitive abilities and improve its memory
- Socialization may even Increase the nerve endings in your dog’s brain
- Most importantly – it reduces reactivity and a host of unwanted behaviors.
Some Practical Tips Breeders Use to Socialize a Puppy
If you purchase your puppy from a good breeder who genuinely loves their dogs, they will do most of the following to socialize your puppy before handing it over to you:
- Get the puppy to meet different people – The breeder will invite carefully selected strangers of varied races, ages, and genders to meet the puppy.
- Provide a variety of textures – this helps stimulate the puppy as it explores a variety of substrates and novel textures
- Take the puppy on exploratory walks -this helps the puppy meet different animals and other species.
- Take the puppy out on fun car rides – not just car rides to the vet but to the beach, park, mall, etc.
- Get the pup used to human noises – radio, TV, blender, shrieking kids, etc.
- Shows the puppy appropriate places to eliminate – to keep the human household clean.
The Right Age for Socializing Puppy – Stages of Puppy Socialization
The best-known puppy socialization period is from the time the puppy is 3 weeks to about 12 weeks of age.
At this age, a puppy is able to see and hear. The young puppy must live with its dam and littermates. Good breeders will not separate the young puppy during this crucial stage, as the pup learns a lot from its siblings and dam. At the same time, they will expose the 3-week-old puppy to the indoors, outdoors, and various surfaces underfoot. Good breeders also provide toys, food, and attention to the puppies.
At this age, the puppy’s brain is fully functional and it begins to understand what is normal in this world. If you have brought your puppy home, it is a good idea to start positive reinforcement. This period won’t come back, so make good use of it. This is a critical time for molding your pet.
- Introduce anything and everything that you want your puppy to accept in everyday life.
- Make sounds like those of the TV, radio, heating systems, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, cars, traffic, etc. as normal background noises.
- Let your puppy experience different walking surfaces
- Get it to experience different weather elements.
- Have it meet different varieties of people.
The Rule of 7 Puppy Socialization
The SPCA recommends the ‘Rule of 7’ to socialize 7-week-old puppies. This rule states that by the time a puppy is 7 weeks old, it should have:
- Been petted by or have met at least seven different people
- Been alone to at least seven different locations without its littermates and dam
- Been to seven different locations – the backyard, the dog park, the vet, a garage, the kitchen, etc.
- Eaten from seven different dog bowls
- Been on 1-mile car rides at least seven times
- Been crated seven times, at least
- Played with seven different toys
- Walked on at least seven different surfaces (grass, sand, concrete, or tiles)
- Taken at least seven different challenges, like climbing the stairs, exploring a box, etc.
8 Weeks – 12 Weeks
Between the ages of 8 and 10 weeks, the fear impact begins. This means that scary or painful experiences can have a lasting impact on your dog. So, it is crucial to keep your puppy’s experiences upbeat and keep building its confidence.
- Keep the puppy safe from frightening experiences such as rude, untrained dogs, rude kids, etc.
- Avoid startling or frightening the dog.
- If something does upset your dog, gradually build confidence until the alarming stimulus seems mundane to your pet.
If you want to have the best possible relationship with your fur baby, wish to take it places, and have visitors come to your home without stress, then puppy socialization is important.
When done right, puppy socialization can bring a lot of joy to you and your pet. You will love watching your puppy learn about the world, grow in confidence, and look forward to adventures with you.