Your friends and veterinarian have probably told you the importance of puppy socialization. The reason dog experts promote early socialization is because a lack of good experiences in a puppy’s early development can lead to big problems such as aggression toward people, not wanting to be handled, and dog reactivity. We saw a lot of this as a result of the stay-at-home orders from the 2020 Pandemic.
But, do you really understand what puppy socialization is and how to know if it’s good vs. bad socialization?
In a nutshell, puppy socialization is teaching a puppy about the world they live in, in a manner that does not overwhelm or scare them. It’s not a free-for-all, but a well-oiled and thought-out training plan for your puppy. Don’t just throw them into a crowd and let them deal with it. Slowly ease them into situations and allow them to go at their own pace while providing them positive feedback and even rewards for being brave.
You want to introduce your new puppy to a variety of people, places, things, and situations.
When it comes to people, some good examples to expose your puppy to are:
- Kids of various ages.
- Babies, toddlers, and teenagers.
- People in Hats and Helmets
- Long flowing dresses and skirts
- People on bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, etc
- Kids of various ages.
For environments, think about the life you want to have with your dog.
Do you want to go hiking out and about the woods and rural areas? Or would you rather sit at city cafes and relax? Maybe even both? Set your goals and incrementally expose your puppy to them while showing them what behaviors result in rewards.
- Cafes and lunch spots
- Parks & trails
- The Beach
- The veterinarian (not only for vet visits!)
- Pet Stores, dog daycares, training facilities
- Areas with different surfaces to get used to like tile, wood flooring, and grates outside
In the video to the right, we see our Oakland Park Trainer, Nina, working with Axel, a 5 month old German Shepherd puppy, on politely walking past other dogs and people in a tight spaced corner at a local lunch spot.
Encourage your puppy to meet and explore a variety of items:
- Rain Coats
- Their crate
- especially for holidays like Halloween and Christmas when they can move around!
In the video to the left, our Oakland Park Lead Trainer and manager, Heather, works with Leela, a 12-week-old Labrador Retriever puppy, focusing despite the many distractions and environments.
Leela is a confident puppy and food motivated which makes her easy but impatient. Heather doesn’t acknowledge the bad behaviors and rewards heavily for actions like sit and down.
When it comes to the moving Halloween prop, she rewards anytime Leela looks at it to pair the reward with the item.
When meeting dogs you want to make sure the other dogs are appropriate and that interactions are enjoyable for all parties.
- Puppies quickly can annoy older dogs and as long as the older dog is trusted with younger dogs, then you can allow the older dog to correct the puppy for unwanted behavior. Don’t let the older dog always do it, it’s up to us humans to intervene as needed for the sanity of the older dog!
- When two dogs are playing you can test if both are having fun by holding back the dog doing most of the work – if the other one comes back to play, game on! If not, maybe the other dog needs a break from the more confident one.
In the video to the right, you can see Fort Lauderdale trainer, Rich, with Pepe, a 5 month old Jack Russell Terrier showing how much a puppy can love bigger dogs.
With proper puppy socialization, dog behavior problems and fearfulness are greatly reduced. By teaching your puppy that they are safe and life is good, you will be helping to ensure a well-adjusted and happy dog.
While socialization is vital, it’s important to note it won’t erase your dog’s natural genetic disposition (personality). Some dogs by nature are more cautious and fearful than others and even amongst siblings, we have seen differences in inherited traits.
Enrolling your puppy in a puppy kindergarten class or dog day school/board & train that offers monitored puppy play, basic obedience skills, manners, and handling activities is a great way to jump-start your puppy’s socialization.
Not only will your puppy have the opportunity to interact with other puppies and people, but you will have expert dog trainers at your fingertips to help you navigate puppyhood.
If you’re getting a new puppy, reach out to our trainer team and we will be more than happy to help you train your dog on these behaviors while teaching you how to safely socialize your new family member!
Reach out to our trainers today at either of our locations:
4423 sw 74th ave
Miami, Fl 33155
Call – 954.514.7059
5149 NE 12th ave
Oakland Park, Fl 33334
We have a variety of services that can help you achieve your goals. From in-home private lessons to our results-driven board and train! We’ll help you pick the right training program to fit your specific needs, lifestyle and budget.