When we talk about socializing our puppies or dogs, we are not just talking about introducing them to lots of different people. We need to introduce them to what our ever-changing world has on offer. This includes people, but, it shouldn’t stop there, it should also include animals, noises, colors, and experiences.
Whenever a dog experiences something new, their brain is stimulated; that stimulation is more significant when the experience is emotional (e.g. happy or stressed). As responsible dog owners, it is our job, to make these socialization experiences safe and positive.
When new experiences are negative and stressful, they develop into fears which subsequently leads to aggressive behavior in dogs. So, here we have put together five reasons why socializing your dog is important with some top tips for doing so.
Studies have shown that poorly socialized dogs have a range of problematic behaviors such as separation anxiety and aggression. In addition, puppies who aren’t played with often end up being adults who are unable to play.
Dogs who haven’t experienced much human interaction in their first six months of life are also more likely to become aggressive of humans when older. Not ideal if your main walking routes are going to be filled with humans.
There are certain points in a puppy’s life where certain experiences are more beneficial than others. Early handling, during the first three weeks of life, leads to much calmer adult dogs who are more resilient in stressful situations.
After week 3 a dog starts the socialization phase for the next 9 weeks which is split into canine socialization for the first three weeks and the human socialization. Positive experiences are crucial at the human socialization stage allowing them to build a strong bond.
As puppies grow, at around month three, they enter the enrichment phase which lasts until around sexual maturity.
Traumatic experiences or effects, like being threatened by a human or threatened or attacked by another dog during this phase has been known to contribute to fear and aggressive behavior. Safe experiences during this phase are crucial to having a well-rounded and stable dog who tolerates humans and dogs alike.
No owner wants to be stuck in the situation where you can’t take your dog to certain places or you can’t visit certain relatives.
If your dog has been introduced from a young age and he learns that those places or people are harmless, there would be no reason for him to be wary. He will happily walk through the dog park because he learnt about dog body language very early on and knows how to read the signs of when his friends want to play and when they’re really just not feeling it.
Once you get your head around it, it’s not that bad. He needs to be introduced to as many experiences as possible, in a safe and controlled way. He needs:
- To meet a variety of people, wearing all sort of things; helmets, coats, hoodies. They could be carrying umbrellas or walking sticks
- To experience all the noises around us; trains, motorbikes, trucks, buses, bells, wheelchairs, knocks on doors and airplanes
- To know that the areas we frequently visit are safe; parking lots, shopping malls, crowds on the street, fairs and festivals
- To get used to the range of animals he may come across; other dogs, cats, kittens, chickens, ducks and any farm animals depending on where you live
The aim is for him to be calm and indifferent about any experience. If he isn’t coping, remove him and try again another day with some positive reinforcement and rewards on hand. Follow our top tips, stay calm and if you are ever concerned about your dog’s behavior; seek the advice of a qualified behaviorist.
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