You just brought your puppy home. Congratulations! You want him to grow up to be a stable, well-adjusted, behaviorally fit adult. If he has positive experiences, you increase his chances to become one. If you spend a few minutes several times a day, that will save you weeks and even months of time and heartbreak later because prevention now is easier than rehabilitation later. He needs to get used to all the people, places, and things that he will encounter as an adult – and now’s the time to begin that journey together.
Why begin now?
- He’s only going to be a puppy once, and the lessons he learns here will carry through for the rest of his life because this is the period in his life when he learns the most.
- Because dogs who are undersocialized have a propensity to be fearful or aggressive when faced with new situations.
- And because not his brain is like a sponge taking in everything, and the cells are making connections every time he encounters something new.
Adult dogs see things as either safe or dangerous – what he’s been exposed to in a positive way while he’s a puppy he thinks is safe, and everything else is dangerous. The more good connections, i.e., the foundation, that are made, the more behaviorally fit and stable he will be as an adult. It’s the difference between building your house on chicken wire or building it on concrete. Which would you rather have as a foundation?
Acclimate your Puppy to
new sights, sounds, and smells
If your puppy came from a country or rural setting and you live in the city (and vice versa), the sights, sounds, and smells from those areas are very different. The familiarization/sensitive window closes at 16 weeks. If you accustom him to a multitude of situations before that time, then you “immunize” him for novel situations – he has many experiences to draw from so that when he encounters anything new, he will feel comfortable rather than frightened.
What Veterinarians and other Trainers say
about Puppy Socialization
It’s not just me who is saying that. Trainers have known how important it is to safely socialize puppies before they’ve had all their vaccines, and now veterinarians are advocating it as well. Here’s the position statement from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Puppy_Socialization_Position_Statement_Download_-_10-3-14.pdf
You may not see the effects of socialization and habituation right away, but they sure will show up later when you have a well-adjusted and behaviorally fit dog. It’s so much easier to spend a few minutes now so your puppy will become an adult dog who will be a pleasure to be around.
If you’d like to learn more about puppy socialization, here are some links.
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Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It does not replace a consultation with a dog trainer, dog behavior consultant, or veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog.