Why socializing your puppy is so important
Cute, adorable, cuddly, fluffy are some of the many adjectives we all use to describe a puppy when we first see it or meet up with it and we immediately fall in love with him or her and instantly want one. We are willing to spend hours o0ohing and aaahing with them, playing with them, letting them chew our fingers, lick us all over our faces, even allow slight nipping of our arms or scratching and of course jumping up on us when we put them down. In fact we allow them to “get away” with many naughty behaviours. So without realising it, we actually end up reinforcing these behaviours by giggling, laughing and finding cute little excuses when they do these “actions” and of course they continue with them and do them even more as we appear to be so pleased with them.
We will be stroking them cuddling them closer etc. and saying lots of loving words as they continue. But, unfortunately the biggest problem is that by doing this we are teaching the puppies that the incorrect behaviour is acceptable and basically manners are not too important. Sadly if we leave the puppies to continue with their ways and condone their antics, inevitably they will become unruly, constantly jumping up on people, nipping when taking treats etc. It is rather similar to having naughty children who are constantly interrupting their parents when they are having guests over for dinner and instead of waiting their turn to speak they want attention immediately. Your puppy is exactly the same and desperately needs guidance and direction. Without this your puppy will end up becoming unruly, irritating, fearful, destructive and probably being relegated to the outside yard and ignored and, if it continues, quite possibly rehomed or worse of all, being euthanized.
This is why socialisation is so important from the start.
To have a sociable well rounded puppy, it is necessary for him or her to be able to get on well with other living creatures as well as coping with a variety of different everyday experiences. Puppies that are well socialised grow up to be friendly and happy with people and animals, taking different situations in their stride and enjoying going anywhere with their owners.
Socialisation should be fun and something you and your puppy enjoy weekly at a reputable training school. Puppies need to experience as many happenings as possible during their first year of life, particularly during the sensitive period, without being overwhelmed with too much. The period from the age of 8 to 12 weeks is called a “fear” imprinting or hazard avoidance system. During this period it is vital to introduce a puppy to a variety of stimuli daily and ensure that all the experiences are positive. Here are some of the many things to socialize your puppy with and you will appreciate very quickly how socializing can make such a difference when you see the comparison between how an unsocialised puppy reacts to these in comparison to a socialized puppy that has been exposed to so many stimuli at this early impressionable age.
For example, every day objects like umbrellas, canes, wheelchairs, bikes, keys, men with beards, people in hats, people with glasses and sunglasses, young children running and playing, passing trucks, cars that backfire, loud noises or even saucepan lids dropping on the floor, sirens, alarms and of course, other dogs of different sizes and breeds as well as cats, rabbits etc. The list is endless.
As you can see there are many things that we, as adults take for granted and it is vital that our puppies get familiarized with them all so that they can deal with all new experiences during their lives without inappropriate responses.
Always be in control when introducing your puppy to any new experiences because if the puppy becomes frightened at any time you are able to turn this around and change it into a positive experience. A simple thing like a stranger coming too close to your puppy and appearing to stare at him or stand over him instead of allowing the puppy to make the first move to go to the stranger may cause an adverse reaction the next time your puppy encounters a stranger. He may turn to run away or hide. Always use yummy treats to make your puppy knows the correct response from him is what you want and remain calm and relaxed at all times. If the puppy makes a mistake just ignore and wait a few minutes and try again.
Do not smack, hit or shout at him because this will not help him to understand what you want. Again this is why a reputable socializing training school is the best place for you and your puppy to learn under the guidance of a qualified experienced trainer. You also have the opportunity of meeting other puppies under their guidance and supervision be able to introduce yours to many more experiences. The classes will help you to learn how to handle your puppy for example getting them used to have their paws and nails touched ready for nail trimming. Learning how to touch their ears and tails without causing any unnecessary discomfort and very important being able to get them to take treats gently, and learn about bite inhibition. Getting them used to be handled is extremely helpful because your pup will be visiting the vet for inoculations and checks up etc. and going to the vet can be rather stressful if they are not used to be handled beforehand. It is actually a good idea to ask your vet if you can just drop in at times for your pup to meet him and get a treat and leave. That way when you need to go for any health reasons your pup will just think he is just going out for a social visit and a treat.
Remember that happy puppies who know and understand their boundaries will make you very proud of both yourself and your furkid’s achievement.
By Joanna, Trainer