Just like children, puppies need to be out there, gaining new experiences and building wonderful memories. Socialising, in simple terms, is nothing more than preparing your little one for what lies ahead. It involves having pleasant interactions with people of all age groups and from various walks of life (including the vet), with animals (young and old), and monitored exposure to various situations, environments, etc.
While it is ideal to cover a greater part of his anticipated life experiences between the peak socialization period of 3-12 weeks, realistically it is impossible. However, if you have managed to acclimatize him to common types of people, dogs, sights, sounds, physical handling and grooming that are surely going to be a part of his daily life, you can pat yourself on the back for being a good pet parent!
IMPORTANCE OF SOCIALISATION
Imagine having a childhood that was restricted to your home? Would you be the same person you are today? Definitely not. Similarly, for your pup to grow up to be a well-adjusted, friendly dog, the conditioning needs to start today. Invest time and heart in socializing your puppy at a younger age so he can enjoy a complete, comfortable life, and develop a happy-go-lucky personality. A puppy who hasn’t gotten enough exposure is likely to respond negatively to regular things simply because they are new to him. This might result in him growing up to be a fearful dog, with high chances of developing behavior problems.
SOCIALIZING WITH PEOPLE AND ANIMALS
It is absolutely essential that your puppy gets along with a wide variety of people as it will contribute immensely to him becoming a friendly dog leading a full life. Pick 5 friends from different backgrounds, of different ethnicities and invite them over or take your puppy to their place. The key is to limit these sessions to ten minutes, so your puppy gets to mingle with new people without the risk of things ending on an unpleasant note. Add to his adult encounters people who may frequent your home like the postman, the newspaper boy, gardener, etc. Let him get a good whiff so he registers them in his memory.
Put kids too on your ‘Meet my pup list’. They come with their own set of quirks and unpredictable behavior, which your pup needs to be familiar with at the right time. If you don’t currently have kids at home, consciously introduce him to children of different age groups and let him get used to their presence, energy, etc.
As important as it is for your puppy to be socialized with humans, it is also equally important for him to be as cool as a cucumber around his kind and other animals. Encourage him to play with other puppies and older dogs but always keep a close watch. If he tends to get too excited around puppies or the more tolerant dogs, intervene and get his attention toward you. You don’t want him to get used to being his over-enthusiastic self as that may get him into trouble with dogs who aren’t that pumped to play. Vice-versa, if you see that another dog is trying to bully him or displaying too much exuberance, crouch down to let your pup know he’s safe. Be weary of the dogs you introduce him to in terms of making sure they are vaccinated and healthy.
Why just dogs, let him be around other animals too. But do this in a controlled environment in order to prevent chasing. If he behaves in a relaxed manner, reward this positive behavior with treats and praises. Chances are he will be fascinated and display excitement – in this case gently create distance until he responds more calmly.
EXPOSURE TO DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS
Although socializing with different people and animals will automatically familiarize him to a variety of environments, it is important to make an effort to make sure your pup is getting used to travel, honking, different views, etc. It’s a good idea to expose your pup to unique experiences like people on skates, vendors with carts, unusual surfaces like sand, wooden bridges, noises of ambulances, the alarm clock, and even all types of weather.
Most importantly, you need to get him accustomed to the sight and scent of his veterinarian’s clinic. Here’s hoping he doesn’t have to pay too many visits to the vet but that is one place he should make peace with. Drop by for no reason at all and have the staff give him a treat or two, so he doesn’t associate the clinic to just injections, check-ups, and pills.
No matter what activity you make him a part of, remember to always keep yourself in his shoes – that tiny, vulnerable being cannot handle much pressure, so keep a close watch to ensure he isn’t getting overwhelmed. Keep any and all interactions absolutely positive!
TIPS TO REMEMBER
- First and foremost – start early. Most people believe that dogs can be trained at any age. That is not untrue. But after a certain age, you will first have to break his old habits and then teach him to adapt to new ones.
- Keep the socializing sessions short and enjoyable – the more pleasant the early life encounters, the more confident your pup will be as a grown up.
- While treats are a good way to express appreciation, keep them away when making your pup meet new people. Let them know not all people are always carrying food, and it’s okay for them to just meet and greet.
- Let your puppy approach new people instead of the other way round. Coaxing him into making contact with people will do more harm than good. In order for your pup to feel safe, ask people to get at their level by crouching down to introduce themselves.
- Your worry of accidentally exposing your dogs to diseases is fair up until your dog is vaccinated. But don’t let that fear stop you from socializing him because chaces are, that scare will steer your dog toward developing behavior issues as an adult. Protect him and take necessary precautions but without depriving him from puppy adventures.
- If you notice your puppy is showing signs of anxiousness- looking smaller, holding his tail low, yawning, clinging to you, putting his ears back, keeping away, or avoiding eye contact- gently pull him away from the source of stress.
- You know you have nothing to worry about when your puppy is standing straight with their tail or whole body wagging.