The socialization of the dog is an essential process in which the dog learns to relate to all kinds of people, animals and environments. It is a critical sensitive period so that, in its adult stage, the dog has a balanced and self-confident character. However, how to socialize a puppy correctly? What should we do and what should we avoid?
What is socialization?
Socialization is a sensitive period that begins at three weeks of life and ends around three months in which the recognition of friendly species occurs . Proper socialization allows the dog to interact with all kinds of people, whether we are talking about children, adults or the elderly, dogs and cats and even adapt correctly to different environments, such as the city, the mountains, the subway, etc.
The dog begins to socialize with its mother and siblings , learning the canine language, the typical behaviors of the species or the limits of the game, among others. But, at what age can puppies be separated from their mother? Ideally, do it between 8 and 10 weeks, before your socialization window is completely closed. At this point you will already know how to relate to other dogs and people but you will still be open to adapting to a new environment and its individuals.
Offering a wide range of positive experiences will allow the dog to relate correctly in its adult stage. For this reason, we can affirm that socialization is a very important process in the life of any pet, just as it would be for a child.
How to socialize a puppy with people?
The socialization of the dog with people is essential in any environment . Dr. Ian Dunbar, veterinarian, ethologist and trainer, suggests a puppy should know at least 1,000 people before one hundred months, however, as we know that this is not always possible, we encourage you to relate to people of all dude, let’s talk about children, adults and the elderly .
It is imperative that interactions are always positive . It is not enough that the puppy is not afraid of people, but that he has to feel happy every time he meets someone. Also, socialization must occur voluntarily . This means that you do not have to force your puppy to get close to people, but let him do it of his own free will. This way you will avoid the appearance of fears and phobias.
It is likely that you will find informative pages that indicate that a dog should not be socialized with many people to be a good guardian, this theory is not only false, but it is also very dangerous. An incorrectly socialized dog that experiences fear or insecurity, even people can end up showing very serious aggressive behaviors that are very complicated and even impossible to solve in their adulthood.
Some tips for socializing a puppy with people are:
- Invite your friends and family to visit your home and ask them to spend a few minutes of attention to your dog. They can offer him a small piece of food, offer him some caresses or play with him. Remember, interactions have to be positive.
- Take your dog outside to see new people every day. If your dog still does not have the vaccination schedule up to date, carry it in your arms or in the travel crate to avoid contagion. You don’t need to take it for a two kilometer walk, walk to the corner and come back, take it when you go to the store, etc.
- Habituate it to the presence of small children and babies. To do this, allow him to approach small children and give him a little food when he is calm. In this way, you will associate young children with good things. Control these interactions very well so that children do not hurt your dog.
- Puppy socialization meetings or puppy classes will also help you socialize your dog with people because the owners of the other puppies are present.
- Get your puppy used to being handled . For this, caress it, lift it, touch its paws, check its teeth, etc. Do all of this gently and gently, giving him a small piece of food when he sits still and allows you to manipulate him. It is highly recommended that other people also practice manipulation with your puppy. This will help you get used to this and accept vet checkups with ease.
Basically, you have to make your dog have fun with people. Of course, you have to take care that he doesn’t get scared or hurt in any of these interactions. A negative experience could lead to unwanted behaviors. When your dog has all his vaccinations, daily walks will strengthen his socialization with people. So you no longer need to invite friends just to meet your puppy.
During the socialization of your dog with people, you have to consider different types of people, we have already explained that you should introduce children, adults and the elderly, but also people of different ethnic origin, with different types of clothing (hats, coats, glasses …), with different characteristics etc.
While it is important that you socialize your dog with people, you have to be aware that this has some risks. If your puppy isn’t fully vaccinated yet, contagious diseases are a major risk. Take this into account so that you can take the corresponding security measures.
How to socialize a puppy with other dogs?
Socializing the dog with other dogs is a relatively easy process to work with when it comes to eight-week-old puppies. At this stage, the dog will have been separated from its family at the optimal time, so it will already have the basic notions to relate properly.
