Simply speaking, socialization is teaching a puppy how to interact with society. Not just dog society, but human society, the environment, etc. We have a very narrow window for real socialization to occur. Only up to the age of 18 weeks is your puppy’s brain still generally accepting of new things. This is not to say that an adult dog can’t be counter-conditioned later on in life if a critical socialization skill was missed, however it is much much easier for a puppy under 18 weeks of age.
Most puppies are most accepting of new things from about 4-11 weeks of age. This is the critical time frame for having your puppy have as many different positive experiences as possible. Now I must stress POSITIVE experiences. If you want your puppy to enjoy swimming, and his first experience with it is you throwing him in a freezing cold lake, he’s not going to like swimming.
Always move at your puppy’s pace. Let him let you know what he’s comfortable with and make sure you read his body language. While it is absolutely impossible to expose your puppy to everything he will encounter in life, the more new positive experience he gets, the more he will enjoy new experiences in general. For every pet dog it is important to expose him to all of the sights, sounds, smells, and tools he will experience on a regular basis. For example, fun short trips to the vet for a little treat are always a great idea, as well as the groomer if you have a coated breed.
Another extremely important socialization skill for your dog is to learn how to act around other dogs. When many people think of this, they think dog park or puppy play group, however teaching your puppy how to ignore other dogs is also an extremely critical skill. Puppies that believe every single dog they meet needs to play with them are a nuisance and can become a danger. Many dogs with dog leash-reactivity (dog aggression only expressed while leashed) start off with wanting to play with dogs they see while on leash in a very rough manner. That then escalates into frustration and then aggression.
Make sure you know any dogs you plan on introducing your puppy to very well. If they are even the slightest bit aggressive do not allow your puppy to interact with them. Remember, the key here is for your puppy to have positive experiences only. It is up to you to make sure your puppy feels comfortable and is having a good time. If your puppy seems frightened, it is probably too much too soon and you need to scale is back for a while. Never be afraid to add more distance between your puppy and what you’re wanting to expose him to if he seems nervous.
Puppy obedience training classes are often a great option for getting your puppy out and about. Don’t expect your puppy to come away from a puppy obedience class with rock solid obedience. That’s just not the reality of a puppy training class, but it is a great way to get your puppy exposed to other puppies, places, people, and smells. As soon as your puppy is vaccinated I recommend taking your puppy to as many different places as possible. Lowe’s, Tractor Supply, Petsmart, Petco, local parks, etc. are all great places to get your puppy around tons of different stuff. Have your puppy climb on the playground equipment and experience being around children. (Make sure any kids that want to meet your puppy are gentle and know how to properly pet a dog.)
The breed of your dog will somewhat determine the most important things you need to expose your puppy to, but generally speaking, the more new stuff, the better! Get your puppy out of the house, and get them around everything you can imagine. Just make sure to keep an eye on their body language and slow it down if they are nervous or frightened.
Puppy obedience training classes can often be difficult to come by in the Wichita, KS area. If you are looking for a puppy obedience training class in Wichita contact us and we will try and find one for you.