Socializing Your Puppy

Equally important as training is your puppy’s socialization. Socialization
is vital to reaching the kind of relationship you want with your dog and
setting clear expectations. It’s important that socialization begin as early
as possible, as a very young puppy is far more open to being socialized
than an older dog, or even an older puppy. Sad to say, a puppy that isn’t
properly socialized by the age of four months may never be able to
develop the socialization he needs to enjoy life with others or be enjoyed
by others.
Socialization doesn’t just make the puppy more enjoyable and happier – it
also makes him safer. It keeps him from growing too aggressive with
people and with other dogs. It’s especially important that he learn how to
be in a social situation with other dogs, as aggression with other dogs
could lead to fights and harm to him and others.
Socialization takes place naturally in the litter, with the puppy playing
with siblings. As they play with each other, they try new things – and
learn what kind of behavior is appropriate, and gets a good response, and
what type of behavior is disapproved of, and results in a negative
response. For example, if the puppy bites too hard he may find his siblings
return that rough behavior or they or his mother may express disapproval
in other ways. As time goes on, the puppy learns appropriate behavior
through trial and error.

GSD 3


It’s unfortunate that, these days, socialization is hampered because
puppies are removed from their mothers too soon, to be sold or adopted.
You can offset this by providing puppy play sessions. You’ll find that any
good puppy training programs provide free and open time for puppies to
interact.
As your puppy’s owner, it’s your responsibility to introduce him to a
wider range of experiences and places. You aren’t just training him to
function in your home, behind closed doors; a good companion animal can
handle a number of situations in a way that’s obedient and responsive.


Why You Should Socialize Your Puppy


Proper socialization teaches your puppy not to fear other dogs. It also
helps them work off all that excess puppy energy!
When your puppy socializes with other dogs of any age, they learn lessons
that help them become better companion animals to you and your family.
Studies show that dogs that were less socialized as puppies are likely to be
more destructive, harder to train, less obedient, more hyperactive, and in
general, have more problem behaviors than other dogs.
In particular, insufficient socialization often causes puppies to behave in
fearful and aggressive ways. Aggressive dogs are generally afraid. For a
dog to develop into a good companion animal to you and your family, he
should be socialized not to just other dogs, but to people, especially
children. To understand why, consider that dogs see humans very
differently; they make a clear distinction between the owner they see as
their pack leader and other adults, and they make a clear distinction
between adults and children. To learn appropriate behaviors, it’s important
for puppies to be socialized with a variety of adults, children, and other
dogs of various ages.
As with other training, it’s best to address your puppy’s socialization with
young children when young – ideally, before your dog is four months old.
For one thing, it’s safer for the child if your puppy is smaller when its
socialization takes place.

How to Socialize


A good outing to try is going to a pet store that is accepting and friendly to
having its canine customers along for the shopping. More and more, pet
stores are allowing owners and families to bring their dog along. As you
can imagine, the sights and smells in a pet store give your puppy a lot of
opportunities to respond and interact. Just make sure the store you go to is
open to having you bring your puppy along.
If your puppy was removed from its mother and siblings too early, take
responsibility for giving your puppy the experiences he should have gotten
from littermates. For example, there are acceptable ways for a puppy to
bite and unacceptable ways. Puppies naturally bite when they play and
wrestle. They have thick skin that protects them, but sometimes they bite
too hard. Then, the mother will reprimand the puppy by holding him by
the scruff of the neck until he submits. The lesson is clear – biting is
natural in playing, but biting too hard gets reprimanded.
So give your puppy a chance to play with other puppies, or with gentle,
friendly, socialized adult dogs. Many adult dogs have a natural nurturing
instinct and will help the puppy learn what’s appropriate in the same way
its mother would have. Seek out puppy play dates or kindergarten classes.
And try not to hover too much when your puppy interacts with others; let
the puppies play on their own and work out any issues that arise, even if it
leads to some roughness and squealing. Certainly, protect your puppy, but
realize a certain amount of negative experience is all part of the learning
process.

German shepherd dog


You’ll notice the order of hierarchy becomes apparent during the
socialization process. Some puppies respond by being submissive, and
you’ll see them roll over and bare their throats at the first sign of
aggression. Of course, other puppies take a more dominant role, making
their will known and trying to force other puppies to do what they want.
Watch your puppy during these interactions. The way he responds will
give you valuable insight into how to approach your relationship with him,
and the training you do with him.
Socialization includes humans as well as other dogs. You can help your
puppy interact with people in all kinds of ways – at the classes you go to
with him, and, when appropriate, in day to day life. Be sure you give your
puppy a diverse sampling of people – old and young, male and female,
black and white. His perception of each may be different; help him learn
he can successfully and safely interact with the people he’ll meet
throughout his life.
And don’t limit his interaction with other animals to just other dogs,
particularly if you have other animals in your household. Let him get to
know friendly cats, willing rabbits, curious guinea pigs and more. Just be
sure you are watchful and ensure that both animals are safe. Start by
introducing the puppy to the smell – and just the smell – of the other
animal. Use its bedding, or a toy it plays with frequently. After a few
exposures to the smell, your puppy is much more likely to accept the
animal itself.

Teaching Your Puppy Proper Socialization Skills


Socialization matters – a well-socialized dog is a happy dog and one that
other people and animals enjoy being around. On the other hand, a dog
that hasn’t been properly socialized is a danger to you, himself and others.
It’s your responsibility to give your dog proper socialization and to make
wise choices depending on his ability to handle social situations.
Remember that the lessons a puppy learns in socialization – good or bad –
are hard to undo. Those experiences will affect him the rest of his life.