Socializing a New Puppy
Socialization means learning to be part of society. When we
talk about socializing pet puppies, it means helping them learn to be
comfortable as a pet within human society-a society that includes many
different types of people, environments, buildings, sights, noises, smells,
animals and other dogs.
Most young animals, including dogs, are naturally made to be able to get
used to the everyday things they encounter in their environment-until they
reach a certain age. When they reach that age, they are naturally made to
become much more suspicious of things they haven’t yet experienced. Mother
Nature is smart! This age-specific natural development lets a young puppy get comfortable with the everyday sights, sounds,
people and animals that will be a part of his life. It ensures that he doesn’t
spend his life jumping in fright at every blowing leaf or bird song. The later
suspicion they develop in later puppyhood also ensures that he does react with
a healthy dose of caution to new things that could truly be dangerous.
What Age Is Best for Puppy Socialization?
Puppies are most accepting of new experiences between 3 and 12 weeks old.
After that age, they become much more cautious of anything they haven’t yet
encountered. From about 12 to 18 weeks old the opportunity to easily socialize
the puppy ends-and with each passing week it becomes harder to get the pup to
accept and enjoy something that he’s initially wary of. After 18 weeks old,
it’s extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible, to teach a dog to like
something new, or help him become comfortable with something he finds
Why Is Puppy Socialization Important?
Well-socialized puppies usually develop into safer, more relaxed and
enjoyable pet dogs. This is because they’re more comfortable in a wider variety
of situations than poorly socialized dogs, so they’re less likely to behave
fearfully or aggressively when faced with something new. Poorly socialized dogs
are much more likely to react with fear or aggression to unfamiliar people, dogs and experiences.
Dogs who are relaxed about honking horns, cats, cyclists, veterinary
examinations, crowds and long stairwells are easier and safer to live with than
dogs who find these situations threatening. Well-socialized dogs also live much
more relaxed, peaceful and happy lives than dogs who are constantly stressed
out by their environment.
Socialization isn’t an “all or nothing” project. You can socialize a puppy a
bit, a lot, or a whole lot. The wider the range of experiences you expose him
to, the better his chances are of being comfortable in a wide variety of
situations as an adult.
How Does a Puppy Need to Be Socialized?
Socialization is a big project. It requires exposure to the types of people,
animals, places, sounds and experiences that you expect your dog to be
comfortable in later in life. Depending on the lifestyle you have planned for
your dog, this might include the sight and sound of trains, garbage trucks,
schoolyards of screaming children, crowds, cats, livestock or crying infants.
While it’s impossible to expose a young puppy to absolutely everything he will
ever encounter in life, the more bases that you cover during the peak
socialization period of 3 to 12 weeks, the more likely the puppy will be able
to generalize from his prior experiences and find something reassuringly
familiar in a new situation. For any pet dog, it’s essential to get him used to
the common types of people, dogs, sights, sounds and physical handling and grooming that will be a sure
part of his daily life.