What is socialization, and why is it so
From 8 to 12 weeks of age, puppies
go through a fear imprinting stage. During this time, it is crucial to carefully introduce a pup to a variety of stimuli every
day, and to ensure that the experiences are positive. This is also a good time to start training the pup in basic behaviors.
These socialization efforts make the difference
in the dog's outlook on life. Instead of reacting fearfully to new experiences, the dog is comfortable when encountering new
things, animals and people. This helps the dog and everyone else, since the most common cause of unprovoked dog aggression
is lack of proper socialization.
What is socialization? Introducing
and familiarizing a canine to new experiences - including people, places, objects, other animals - in ways that help the dog
learn how to respond to and interact with these experiences appropriately and without fear.
The list of things to socialize a pup, or dog, to include umbrellas, canes, wheelchairs,
bikes, keys, men with beards, people in hats, young children, passing trucks, odd sounds and sudden, loud noises and other
The puppy brain is most inclined to accept new experiences
between 4 and 12 weeks of age. Missing the window after 14 weeks of age can socially handicap the pup. Of course, the dog
can still learn, but it is harder, mostly due to the need for to help the pup unlearn unproductive and inappropriate responses.
Prevention is far better than rehabilitation, so if you can work within a puppy's critical learning window, you and the pup
have an immense advantage.
pup to new people, places, objects and situations ONLY when you can control the experience.
It's your job to protect the dog from situations that frighten him. Something as simple as letting
someone get too close too soon can cause a setback in socialization, causing the dog to hide behind you or adopt a fear-aggressive
posture and growl at the offending person. If this does happen, correct the human, not the dog. Tell the person to back away,
which will show the dog you can protect the pack and that he does not have to.
When working on socializing your pup or dog, do not impose on other people. First ask for their help. Most people
Taking a pup on walks on leash offers
effective opportunities for socialization. However, avoid dog parks and other areas where there's higher risk of exposure
to disease. Do not let your dog sniff feces or to play with any dogs who might be unhealthy or aggressive.
Introduce a puppy into a large group only after having socialized him to
Use treats, praise, touch, even play to reward,
and thus reinforce, your dog for displaying positive responses.
the behaviors that you want repeated and ignore or give a signal to the behaviors you do not like. The signal could be "uh
uh" or "too bad". If the signal does not discourage the undesired behavior, try a time out - a brief separation
period from the fun interactive environment.
aware of the signals you send. Make it obvious to your dog that you enjoy encountering other people, animals and things. Even
puppies observe and sense their handlers' reactions.
must think of what you are teaching your dog in every situation. Your dog is aware of your actions and reactions, your attention
or lack of attention, even if you don't realize it.
when and why your dog shows fear, but do not reinforce it. Cooing, coddling and cuddling a pup or dog when she is showing
fear will not help the animal lose that fear. Help your canine realize that you have control of the situation and that the
dog does not have to be afraid, or take matters into his own paws (or jaws). You are the alpha, and you want your dog to trust
that you will protect him.
It is not fair
to put any dog in a situation in which he might feel threatened or prompted to use his teeth. This is why you must educate
not only your dog but the people in your home. For example, it is essential to teach family members never to bother dogs when
eating, playing with a favorite toy, or resting.
Be careful about the people you choose to help care for your dog. Be it your spouse, roommate, children or petsitter,
you need to explain that you are trying to socialize your pup, and that it is necessary for them to reinforce good behaviors
in the same way you do in order for the pup to learn. If you are not sure an individual will abide by this, limit that person's
contact with your dog during the socialization and training stages. Otherwise, the person can undermine and undo the progress
you make with your dog.
One reason that
puppies should not be separated from their mother and littermates before 8 weeks of age is that they learn core behaviors
from mother dog and siblings. These include proper social play and bite inhibition.
Socialization does not end at puppyhood. While the foundation for good behavior is laid during
the first few months, good owners encourage and reinforce social skills and responsiveness to commands throughout the dog's