All dog trainers agree that it’s important for dog owners to begin socializing their new friend immediately. What isn’t always clear is how BEST to socialize your puppy. The decision of how and where to social your puppy depends on you and your dog. What’s your schedule like? Is your puppy shy? Has your puppy received all of his vaccinations?
Veterinarians discourage exposure to other dogs until your puppy has received all of his shots due to risk of exposure to viruses; so what are your options?
Dog trainers across the country took the time to share their thoughts on ways to socialize your dog.
PUPPY CLASSES…Sue-Ellen McIntyre shares that “the first 6 months of a puppy’s life are critical as a puppy is in imprint stage and it’s really important that the new puppy be exposed to as many different things as possible.” A puppy class is a fantastic opportunity for your new friend to receive training and be exposed to other dogs in the same age group. Your puppy group will be organized and run by a professional dog trainer and will allow for training time as well as social time.
HOST A PUPPY PARTY…Fran Jewell suggests making “your puppy your first priority. The first 16 weeks of his life are the ones where you will have the most influence and dramatically set your puppy up for success for the rest of his life.” So why not have a puppy party and invite friends and family over to meet the new puppy. And if any of your friends have a safe, older dog, ask them to bring him along.
TAKE A WALK…Amy Robinson advises building “your adopted dog’s confidence by taking him to new areas on leash.” Stay on the edge of activity to keep your dog from becoming overwhelmed. And when your dog is ready for the dog park, Amy suggests allowing him to watch park play for a short time before going in with him; the best scenario being two to four other dogs at the park.
VISIT AS MANY NEW AREAS AS POSSIBLE…this tip came from the popular dog behavior and training blog, ThatMutt.com. In her article about socializing dogs, Lindsay suggests a 30 day challenge to take your puppy to as many new places as possible. “Even if you don’t have an exact location to visit, just walking on a different street, visiting a new park or a new neighborhood is beneficial to your dog.”
Danette Johnston, of Dog’s Day Out in Seattle, shared that you should take your dog with you. Dogs like being with their owners and “the more he gets to hang out with you and go places with you, the happier (and more social) he will be!”
PEOPLE WATCH ON A PARK BENCH…Lynn D Hoover, author of Dog Quirks and Behavior Solutions, suggests sitting on a park bench and watching people walk by to get your dog used to children playing, people passing by, and the various noises of the area.
One piece of advice that many dog trainers share is to postpone your first dog park visit until your puppy has received all of his vaccinations. The dog park is an intense environment for your little guy, with rough playing, excited dogs, and the risk of contracting a virus. If you have a shy dog, the dog park is an environment that you should ease in to, watching from the sidelines before joining in. One trainer offers “If you had a fear of spiders, would it help to lock you in a room with thousands of them?” You want these experiences to be fun for your dog. Whichever method your choose, be sure to watch for signs of stress and remove your dog immediately if he’s feeling uncomfortable. Your goal is for you to help your dog succeed.