Socialization – The Key To A Puppy’s Future

At some time in every dog’s life they will need to have a visit with the vet; whether it’s for vaccines, ear or eye infections, bloodwork or surgery. Whatever the appointment may be, your dog will need to be examined by the veterinarian. It would be unusual for a pet to have their ears and eyes looked at on a daily basis, so this treatment may be scary for them.

Here at North Hill Animal Hospital, we try to make the visit as fear-free as possible. We want every visit to be positive so that your pet will want to come back and see us again. Not every dog will be ok with the veterinarian examining them from nose to tail because this is confusing to them. Some dogs can become fearful and it can turn into aggression, which can then be dangerous for both them and the person holding. This is where socializing when there are still young can make a big difference in the way they react when they are an adult. The idea behind socialization is to help your puppy become acclimated to all types of sights, sounds and smells in a positive manner. Proper socialization can prevent a dog from being fearful. From 7 weeks to 4 months of age, your puppy goes through a socialization period that permanently shapes his future personality and how he will react to things in his environment as an adult. Exposing him to a wide variety of people, places, and situations make a huge difference. This is also a great time to get your puppy used to being handled. You should look in their ears, eyes, and mouths daily. Play with their feet and toes every day so they can become comfortable with having their nails trimmed. This will make veterinary appointments easier and more enjoyable for your puppy and will mean a more thorough examination by the veterinarian when they don’t have to fight with them.

How to Socialize Your Puppy

1) Introduce him to new sights, sounds, and smells: To a puppy, the whole world is new, strange, and unusual, so think of everything he encounters as an opportunity to make a new, positive association. Try to come up with as many different types of people, places, noises, and textures as you can and help your puppy be exposed to them.

2) Make it positive:  When introducing all of these new experiences to your puppy, make sure he’s getting a positive reward; whether its treats or a special toy that is used only for training. Also, don’t be stressed yourself; dogs can read our emotions and energy, so if you’re nervous introducing your puppy to a larger dog, for example, your puppy will be nervous too and may become fearful of larger dogs in the future.

3) Involve the family: By having different people take part in the socialization process, you’re continuously taking the puppy out of his comfort zone, letting him know that he might experience something new no matter who he’s with.

4) Take it public: Once your puppy is used to a few experiences you can start to move outside of his comfort zone to expand the number of new experiences he’ll have. By taking him to the pet store (after he’s started his vaccination series), over to a friend’s house for a puppy play date, on different streets in the neighborhood.

5) Go to puppy classes: Once your puppy has started his vaccinations, he can also attend puppy classes. These classes not only help your puppy begin to understand basic commands but also help expose him to other dogs and people. Trainers will oversee the meetings so that all dogs and people are safe and happy during the process. Puppy classes are available at many pet stores and by local dog trainers. You can ask your veterinarian what trainer they recommend.

Written by Carly Wright, ACA