One of the biggest things we preach to our adopters is proper early socialization of your new addition! But how is the best way to socialize your pup without over-exposing them? We’ve outlined our favorite socialization methods for you in this week’s blog!
Make the Most of these Early Weeks
Your puppy is at his/her most moldable phase between seven and twelve weeks. It is during this time-period that you should expose your new addition to as many things as possible in a positive way. We kickstart all of our puppies with great socialization skills and introduction to a variety of experiences, but it is your job as a new puppy parent to continue that training!
First things first, always take into consideration your puppy’s health first. When you take your new pooch home, they will not be fully vaccinated against harmful diseases such as Parvo. For that reason, we suggest not introducing your puppy to places with high canine traffic until your vet has cleared them. That does not mean, however, that your puppy has to stay locked up at home! We love taking puppies to places like Lowes or other dog-friendly retail stores. Your puppy can ride along in the cart or be carried in your arms and still see a ton of new people and stimuli throughout their visit.
Once your puppy has received his/her final vaccination, you can begin introducing them to areas with higher dog-traffic such as pet stores and dog parks. Ideally, they will have been exposed to a multitude of scenarios that will keep them calm during these initial visits, but remember it is easy for your pet to grow overwhelmed. Always listen to your pet and never force them into something that obviously makes them uncomfortable. As we said earlier, these first few months are the months were your puppy’s personality will take shape. You never want them to grow up in a state of worry, but rather in a positive and welcoming atmosphere!
Be the Happy Medium
Seeing new things and going new places can be scary for your puppy! It is important that you are always the person your puppy can go to when they are nervous. Understand your puppy’s body language and respect them when they say, “hey, this is kind of scary!” It is okay for something to make your puppy cautious. From that point, it is your job to show them that they have nothing to be scared of.
Keep socialization exercises positive and always reward your puppy for good behavior. If your puppy grows wary and hides behind you, that is okay! Comfort them and allow them to grow comfortable with what is making them nervous on their own terms. For example, if you take your puppy to Lowes as we suggested earlier and they are scared of the moving shopping carts, allow your puppy the chance to sniff and inspect the cart on his/her own terms. Rather than drag them on, let them stop and give the cart a once over to establish that it is not as scary as they think!
Practice Makes Perfect
You can work on socialization in the comfort of your own home, as well, but that should never be the entire source of your puppy’s exposure. We like to encourage “homework,” especially if your puppy was overwhelmed by something outside of the home. Great things to prepare your puppy for are blow-dryers or hairbrushes, which they will encounter at the groomer. Handle their feet daily so it isn’t so scary the first time they have their nails trimmed.
You can let your puppy see water in a puddle in your yard, cars in your driveway and much more! When your puppy is with us, we play this CD every night to expose them to “spooky sounds” they will encounter in their daily lives.
Things to See
There are a variety of things you should introduce your puppy too as he/she develops mentally. Some of those include:
- Handling your puppy daily including their ears, eyes, muzzle, and paws.
- Exposing your puppy to a variety of environments such as rural and urban areas!
- Bikes, scooters, skateboards, shopping carts, etc.
- People and other pets who are not in your household.
- Children of all ages (but of course be sure the children understand and respect the boundaries you set forth with your puppy! Never let them tug or pull on any part of your puppy).
- Take your puppy for car rides and let them adjust to the moving vehicle.
- While you never want to over-bathe your puppy, they should be introduced to baths early on!
We highly encourage dog-parents to work with a certified dog trainer, especially when socializing your new addition! If you are local to our area, we are happy to refer you to a qualified trainer that we trust. For those who are long-distance, we are happy to help you review your options and find the best fit for you and your pet!