By: Melissa Kolmar, CPDT-KA, SBA
If you’ve ever had a puppy, you may have heard that it is important to socialize them. But what does that mean? How do we do it successfully?
First, the sensitive socialization period begins at 3 weeks and goes until about 12 or 14 weeks. This can vary depending on the breed. You probably didn’t get your pup until 8 weeks so you have to start right away! Sometimes people want to wait until their puppy has had all their vaccinations before beginning socialization. This would mean that you would miss this incredibly important socialization period. According to the American Veterinary Society for Animal Behaviour, the leading cause of death of young dogs (under 3) is euthanasia due to behavior problems, not infectious diseases.
Socialization does not mean exposing your puppy to new things. It means your puppy has positive experiences with new things. Those are two very different concepts! Your puppy needs to “win” at all new experiences.
The sensitive period for socialization is a time when puppies need lots of positive experiences with many different types of people, other animals and life experiences (sounds, textures, etc.). If they are well socialized during the sensitive period, they are likely to develop into friendly, confident adult dogs.
How do we make these experiences positive?
- Use high-value food to help make positive associations.
2. Give your puppy a choice. Do not force them to interact with a person, animal or situation. Do not drag them onto a new texture or into a building.
3. Go at your puppy’s pace. If they are cautious, move slow and let them take their time.