You’ve just brought home a new puppy. Congrats! But what do you do now?
Socializing dogs with dogs, people and situations is the easiest way to make sure you have a happy and healthy canine and one you trust to take anywhere.
Early Puppy Socialization
Sounds a lot like early childhood development, doesn’t it? And it is … just canine style.
Socialization means more than just introducing your puppy to other dogs. It means getting her used to a whole host of sights, sounds and experiences beyond the whelping pen.
Make sure that new experiences for your puppy does not equate to “scary” for her. If you have a building with stairs and an elevator, introduce her to both early on so when you travel together she won’t be frightened of something she’s unfamiliar with.
When to Start
There’s no time like the present. Start socialization training the moment you pick her up and bring her home.
Without early training, you may find yourself with a shy dog on your hands that trusts no one but you. And, sometimes, she may go on the offensive to keep things that scare her away.
Dogs can sense when we’re upset or anxious. And with a poorly socialized dog, every time you step out the door you’re wondering if she will lunge, snap or bite because she’s afraid.
Will early socialization be the panacea for every situation? Clearly not because every dog is different and they learn at different rates. But doing the socialization work early on will help eliminate a lot of the behavior we categorize as “bad”.
How to Do It
Take her as many places as you can within reason. Take her to stores, walk her around the mall and take her to a park. And, especially, have her get used to riding in the car as something to look forward to rather than something to be afraid of because she thinks she’s going to the vet or groomer.
Teach her how to go up and down stairs especially stairs that are open to the ground. We had a pup once who came up the back outside stairs, looked down and froze. For the next year we carried her up and down stairs – and she was a 75-pound Golden retriever!
Introduce your pup to lots of people. Encourage everyone you meet to pet her and say hello and remember to bring your clicker and some treats to encourage her.
How to Handle Being Shy
You may find your puppy backs away from someone in dark glasses. Let her retreat and ask that person to sit and then ignore her. Let her approach this person at her own pace, always praising her.
If you learn that she is easily frightened of many situations, consult a behavior specialist. Early intervention can prevent this behavior from continuing.
Photo Credit: istockphoto.com