We can go to classes for puppies or look for other dogs in the same stage to relate them. It is important that they are sociable dogs and that, as in the previous case, they offer a positive experience to the dog. Socialization will happen on its own. Ideally, you should be able to introduce lots of dogs for your pup to play or interact with on a daily basis. We will try to find dogs of different breeds, colors and sizes .
How to socialize a puppy with other animals?
The socialization of the puppy with other animals is influenced by our lifestyle, the place where we live or the animals in the home. In the countryside, dogs are easily related to all kinds of animals: sheep, horses, cats, etc. But in the city it is more complicated. If we value the option of adopting a cat, rabbit or tortoise in the future, we should consider it at this time and look for sociable individuals with whom we can regularly relate to our dog.
Remember that socialization must occur voluntarily. This means that you don’t have to force your puppy to get used to the other animals, but rather let him do it of his own free will. To socialize your puppy with other animals you have to take some precautions . You must take the safety of both your puppy and the other animals into account. For example, a good way to introduce cats and dogs is by placing the adult feline in a travel cage. In puppy cats it will not be necessary.
On the other hand, it is not a good idea to allow your puppy to play with small, fragile pets such as hamsters. In this case, it will be better for your puppy to get used to ignoring these pets, since even playing can hurt them. If you live in a place where there are large animals, such as cows and goats, you should also socialize your puppy with those animals by walking nearby and using positive reinforcement to associate their presence with pleasant things, such as petting, tasty treats, or play sessions.
Socialize the puppy with the environment
Finally we will talk about one last part, although not for that less important. We must remember that in our environment there are objects or other elements that the dog must know, such as cars, bicycles or plants.
There are many dogs that in their adult stage chase, bite and even attack scooters. This is due to the lack of socialization with these objects, which have generated fear and insecurity in him. To do this, we will take our puppy to all kinds of parks and environments, especially if they are busy, to get used to the presence of all kinds of elements. If we live in a very quiet place, it may be interesting to introduce these elements gradually, so that a state of overexcitement does not occur.
Consequences of poor or no socialization
Preventing our dog from interacting with other people and animals, especially dogs, or not having access to different inmates is putting his well-being at risk, in addition, we can cause him to experience different types of behavioral problems , such as:
- Fear of people
- Fear of dogs
- Aggression towards people
- Aggression towards dogs
- Separation anxiety
In the most serious cases, when dogs live in poor environments without the possibility of interacting with other animals or people, the dog can develop sensory deprivation syndrome in dogs, in which they are unable to relate correctly and present blockage, paralysis, rejection, uncontrolled barking, etc.
We must know that to a greater or lesser extent we can practically always work on the socialization problems of dogs, however, to socialize an adult dog or to solve a trauma in the dog, the guidelines that only a specialist can offer us may be necessary. In this case, the ideal is to go to a veterinarian specialized in ethology .
Extra tips for puppy socialization
Finally, we will add some extra tips, fundamental in this sensitive stage and on which an adequate character in adulthood will depend:
- Socialization is a process that must be carried out gradually , we will avoid overexposing the dog to stressful environments or situations that can trigger an anxiety disorder.
- Do not force your puppy to interact with other dogs or to experience an unpleasant situation, you could cause the appearance of fears and phobias .
- Try that the experiences you offer are very varied and positive.
- Practice the bite inhibition exercise every day so that your dog learns as soon as possible. Keep practicing it daily until your dog is four and a half months old, and even after. You don’t need a lot of time for this, five minutes a day is enough.
- Do short sessions of five minutes with YouTube videos or similar in which you can put different sounds to your dog, such as storms, firecrackers, birds, etc. This will help you get used to them and not experience fear.
- You start by teaching him some basic dog obedience commands promptly, always as a game, so his mind is always active and stimulated.
- Get your dog used to traveling by car, to using the collar and leash, even before having to go outside, this way he will know how to walk when the time comes.
If you have any questions then we advise you to go to your trusted veterinarian, who will talk to you in detail about all the needs in terms of socialization or care that a puppy dog requires. Remember that the care of puppy dogs is essential for their development, make sure you offer them a quality diet among many other details!