Benefits of Socializing your Dog

All dogs need to be socialized at an early age to ensure proper exposure to other dogs and human interaction. As a puppy, be sure to QUARANTINE your pup to the yard ONLY. It is ok to take them to a local coffee shop or other low-key social settings, but NO dog parks or public parks where they run the risk of coming into contact with infected dogs or disease.

Vets recommend after the pups last set of shots (generally after the 4th visit with shots including: distemper hepatitis 5-way, parvo, corona, heartworm, and rabies,) is access to public parks and random dogs recommended.

LESS IS MORE!! This is a philosophy I hold strong to. The discipline you will have to restrict your dog from the chances of getting infected at an early age, will greatly increase their likelihood of better future health.

Have your dog socialize with only HEALTHY vaccinated dogs and try to mingle with similar size breeds. Like sizes will limit the risk of injury or mental trauma resulting from a bad run-in from an aggressive dog.

Socializing Your Dog

By: Nicole Ondrey
Co Author: Mark Siebel

Most people expect and hope they will raise a well-adjusted and happy dog. However, the thought of achieving this goal can be a bit overwhelming and perplexing. How do you raise a well-adjusted dog? What makes some dogs aggressive while others are excessively timid? What can you do to ensure that your dog falls somewhere in the middle of these two? These are questions that most dog owners ask themselves and to which they seek the answers. Hopefully, the following information will provide an overview of how you can begin to raise a well-rounded dog.

What is Socialization?

Socialization is a very broad term, but essentially refers to the process of teaching your dog how to function in the world. It encompasses everything from learning how to get along with humans and other animals, becoming comfortable in an assortment of environments, and adapting to new situations without fear or aggression. Properly socialized dogs are typically more confident, secure, and generally have less stress, which, ultimately, leads to a happier and healthier dog.

The key to raising a well-adjusted dog is to start early! Puppies are like children…they are like sponges during their early years as they are learning about the world around them. During the first six weeks of a puppy’s life, they learn about their environment more than any other time in their lives. It is during this time that their brains are making connections, all while they are learning behaviors from their mother and the other puppies in the litter. The period of 6-12 weeks is also a crucial time, as puppies are most likely to accept and become comfortable with new experiences. It is very important that these are POSITIVE experiences so that puppies do not become fearful of certain situations, which can encourage aggression later in their lives. Although it is not possible to introduce your puppy to every possible situation, proper early socialization will allow your dog to adapt faster to new circumstances throughout their lives. Socialization also does not end after your puppy is 12 weeks of age. Although the foundation of experiences and proper behaviors is established during the first few months, learning about the world is a lifelong process.

What Does Socialization Consist Of?

Since socialization includes so many different portions of a dog’s development, here are some of the major areas in which a dog should advance throughout the first few months of their lives.

  • Interaction with you, your family, and other people
  • Interaction with other dogs and animalsIntroduction and exposure to new experiences, such as going on walks with a leash, getting in and out of vehicles, and loud noises
  • Introduction to new places, such as dog parks, other peoples’ homes, and the veterinarian’s office
  • Being around and interacting with children
  • Reducing fear
  • Teaching about appropriate and inappropriate responses to stimuli in environment
  • Housebreaking

Steps for Owners to Take to Facilitate Socialization

You are the most important person in your dog’s life, and they will be learning about their environment from you. It is a large task to introduce your pet to the world, but the results will definitely outweigh the amount of work and dedication that go into raising a well-rounded dog. Although the temperaments and amount of time it can take to socialize dogs varies, all pets can benefit from the following suggestions.

  • Let your dog know that YOU are in control. Dogs are pack animals and need to know where they fit in the hierarchy of things. Let your dog know that you are the “alpha” in the household. This is extremely important, as it teaches your dog that you are the leader and you will protect them, which, ultimately, increases their sense of security and safety. Ensure that you have control over their new experiences with the environment so your dog can see the world through your attitude. Show your dog that you enjoy meeting other people and dogs and that you are open to new experiences. This will encourage your dog to approach the world in the same way.
  • Start slow and be patient! Your dog will not learn everything they need to know about the world in the first few weeks of their lives, let alone the first few years. You do not want to overwhelm them, which may scare them and instill a general sense of fear with the environment. It is best to take small steps to introduce your puppy to the world. Before taking your puppy on a leashed walk around the neighborhood, take them on a walk around the back yard. Before taking your puppy to a park with many people and dogs, introduce them to a small play group. Realize that there will be setbacks and that socialization takes a great deal of time and patience.
  • Ensure dog is used to being handled and touched. While your puppy is still young, pick them up, gently move them into several positions, roll them around on the floor, stick your fingers in their mouth, and inspect their bodies. Not only does this familiarize your puppy with being touched, it also encourages trust. If you have this much control over their body and do not hurt them, they cannot help but to trust you. Allow other people to touch your dog, so that the puppy also develops trust in others.
  • Get others involved in the socialization process. Unless you plan on never bringing your dog into contact with others, you will have to introduce your dog to other people and other animals as early as possible. Invite people into your home to meet the dog, which lets your pet know that visitors are welcome. Ask visitors to bring their friendly and well-socialized dogs so that your pet can learn by example. Involve all family members in your pet’s development so that your dog becomes used to interacting with everyone in the household. Clearly explain your expectations to all parties involved in the socialization process to ensure that everyone is reinforcing the same behaviors. You do not want to confuse your dog, so consistency is key!
  • Reward dog when they do something right. Always remember to reward and praise your dog when they exhibit positive behaviors, which will increase the behaviors that you want to see. Keep in mind that your dog craves attention and will increase the behaviors that produce the most positive attention. If you catch your dog doing something you want to see, reward them with a treat, a good scratch behind the ears, or a few minutes of play time. This will increase the likelihood that the behavior will happen again. Remember that your dog enjoys pleasing you!
  • Do not hit your dog. If your dog exhibits behaviors that you do not want to see, do not punish them by hitting or chasing them. This only instills fear in your dog, which can lead to future aggression. Instead, use brief signals and sounds like “grunts” “no” or “uh uh” to get your dog’s attention, and then redirect the behavior to something more acceptable or remove the dog from the situation. For instance, if you catch your dog chewing a piece of furniture, say “no,” and then bring your dog a toy to chew instead. Redirecting behaviors will show your dog what you do want rather than what you do not want.
  • Spay/Neuter your dog. Spaying female dogs typically reduces their tendency to roam and look for a mate, which decreases their chances of experiencing trauma, such as getting hit by a car, as well as reducing their chances of catching infectious diseases. Neutering male dogs reduces their tendency to act aggressively and mark their territory. In addition, both provide the benefit of restricting your pet to its trained boundaries.

As you practice the steps above in socializing your dog, remember that patience and positive reinforcement will not only benefit your dog, but will bring you a sense of pride and accomplishment in knowing that you have raised a well-behaved and content dog. If you are happy, your dog will be happy as well! Although the process may be difficult and you may not always know the answers to solving socialization obstacles, keep in mind that DOGGIE STEPS can help!!