If you’ve ever seen a dog who is quick to bark, lunge, or cower from another dog that is coming his way, chances are, you are seeing a dog that was never properly socialized. During puppyhood, dogs must undergo a socialization period where experiences determine whether or not a puppy can react appropriately to the presence of strangers or other dogs. This part of a puppy’s life is incredibly important in order to prevent issues like aggression or fear reactivity around other dogs especially.
Proper socialization can mean the difference between being able to go out on walks or to the dog park without incident and having your dog be a nuisance, or worse, an aggressor in public. Socialization at an early age can prevent this from happening and keep your puppy from unnecessary stress around others of the same species, making it altogether easier to train, exercise, and raise him properly.
The socialization period for a puppy begins at around seven to eight weeks of age and continues up until fifteen weeks or about four months. This period of time is what you, as an owner, must take advantage of if you wish for your puppy to form good habits and associations with other dogs. This period of time should also be used to teach etiquette and manners, like preventing jumping up on other dogs or playing too roughly. Some of these manners are typically learned from a puppy’s littermates and mother, but reinforcing it is always beneficial.
As an owner, you will need to allow for good experiences and control stressful ones while using good judgment. Not all dogs will be good role models for your puppy, so it’s important to have a discerning eye when it comes to certain situations. Be prepared to remove your puppy from unsafe or hazardous places. He trusts you, so it’s up to you to provide a great learning environment!
First, be sure that your puppy has begun the process of vaccinations. While most puppies shouldn’t be around strange dogs until they are protected in full, you may still choose to have your puppy be present around dogs that you know for sure are healthy and vaccinated. Your puppy’s health is important.
Second, find a few dogs locally that can help with the socialization process. Family pets or dogs that belong to friends both make for great first meetings. Be sure that these dogs are well socialized, friendly, and healthy, to provide great experiences for your puppy.