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Brown and white cat with white maltese dog at the vet

New Faces-New Places: An Education in Socialization

By | Behavior

“We just can’t take you anywhere!”

Have you ever said this to that friend who always does the wrong thing, is out of control, doesn’t fit in and messes up every situation? What if that “friend” is your dog?

If you have a puppy it’s important to expose him to a variety of people and places early on so nothing comes as a big scary surprise. But success can be all about timing.

Get on Board with Socialization Before that “Training Train Has left the Station

The goal of socialization is to have a dog with a good stable personality . . . a “superdog” . . . one that’s part of the family, is a good neighbor, and plays well with others, both two legged and four legged.

The optimal socialization period for puppies is between 3 and 12 weeks. This is when they learn rules and behaviors, and what is expected of them as a dog.

If the pup has the wrong experiences or misses these experiences altogether they may not have the tools needed to accept both dogs and humans and learn to live in both worlds.

For example if you take a puppy from the litter too soon he won’t learn “dog” lessons such as bite inhibitions or “play with me” posturing. You may end up with aggression problems because he’s not used to interacting with other dogs.

Similarly if a dog is only around other dogs he may not have developed the ability to bond with humans.

Generally, there is a 6-12 week window which is the secondary time frame to socialize the dog to humans. If that process is delayed it may be impossible to socialize.

So by 12 weeks, a puppy should be able to meet new and different people in a variety of situations without fear or aggression.

Socializing is not that hard and can be done through repetitive play, speech and touch. That’s called habituation, which is getting a dog used to stuff.

Of course it’s hard to anticipate every situation your dog might encounter.

Our dog Foxy, calm and relaxed in most settings is not bothered at all by the noisy vacuum cleaner, even when it gets close to her. But she was terrified the first time a locomotive train with a loud horn went by. And while cows don’t faze her she is uncomfortable around horses.

Even our lizard showed intense dislike to any man wearing a hat.

But familiarity breeds content. So get out there and take your dog with you.

But this does raise another issue.

Does the optimum period for socialization conflict with the conventional wisdom of keeping other dogs away from young puppies who are susceptible to diseases? We’ll answer this question in the next installment:

In the House, On the Porch, In the Yard, At the Park –How Far Should A Pup Go?

Have a question about your pet or its behavior?
Contact us at Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic by
texting or calling 480-987-4555.

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