Remember to look for advice from Victoria Rose, Nanny 911 for Dogs, every Thursday!
Today “Nanny 911 for Dogs” focuses on “Puppy Socialization”
Socialization is vital to puppies! It sets the foundation for the rest of their lives.
Other than food, water and love it’s the single most-important need pups have in the first 4 months of life!
- Their key socialization period is from three to sixteen weeks. This is also the time when the puppy learns more quickly than at any other time in life. In addition, what is learned during this period will stay for life.
- Responsible breeders should start the process, then send their puppies to new homes at the optimal age of 7½ weeks.
- The new owners then have about 8½ weeks to accustom the pups to various types of people, animals, situations, environments and experiences.
Work hard and it will pay off big-time!
Early socialization, done correctly, builds confidence. Confident puppies usually become stable adults.
If not socialized they may become fearful. Timid dogs are often miserable, and much more likely to bite. (About 4.5 million people are bitten each year in the United States, with more than 800,000 of those bites requiring medical attention.)
Before they are 4 months old socialization should focus on:
- Gentle handling by you, friends and even strangers.
- Look into their eyes, ears and mouth, fiddle with their teeth, paws and nails – your veterinarian and groomer will thank you later.
- Have them encounter dozens of children, babies, toddlers and adults of all shapes, sizes and mannerisms.
- Play with lots of dogs (don’t let them dominate or bully your pup).
- Let them meet and greet all different kinds of people and places! Try these for starters:
Hang out with kids on skate boards and bikes; Watch cats, birds, mice, rabbits, cows, goats, horses and chickens; Visit duck ponds; Ride elevators and go through car washes and tunnels; Walk on an assortment of surfaces; Meet people with floppy hats, umbrellas, canes, crutches and wheelchairs; Introduce your pup to vehicles, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, fly swatters, kites, noisy pans, rolling barrels, shopping carts, crowds, traffic, construction zones and fireworks.
Before you start, please keep in mind it is very important to socialize in a way that never makes them feel threatened or scared.
- Work in short sessions
- Work at a comfortable distance from any stimulus so the puppy is not intimidated or stressed
- Be prepared to use food, toys and praise to reward your pup when they are calm and confident
It’s imperative they not be frightened. If so, you may have gone too close or too quickly. Back up, slow down and try again.
Also, a word of caution from a training standpoint…
You want your kid to be friendly, calm and secure in the presence of strangers, but if you “over-socialize,” that is… let so many people pet and feed them that they look to others for rewards, you may be disappointed to find that in public, they make a pest of themselves to others and you no longer have his attention (which you need to control and train him).
Always strive for balance. You want them comfortable with people touching and interacting with your pup, but you don’t want them to crave it to the point that it becomes their primary objective (over you). Keep their attention on you with praise and yummy (not routine) treats.
There is another serious caution…
Diseases are real threats to puppies! Until their vaccinations are in effect (usually at about age 4-4½ months), try to keep them more than sneezing distance away from dogs whose health you are unfamiliar, or on the ground in areas where infected dogs may have defecated. Don’t walk them in parks, or even your front yard if it’s accessible to strays. Carry your pup or keep them in a pen or on a mat. Ask people to use hand disinfectant before they pet them and don’t let them sniff their shoes as these are methods of transmission. (Everyone should take off their shoes before entering your home and wash their hands before meeting your puppy.)
Do not let these threats keep you from socializing your puppy just be cautious. Proper socialization will help a puppy become a happy, confident, life-long member of your family.
‘Til next time… kiss the kids!
Victoria (Mom of Jetta)
Get more tips and tricks on loving and living with dogs by subscribing to the free “Doggie Parenting” e-Newsletter. Victoria offers dog training/behavior modification by phone or via her “Baby Steps” training manual throughout the US. All services are guaranteed; payments accepted. For more information, visit Nanny 911 for Dogs.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please feel free to comment!