Socializing your puppy or dog means getting it used to interactions with people and other pets. Most people do not realize it but that process is extremely important to a dog and it will decide in large part how well it will do in the future with strangers and with other animals. Without getting your puppy properly socialized it could easily get into trouble and hurt not only itself, but also people around him/her.
What Dogs Learn
One of the most important things that you can teach your pooch is communication and that does not necessarily mean verbal. Every time dogs observe animals and people they get feedback on how they all behave. They will then interpret the signs they are seeing and you can give it your own feedback about what is the right behavior and what would be unacceptable. This is when a dog will learn that being fearful or aggressive is not something that is acceptable and will become a lot safer in the future.
Stress is also a part of socialization even if you have a brave little fur ball. The ability to learn with that stress is something that he/she will learn from the different interactions it has. There are new things that he/she is experiencing including weird sounds and places. Dogs that are not exposed to this type of information when they are young could have trouble with it when they get older. Another dog that has been there and done that will gain confidence and see that there is nothing to worry about.
When To Start Socialization
The best time to start socializing your pet is when it is as young as three weeks old. The period between 3 weeks and 4 months is a very important part of the process, but that does not mean that the work is over. Constant reinforcement is necessary to keep your best friend always acting the way you want it to. You should also understand that older dogs that have not gone through the process can still be socialized, but it may take a lot more patience and in some cases the help of a professional trainer or behavior specialist. An adult dog that has not interacted with anyone ever could be the biggest angel at home and transform into Mr. Hyde when you are outside.
How To Socialize
The best way to get your pup socialized is in a control way. Introduce it to your friends and family little by little. Let it see that people other than you can also be friendly to it. You should also introduce animals especially those that will be around it most of the time. It is important that your vet gives the other pets a clean bill of health because at 3 weeks puppies can easily get sick. The introduction needs to be systematic and it requires some patience. Do not overwhelm your little friend with a lot of sounds and chaos because instead of getting him/her to accept them, it could be the complete opposite.
Another great tool that you have at your disposal is the leash. Train the puppy to walk on a leash as soon as possible and take him/her to places like the park and just out for a walk. It will see the world and get used to everything around it and that will help later in life avoid problems of aggression and fear when you go outside. Also use socialization inside by exposing it to things like the washer, dryer, vacuum cleaner, door bells and other noisy things.
Older dogs are better socialized with the help of a professional. They know what signs to look for when a dog is feeling stressed and are better suited to handle them. You can also get the job done yourself but you have to make sure that he/she trusts you completely. It is never too late for a dog to learn no matter what you hear. Dogs live for the moment so they can feel better about things that used to scare it if you do the process it correctly.
Always Stay In Control
Some people feel that taking a puppy to a dog park is a good idea when you want to him to get familiar with other animals. The truth is that it all depends. First of all remember that you cannot possibly know the health status of every dog at the park. While most owners are responsible, you do not want to take a chance. You should also not place the puppy inside a fenced area with several dogs that you do not know because some could lack the training to understand that a puppy is fragile so even if the intention is playing they may still hurt him.
If you decide to use a dog park then the introduction has to be done gradually. Let your baby get to the fence and see the other dogs in action but do not let him/her in. If there are other owners with puppies of the same age and size then they may let them meet. Always keep an eye on the meeting without feeling nervous as you do not want to transfer that insecurity to your dog. You want meetings like this to go well from the beginning to the end so keep the meeting short and sweet.
Where You Live
Where you live also influences what type of socialization you must give your pooch. If you are in the country then make some time to go into town so that he gets exposed to a different environment. If you are in the city take him out for a walk every day and when it is old enough go hiking together. Expose it to different people and let those people who want to say hi do so as that will only help for the future.
Every time your puppy has a positive interaction, make sure to remember to reward with petting or a treat. The more you reinforce the positive things it does the more likely it will be to remember them. Your puppy is a part of your family and getting it used to other situations is part of letting him live a happy life, so do not forget about the socialization process.