The Importance of Puppy Socialization

You just brought an adorable young puppy home and are about bursting with excitement! You’ve heard socialization is important but aren’t quite sure what that means.

What is Socialization?

Socialization involves increasing your puppy’s comfort level with his environment and everything in it. You introduce your pup to every experience, object or interaction now, while the little guy is young, and you can control the outcomes. Your puppy will also soak up new information like a sponge during these first few weeks!

How to Socialize a Puppy?

With careful supervision and guidance, gradually introduce your puppy to everything he might experience throughout his life! This should include children, strangers, other dogs, puppies, other animals, and even strange sounds or textures!

For example, you want to teach your little one that cats are friendly and not threats or prey while he is young and everything is wonderful to him! You don’t want a large and powerful dog meeting an aggressive cat for the first time at 8 years old, for example.

You also want to make sure that cat meeting your puppy is a dog-friendly cat!

Ensure every encounter is a positive, happy one!

Puppies generally have two ‘fear imprint periods’ during puppyhood, the first beginning right around the time you might bring him home. It’s especially important nothing scares or frightens your puppy during this time, as it can easily be traumatizing! 

  • Ensure every encounter is a happy one!
  • Use plenty of treats!
  • Reward with enthusiastic praise!
  • Supervise every interaction to ensure happiness!
  • Never yell at or around puppy!
  • Ensure a quiet, calm (or cheerful) environment!

When to Begin Socializing a Puppy?

You can begin socializing your puppy with family or friends, and perhaps that friendly family dog or cat, as soon as you bring him home at eight weeks! The learning your puppy will get with mother and littermates during those first two months will set a foundation that will last for the rest of his life, so you never want to separate prior to eight weeks if possible.

Make this a gradual process. You don’t want to frighten your little one with two much stimulation at once!

What about the dog park?

Dog parks offer fantastic opportunities for social interaction, but there are a couple catches.  

  1. You want to wait until your pup is fully de-wormed and vaccinated! You don’t know what other animals have been around, and conditions like Parvo can be extremely deadly to young puppies.
  2. The grown adult dogs in public parks are probably too big for your little one and might injure him unintentionally.

What if I Never Socialize my Puppy?

Good socialization is integral for social development, and there is no time it’s more important than puppyhood! A poorly or non- socialized puppy could develop extreme anxiety around people or other animals and could be emotionally damaged for the rest of his or her life.

These are the dogs that will bite most often, while well socialized dogs rarely initiate altercations with people or animals.