This past Wednesday was National Dog Day, and to mark this day, we'll be discussing puppy and dog socialization. Puppies are adorable and fun, but it takes work and patience to ensure that they become well-adjusted dogs. Dogs depend on their people to navigate a complex human world, and this includes introducing them to a variety of people and animals from a young age.
The Importance of Socialization
As the ASPCA states in their info sheet on puppy socialization, puppies are quite open to new experiences. They can quickly learn to trust a wide variety of people, animals, and situations. Unsocialized puppies become fearful adult dogs who may try to escape when faced with unfamiliar situations, or who exhibit fear-based or territorial aggression toward other animals or new people.
Often, when pet owners surrender dogs to shelters due to behavior, the reason is that they were not adequately socialized during their puppyhood. While adult dogs can unlearn fear-based and territorial responses, it takes much longer to break an adult dog of an ingrained reaction.
How to Socialize Puppies
Generally, puppies should be exposed to various settings, people, and animals when it is safe to do so. If the puppy is nervous or uncertain in certain situations, positive reinforcement methods, including praise, toys, and treats, can help the puppy learn that new things can be positive.
Puppies should meet people of all ages, including babies, children, older adults, quiet people, boisterous people, men with beards, people wearing hats, and people wearing sunglasses, with as much variety as possible.
Walks are an excellent opportunity for providing socialization and for training puppies to walk on the leash. As the ASPCA states, "Your puppy is likely going to strain at the end of his leash to greet people and dogs. Repeatedly pulling your puppy away is bound to lead to frustration and possibly teach him to be afraid of people and do