Socialization: Raising a Well-Adjusted Dog
When you brought your puppy home for the first time, you fell in love. That little fur ball curled up in your heart and you didn’t have any say in the matter. But with great love comes great responsibility.
I think every dog parent hopes their puppy will grow up to become a happy, well-adjusted dog that can talk, but it’s not enough just to hope. It’s important to take some steps to ensure their social well being in those first few months. Cue socialization.
Socialization is exposing your puppy —ideally at the age of 8-12 weeks — to as many experiences as possible. Why so much mental stimulation for such a young pup?
Just like little kids, puppies’ minds are sponges; they are absorbing new knowledge quickly. At this age, fear is low and enthusiasm is high. When you show them lots of new things when they’re young, they learn that new experiences are a normal part of life. The idea is that this mindset will help them feel comfortable with new stimuli into adulthood. Socialization, in theory, makes for well-adjusted dogs that are less likely to lash out in fear when confronted with unfamiliar stimuli. So, how do you do it?
Patience will be a vital part of the socialization process. If your puppy seems fearful or hesitant of new stimuli, just wait. Don’t push them toward it; don’t coddle them; just wait. Odds are they will become curious enough to explore the new territory on their own. Make this process as fun and as low-stress as possible, and always read your dog’s body language.
If “as many experiences as possible” is bit overwhelming, we’ve come up with this short list to help you get started.
Suggested Socialization Exercises:
- Ascending and descending stairs
- Running the vacuum cleaner, the dishwasher, the dryer and other household appliances
- A walk around your neighborhood
- Arranging a puppy play date with a friend
- Allowing house guests to hold your puppy
- Allowing your puppy to walk around your car (when it’s parked)
- Running errands with your puppy
Has this list sparked any ideas of your own? As long as the activity is low-impact and in a safe environment, there is no “wrong” experience for your puppy to have. Remember, the more places, people, pets and objects, the better, so just get started.
Christina Keim, Terrain D.O.G. ® team member