So, you just brought home a new puppy. Congratulations!
As you bond and love on your precious new pup, you may be wondering how you can build their confidence to ensure they grow into the happiest and healthiest dog. Your pup’s happiness and healthiness begin with proper socialization. Socialization is a regularly easy feat as long as your puppy is fully vaccinated and doesn’t frequent high-risk settings prior to full vaccination.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to socializing your puppy.
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Why Puppies Need Socialization
Dogs are incredibly social creatures that thrive off socialization with other dogs and people. The main reason why puppies need socialization is so they can become acclimated to your life. Properly socializing your puppy ensures that they will take things as they come in life, like meeting new people, going on adventures, going to the vet, or taking a trip to the dog park. Socialization ensures that your puppy will feel calm, confident, and comfortable in any environment.
A calm, confident, and comfortable dog is ready to take on the world by your side. A puppy that isn’t properly socialized can go on to develop behavioural problems, such as separation anxiety, stranger-based aggression, resource guarding, and a rampant prey drive. Without proper socialization, your dog can put others, themselves, and you in danger if they’re not adequately socialized from a young age.
Additionally, behavioural issues just make life harder on your dog, as they succumb to issues like depression, stress, and anxiety.
The Proper Age to Socialize Your Puppy
Puppy socialization should always begin within the home. This means socializing your puppy with other members of the household and other pets (as long as they’re fully vaccinated and aren’t taking frequent trips to high transmission areas, like the dog park or your local hiking trails). Socialization should begin the day you bring your puppy home. Usually, puppy socialization starts within their litter as their mother teaches them boundaries and their littermates teach them how to play. Continue this cycle of teaching your puppy play and boundaries the second you bring them home.
Before socializing your puppy and introducing them to the big world and other dogs, it’s important to spend time teaching your puppy its name, so it understands when it’s being recalled and when you need its attention.
Begin introducing your puppy to all the world has to offer, even at a young age. If your puppy is not yet fully vaccinated, you can still socialize them by either keeping them in a designated carrier, sling, or backpack as you run errands or go out to lunch with your friend. Puppy strollers are a wonderful option too, especially if your puppy isn’t fully housetrained. Introduce them to safe indoor and outdoor environments where the risk of disease transmission is low.
How to Properly Socialize Your Puppy
Properly socializing your puppy is relatively easy. Having people over, taking your puppy with you on car rides, and running errands with them are all wonderful ways to get them socialized at a young age. Having your puppy meet children, other fully vaccinated dogs and cats, and people from all walks of life helps them become acclimated to a diverse variety of other living beings. The more people and other animals they meet, the more social they’ll become.
Acclimate your puppy to different sounds and sensations native to your neighbourhood by letting them wander around outside, opening your window, or even playing regular YouTube videos with different common sounds (sirens, wildlife, nature sounds, etc.).
Make socialization a wonderful experience by providing your pup lots of their treats! Every time your puppy meets a new friendly face or encounters something new, reward them for their positive behaviour. This can be done with specified dog treats, kibble, or safe human foods like meats and cheeses. Your puppy will begin to associate new things and people with treats and will soon become excited to continue to explore the world!
You could even teach your puppy some tricks early on to help stimulate their little brains and reward them with even more treats, teaching your puppy how to sit is a great place to start.
Safe Socialization For Your Puppy
Safe socialization is key. As your puppy continues to gain confidence in the world around them, baby steps are important to deepen their understanding of what the world has to offer. Taking your puppy on walks in a designated puppy stroller or carrier, having an outdoor lunch with a friend, or running errands with them are again, great ways to socialize your puppy. You can always set up playdates with your loved ones’ pets in a puppy-safe setting.
Continue to expose your puppy to new sensations, sights, sounds, and objects. This can be as simple as letting your puppy roam the backyard or house. Acclimate your dog to the sounds of running water, cooking utensils, cleaning tools, and gardening tools to expand their sound vocabulary. Be sure to continue to provide treats to your puppy as they encounter new sights and sounds so they associate newness with positivity.
Vaccinations Are an Important Part of Socialization
One of the most important parts of socializing your puppy is vaccination. Vaccinating your puppy from a young age prevents them from contracting potentially fatal diseases like parvovirus, canine influenza, leptospirosis, systemic fungal diseases, and canine distemper.
According to the American Kennel Club, here is the recommended vaccine schedule for your puppy:
- Bordetella, parvovirus, and distemper vaccines at 6-8 weeks.
- DHPP vaccines (parainfluenza, distemper, hepatitis or adenovirus, and parvovirus vaccines) at 10-12 weeks. Leptospirosis and lyme disease vaccines are also recommended at this time.
- Beginning at 16-18 weeks, your puppy will need another round of the DHPP vaccine and their first rabies vaccination.
- At 12-16 months, your now adult dog will need another round of the DHPP vaccine and their second rabies vaccination.
- Every 1-2 years, they will need their DHPP vaccines. Leptospirosis, canine coronavirus, bordetella, and lyme disease vaccines are also recommended.
- Every 1-3 years, your dog will need their rabies vaccination in accordance with your local laws.
Once your dog is fully vaccinated at 16-18 weeks against fatal and dangerous diseases, you can begin taking them to the dog park and on outdoor adventures safely, where they can mingle with nature and other dogs freely. Vaccination is the utmost important step in socialization since it keeps your puppy happy and healthy!
Proper socialization begins within the home. Acclimating your dog to new sights, sounds, and faces starts with the basics, such as letting them explore the backyard and home. With proper time, love, care, and vaccination, your puppy will be fully socialized in no time!