Raising a puppy can often feel like signing up for military boot camp. The time needed to raise a well-rounded dog is daunting, but creating a plan for socialization can set your puppy up for success.
A well-socialized dog interacts with the world with more confidence, taking new situations in stride. This means everything from a vet visit to a stay at a family member’s house will be less stressful for your puppy. Socialization practices also contribute to other training you’ll do with your puppies such as obedience or crate training.
Like other young animals, puppies are like sponges. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the first three months of life are vital for socialization, and they are likely the most receptive they’ll be in their entire lives.
If you purchased your puppy from a reputable breeder, they should have started being socialized from at least 3 weeks of age. If you adopted your pup, no worries, just start small with socialization and work your way upwards.
A few things to remember about socializing; smells and sounds have a big impact on a puppy’s perception of something, take your time with things, and keep everything positive.
Here are five ways you can socialize your puppy, from least intense to most intense.
Take Short Hikes on Trails
Taking a solo hike on easy terrain gives puppies a chance to interact with the world outside the home. There will be lots of smells for your pup to explore, and they can build confidence over unfamiliar terrain.
Take it easy on these hikes, adjusting the length and intensity based on your pup’s breed and endurance.
Walks With Other Dogs
Scheduling a walk with another owner and dog can let a pup know that it’s perfectly fine to be near another dog without a lot of action happening. The walk can be somewhere familiar such as a neighborhood street or a local greenspace. The action of going somewhere with a ‘job’ will diffuse tension, allowing puppies to unwind.
One-On-One Playdates in a Confined Area
Setting up a playdate for your pup will allow them to begin learning canine body language and how to play without people interfering. Consider both dogs’ demeanors when planning the meetup and if there is some expected defensiveness, meet somewhere that is a ‘neutral’ territory such as an empty dog park.
Go to Feed Stores and Lowes
Many local feed stores such as Tractor Supply and Lowes Home Improvement stores welcome pets on leashes. Even if you aren’t going in to buy anything, taking ten minutes to meander around a store with your pup in tow shows them that smooth concrete floors and the unusual noises of retail space aren’t something to worry about. If you’re looking for people to socialize with them, these places will be great places for that too.
Dog parks are the pinnacle of socialization and ought to be approached with caution. The wide-open spaces of a field mean less control over all pups involved but can be a good place for your puppy to meet dogs of all kinds.
Before you go to a dog park, make sure your puppy is up to date on all vaccinations and you can catch them reasonably well. Pick a time of day that will build confidence, such as an emptier park in the morning on a weekday, and progress to a busier Friday afternoon experience.
Socializing a puppy is worth it for all parties involved. Having a happy and confident best friend by your side with bringing a lifetime of easier experiences and smiles.
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