When to start socializing
Socializing your puppy should begin the day you bring them home. You can expose them to a variety of different sounds and noises in your home and get them comfortable around them. You can find different noises on YouTube, or simply create your own noises such as door bells and door knocks. Use food and treats to encourage your puppy to interact with you as you expose them to different stimuli. You should also encourage friends and neighbors to come to your house. Once your puppy has had their vaccines, you should start exposing them to outside places. Here is a checklist of great things to expose your puppy to
- Different people (men, women, children). People wearing different wardrobes (cots, hats, walkers, umbrellas etc.)
- Different surfaces (sand, gravel, walking past rain gutters, bridges)
- Different noises (car horns, trucks backing up, lawn equipment)
Remember, good socialization doesn't necessarily mean that your puppy has to constantly interact with strangers. If your puppy is happy go lucky with strangers and other dogs, thats great! But you should also start rewarding them for paying attention to you, and focusing on you in the presence of other people and stimuli.
Quality vs. Quantity
You don't want to overwhelm your puppy and you want to make sure you always stay in control of the environment because after all, you are your puppies biggest advocate. If you have a shy puppy, use their daily food for training sessions and slowly expose them to people, places and noises that make them uncomfortable but do so in a controlled manner. You don't want to overhwhelm them! If your puppy knows some basic obedience, you can have a mini "training session" in the presence of other people and stimuli. Going to a big box store during prime hours can easily overwhelm your puppy. Choose places that expose your puppy but where you won't have to worry about them being overwhelmed by families, children or too much stimuli all at once.
Puppy food and treats
Always take your dog's food and treats with you when going to new places.
It's a good idea to never let strange dogs approach your puppy (or vice versa), or to never let people approach your puppy without your permission. For fearful dogs, we can accidentally teach them to be more fearful if we don't advocate for them. If your puppy is shy in new places, have them engage with you either through toys or food as you slowly expose them to stimuli in a slow and controlled manner.
Strangers and puppies
If you want to let a person approach your puppy, give them a treat and have them give it to your puppy. Thank them, then move on. If your dog is fearful and doesn't take the treat, just have them toss it on the ground and walk on. Forcing a dog to interact with someone will only make them more fearful. On the contrary, if your puppy already loves other people and isn't shy, you'll want to start having them focus on you and practicing calm behaviors around new environments.
Dog Parks and daycares
Dog parks should be avoided only because they can harbor disease and because it's an uncontrolled environment. Puppies need to be exposed to other puppies, but taking them to dog parks can have unintended consequences. Puppy play dates with friends, or taking your puppy to a reputable day care or puppy class are great dog park substitutes.
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