The Importance of Socializing a Dog
Socialization is one of the most important steps you can take (besides spaying and neutering) in making sure your dog is a friendly, enjoyable and outgoing fur kid with other dogs, people and in different environments.
When working with clients in puppy obedience classes, I ask them what their plans are for socializing their puppy. I often get a stare of "socialize, why and how?" Here are some tips on the importance of why and how to properly socializing your puppy or dog.
Vaccinations Up To Date and Completed a MUST
- It is imperative prior to the start of socializing your puppy or dog that their vaccinations are up-to-date and completed. For puppy's this is usually between 12-16 weeks old. If you are adopting an adult dog, make sure their vaccinations have been completed before introducing them to any other dogs.
- After the last set of shots is given to your puppy wait one week prior to starting your "socialization" training
300 Different Dogs
Did you know this is the number of how many dogs your puppy should meet by the time they are 6-9 months old? Yes, this is a BIG number, but when a puppy can experience early POSITIVE situations and interactions with other dogs this helps to build their confidence level. A dog that has a healthy confidence level and is self secured is a GREAT dog to be around!
- Doggy Daycare - Doggy Daycare is the perfect place to bring your puppy or dog to have some interaction with other humans and a variety of different dogs. Doggy Daycare is a controlled environment providing a safe play area for your dog to properly interact with other dogs.
- Walk, Hike or Run - These trails are popping up every where in the city and country! This is the time to get your dog out with you to meet all different types of dogs.
- Dog Parks - As a trainer I only recommend the ones that are regulated. You join for a yearly membership fee. All dogs are temperament tested and proof of vaccinations is required. Then you visit during open hours for doggy interaction and playtime. Unregulated Dog Parks are open to everyone in the public. Sadly, many irresponsible owners will take a dog that has aggression issues there for training, and this isn't the right set up for that type of training. Many also don't have their dogs up-to-date on their vaccinations. Even though your dog has there vaccinations completed and up to date doesn't mean they are 100% safe from getting some type of parasite from another dog.
Over 100 Different People
- Did you know this is the number of how many people your puppy should meet by the time they are 6-9 months old? I know, another BIG number!
- Meeting different people of all sorts is important for your puppy or dog. People in hats, with facial hair, tall, short, young and old, even the disabled will benefit your dog. So make sure they get acquainted with every one!
- Hit the trails, parks and pet stores which are all great places to meet different people.
- Interact your puppy or dog with young children right away. Giving them a positive experience with kids is a great way for a dog to LOVE and trust kids!
- Bring treats with you, when someone approaches your puppy or dog, have them give them a treat (give treat with palm open, so no accidental nipping of the fingers is done), this will help build a positive experience every time your puppy or dog meets someone.
- Trainer Tip: Have your puppy or dog "Sit" first, this will help prevent jumping up towards the person
- I teach my clients to apply the ABC rule here;
- A = ASK, Every stranger should ASK to pet your dog (especially children, so correct a child if they don't, you could be preventing them from getting bitten by a dog in the future if they don't ask first)
- B = BEND Down, BEND down to the dog's level to pet and say "hi" to them, as their owner you should bend down too, help keep your dog in their "Sit" position (only if physically able)
- C = CHIN and COLLAR, I ask strangers to always pet my dog under the CHIN, a very non-invasive area of your dog without blocking their vision and for puppy's it makes it more difficult for them to nip at the hand that is petting when it is under their mouth versus on top of their head
- C = COLLAR, I also gently grad a hold of my dog's COLLAR, by doing this I am maintaining control of my dog as well as reassuring my dog with my "physical touch" that they can enjoy being petted just by my touching their COLLAR :)
Do you have a Prey Drivin' Dog?
- These types of breeds will need extra patience and extra work if you have a cat or other small animals.
- Prey Driven Breeds include the following:
- Herding Breeds
- Sighthound Breeds
- Scenthound Breeds
- Their prey drive can overpower their brain in making a wrong choice. As a pet-parent it is our responsibility to help them re-shift that prey drive and teach them to not go after a small animal. To help encourage and respond to this early socialization and training is imperative.
Socialize in Different Environments
- Pet stores, Outdoor cafes, family parks, dog parks, city streets are all places that your puppy and dog need to visit with you.
- Exposure to different noises are just as important; I worked with a country dog that came to the city and it was very sad to see this dog completely shut down when a city bus whizzed by us while on a walk, he crawled in fear all the way back to my house. This took a lot of patience and training to help him overcome this. So remember, if you live in the country take your puppy or dog to the city, if you live in the city, let your puppy and dog enjoy the sites and sounds of the country.
- Make sure to have some obedience training completed prior to attending a public area, event or function, a well behaved puppy or dog in the public is the "poster child" for businesses to be more inviting to include our dogs.
- Sit, Stay, Down, Leave It, and Come are all important commands a puppy or dog should know before making a public appearance
Benefits of Socialization
A happy, all around self-confident, easy going, can take anywhere dog!
- Socialization helps prevent issues such as aggression towards other dogs and people as well as preventing being fearful of different environments and surroundings.
- If your puppy or dog shuts down during an exercise session of socialization, start slower with the socialization in that particular area or with that person or dog. Use yummy treats to build up a positive experience and don't over coddle your puppy or dog. Tell them they are fine, but don't baby talk and overly reassure them, you will make them more fearful by making a bigger deal of their emotional state of mind at that moment.
- Never ever pick up a small breed dog to reassure it during the socialization session, unless they are in imminent danger.
- Never reassure a barking puppy or dog either, it is best to ignore this behavior and keep the walk moving in the opposite direction (going towards the person or dog while your puppy is barking is rewarding the behavior), they have to learn they get no privilege when barking at a person or another dog. When quiet you can turn back around and try again to walk towards that person or dog. Your puppy or dog will quickly learn this is how they get to say "hi," not with obnoxious barking and pulling you.
- When taking your dog with you, never leave your dog in your car unattended in extreme heat and cold temperatures. In summer if it is 80 degrees outside a car inside can get to 120 degrees in less than 30 minutes even with the windows cracked a little. In winter your car inside can get as frigid as an ice box in 30 minutes.
- If you have an older dog that wasn't properly socialized at the appropriate age of 6-9 months, please consider working with a professional dog trainer. This behavior can be extremely difficult to modify at an older age. Keeping your dog and other dogs and people safe is a first priority. Keep expectations in check while working with your dog.
- Sadly, some dogs don't overcome their fear aggression. That is why this is so important to do work with socializing your dog at a young age.
I hope you are excited to get your shoes on, grab your dog’s leash, and get them socializing! Have fun and enjoy watching your puppy and dog learn and experience new dogs, people, and things!