Why do some dogs easily meet strangers and handle strange situations, and others cower in fear, or worse, become aggressive? There are many factors, but one main reason is proper dog socialization and training. Whether you have a new puppy or an older dog, the benefits of spending time and energy in these two areas abound.
Let’s explore what these reasons are, with Pets in Stitches as your guide.
What is Socialization?
Socializing your puppy means exposing them in a gentle and positive manner to new experiences, people, and animals. Done at the right time and in the right way, this approach can build confidence in your puppy, strengthen your bond, and prevent future behavior problems.
From three weeks of age to 4 months of age, your puppy goes through a socialization period that permanently influences his future ability to deal with new things. Gently exposing him to things now will make a big difference when he’s an adult.
Training is teaching your dog basic good manners. More than making your dog nice to be around, good training can save his life. The first time your dog runs after a squirrel at the park, you’ll be glad he responds to your “come” command before jetting out into traffic.
Basic commands your dog should learn include:
- Come back
- Leave it (to leave something alone)
Training also encompasses such things as learning to walk on the leash, how to properly greet strangers and other dogs, and even how to be alone.
Why Are Socialization and Training Important?
Studies show that behavioral problems stemming from lack of socialization and training is the number one reason pets are surrendered to shelters each year. Sadly, those pets are more at risk of euthanasia, since some may be labeled unadoptable, or may need significant behavioral intervention in order to become adoptable.
With some basic awareness and knowledge, we hope to encourage early intervention through socialization and training. Additionally, if your dog is lost, being adaptable and friendly to new people and places increases your chances of finding her. And, if your circumstances change and your pet must go to another family, proper socialization and training improve the chances that your dog will adapt well to a new life situation.
Tips for Socialization and Training
Here are some tips for puppy socialization and training:
Introduce your puppy to new things – new sights, smells and sounds are all around when you’re a puppy. Come up with a list of as many things as you can: an older person, a child, a person wearing sunglasses, a person on crutches. Surfaces are good to explore too – hardwood, carpet, linoleum, and concrete.
Make it positive – make sure your puppy gets lots of treats and praise. Keep training fun and rewarding, and you’ll have a learner who’s engaged and responsive.
Find support – puppy classes are a wonderful way to get support and help in your socialization and training endeavors. Find a positive dog training class near you, once your puppy’s vaccine series is complete and your veterinarian gives you the green light.
Involve your family – with puppy socialization and training any new dog, it’s important that the whole family is on board. It’s confusing to hear different commands from different people with different expectations, and it’s not fair to your dog. Make sure you have conversations ahead of time so everyone is on the same page.
Baby steps – go slowly, and avoid doing too much too fast. For example, if you want your puppy to get used to different people, start first with your immediate family, then introduce her to one friend at a time, then two people, and so on. Taking her to a large group gathering or a crowded public place is overwhelming and may make her afraid of large groups in the future.
If your older dog is fearful or if you have questions about socialization and training, please consult with us. It may be that your dog could benefit from the help of a veterinary behaviorist or professional certified dog trainer.
We hope this has been a helpful start. If you have any questions about your puppy or dog’s health or well being, please let us know.