The need to socialize a dog is very important. During the course of your dog’s life, he will need to be taken to the vet, he will need to feel comfortable being around other people who will come to your house, he will need to be put on a leash for walks or for his own safety and he will need to be taught to listen to and follow commands that you, as his owner, give him. All of these issues make up a dog’s socialization and properly socializing a dog is extremely important for the life-time well-being of both the dog and his owner.
There are three main steps that a dog owner can take to ensure that their dog becomes well-socialized. Those three steps are:
- Bringing them into controlled environments
- Exposing them, safely, to different experiences
Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.
The ideal age in which to introduce your dog to a certain controlled environment is between 3 and 12 weeks of age. Some people make the mistake of trying to protect a young puppy from things, thinking that this will cause them to be fearful and anxious. Actually, the opposite is true. The later a dog is exposed to various environments, the more likely anxieties will form making it more difficult to train out of the dog. Examples of controlled environments are:
- Exposing your puppy to different people or small children either in someone’s home or at a local park.
- Other animals or pets.
- Various noises such a car horns, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, or even people singing or speaking loudly.
- Different walking or sitting surfaces such as mud, carpet, tile or metal.
- Traveling in a car so that vet appointments are not stressful going forward.
- Odd household things such as plastic bags, umbrellas or strollers.
By gradually exposing your puppy to various controlled environments, you will help to ensure that your puppy will feel comfortable in a wide variety of situations as he gets older. This creates a safer environment for your dog as well as for other people with whom he may come in contact. If your dog is not accustomed to being in a number of different environments, he is likely to suffer anxiety when in these situations and this can lead to aggressive behaviors in your dog that can cause a multitude of problems for you.
When it comes to a puppy, everything is a new and different experience and some experiences can be overwhelming to a young pup. Playing in a new backyard, going to a park with a lot of activity and even going for a walk while leashed are all new experiences for a young puppy. Introduce these new experiences gradually and with reassurance. If you sense that your puppy is feeling overwhelmed with a new experience, calmly walk him away and give him a chance to relax with a favorite toy or just watch the activity from a distance. You may notice that between 12 weeks and 18 weeks of age, that your puppy is becoming less accepting of new experiences. This is normal and is the way he learns to protect himself as he leaves the protection of his mother.
Enrolling your puppy in a structured training program is a great way to help socialize him. Training classes are available at large pet stores, vet clinics, and even some local kennels, such as the training we provide here at Cascade Kennels. Structured training will expose your puppy to other dogs, other people as well as a variety of sights, sounds and smells. Structured training will teach your pup to respond to proper greetings and to respond to positive reinforcement such as praise and treats. These training classes are also a good place for your pup to learn the importance of being leashed and responding to commands while leashed. Most puppy training classes will allow some off-leash time, which is a good opportunity for your dog to get to know other dogs and practice some of the training he is learning.
SOCIALIZING OLDER DOGS
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about socializing a young puppy, but what about socializing an older dog, such as one that’s been adopted from a shelter? Make no mistake, an older dog that has not been well-socialized can be taught new behaviors but it will take more time and require more patience on the part of the owner. There are a number of reasons why an older dog may not be well-socialized and none of those reasons are the fault of the dog. Regardless of the reasons, if you have a dog that struggles with behavior issues, remember, no dog is too old to be trained and every dog deserves a chance for a happy life. Here at Cascade Kennels, our staff of experienced trainers can work with any type of canine behavior issues to help your dog become better socialized. In the case of behavior issues, Private Training Lessons or Board and Train can be good options for socializing older dogs.
It is important, as a dog owner, to never under-estimate the importance of taking the time to socialize your dog. A well-socialized dog is a pleasure to own and offers a life-time of joyful companionship, not to mention, they are also a pleasure for other people to be around. If you have questions about proper canine socialization or are interested in learning more about the training available here at Cascade Kennels, give us a call. Our program is comprehensive and will ensure that you will enjoy an even better relationship with your dog.