This is the first of a series of articles about everything puppy! We will cover important periods puppies go through, how to prevent issues before they start, socialization and more!
The most important thing that can begin the moment you bring your puppy home is socialization. We hear this word thrown around a lot but what does it really mean?
When we talk about socializing a puppy, we are looking to expose our pup to everything he will experience in his adult life. However, it’s not just about exposure, it’s about positive experiences and positive associations. This is where many people get confused and can sometimes get it wrong by overwhelming their puppy. Positive experiences are crucial. This list is a comprehensive list by a Veterinary Behaviourist of what to socialize your puppy to.
The goal is to do as much of this socialization by about 16 weeks of age.
I know this is a terribly short. Up to around 4 months (it varies somewhat depending on specific breeds), there is what is called, a sensitive period (also known as a critical period of socialization) in puppies. This is when they are most receptive to learning about the world around them without too much fear coming into play.
As a result of this sensitive period in pups, there are some incredibly important things we need to do. The first is to find an extremely knowledgeable breeder, these breeders will know the importance of very early socialization that can begin as early as 3 weeks. Exposing pups to novel sights and sounds, children, lots of handling and much more is now the job of your breeder; your job is to continue this process when you bring your puppy home. There is even an excellent program that some breeders follow and this goes through incredible detail to help breeders take the first steps in helping their pups become confident adult dogs. This puppy culture program goes further and helps pet owners with a lot of information to really encourage people to provide lots of socialization opportunities and confidence building while a pup is young.
Pairing food any time that you think your puppy is concerned about something can NEVER hurt and will only ever help. Adding distance from something that may be frightening your pup at the same time as feeding, can also work very well. We know that pairing food with something scary, will change the emotion of a dog, and this happens even faster with a puppy, so I highly recommend this. By doing this, you are focusing on your dog being comfortable and happy for each experience. I like to think of each experience as a layer of padding. If your puppy has 30 dog to dog experiences, that would be 30 layers of padding. If, on the 31st, she has a bad experience, she has 30 past experiences to know that this is just a little “blip”. If, however, this is only her first or second experience with another dog, this can profoundly affect her for the rest of her adult life. Brains are designed to remember negative events much better than positive ones. This is even the case for humans, so this pup is going to remember this negative experience! How do we know for sure that our pup is actually enjoying a particular person, event etc? This is an excellent YouTube video by Kikopup explaining some very good information about how to socialize your pup including body language to look for, to help you know that your puppy is actually enjoying the places you are going and experiences she is having.
Puppies are so much fun, and although never a guarantee, there is so much we contribute to in their young lives to help them mature into lovely and confident adult dogs!
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About Lisa Davies:
Lisa Davies (KPA-CTP, CDBC, CTC) has been training for 17 years. She graduated from the Academy for Dog Trainers, the Harvard of Dog Training Programs, and is also a certified Behaviour Consultant, specializing in aggression, including dog to human. She has a huge passion for helping rescues become more adoptable through training and is an BC SPCA Animalkind Accredited Trainer.
She shares her home with her husband, two Terriers, a Pointer and a Chihuahua, two goats, a miniature horse and two bunnies.
Contact Lisa at:
Pawsitively Canine Dog Training Services