One of the best parts of raising a puppy is all those kisses and belly-rubs. However, as much as your pup may love being part of the family, early socialization is the key to making your puppy a good member of canine society.
Why it's important to socialize a puppy
Socialization is one of the most important processes of a puppy's growth. Proper socialization -- meeting lots of new people, dogs, and other exciting things -- is the best way to guarantee your pup stays friendly and happy no matter the circumstances.
The process of socialization teaches a puppy to react correctly to unexpected situations, no matter how scary or exciting they may be.
Meeting strangers, riding in a car, or interacting with children can all be complicated moments for a young dog -- and showing her how to react in these situations is the best way to guarantee she develops good manners.
When it's time to socialize a puppy
Socialization should start as early as possible, and is particularly important during the first three months of life. If you adopted your dog from a reputable breeder, this process should already be started by the time you bring your new four-legged family member home.
Shelter dogs and rescues sometimes have a harder time with early socialization, simply because they've been through a lot of confusion and chaos early in life.
Either way, it's critical to introduce your new puppy to new people, sights, and sounds as soon as possible -- but at a reasonable pace!
How to socialize a puppy
There are a few ways to jumpstart a puppy's socialization. At its heart, the process involves introducing your new dog to new things -- and making the process as positive and non-scary as possible.
Here are a few things to remember:
- Go slow. Introduce only one or two new things at a time, like one new friend or dog. This can start out simply as walking on a bunch of unfamiliar surfaces (grass, concrete, asphalt, carpet, hardwood, etc.), and move up to more complex experiences like riding in the car with the windows down.
- Focus on positive reinforcement. Treats, treats, treats! Praise and yummy snacks go a long way toward associating these scary new experiences with positive fun.
- Have variation in the people and dogs they meet. It's great if your pup takes a shining to your mom or your best friend, but make sure she meets a range of people and dogs. This way, she knows how to greet a stranger with enthusiasm and friendliness, instead of being frightened when someone new walks in.
- Involve your whole "pack". Every member of the family should take part in socialization. It's not enough if your pup is comfortable with Mom but scared of the world with Dad. Divvy up the "chores" of puppy training so that you're constantly taking him out of his comfort zone, then using positive reinforcement to show him everything is okay.
- Go public. When you're ready, take the party outdoors. Dog parks (once your puppy receives the right shots), pet stores, and hardware stores are all great places to practice meeting new people and experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells. Just remember to take it slow!
- Remember that the whole world is new. Like every step of training a puppy, the key to socialization is patience. Your puppy is experiencing everything for the very first time, and that can be scary! Calm voices, excited new friends, and reassurance from Mom are the best ways to keep your puppy comfortable throughout the whole process.
- Enroll in a puppy training class! Finally, to get a leg up on training and socialization, enroll in a puppy training class. Offered at most pet stores and by personal dog trainers, puppy classes give young dogs a chance to learn how to listen in public, especially when surrounded by all their new best friends.
Can you socialize an older dog?
Absolutely! Although that crucial three months of puppyhood has passed, you can still teach an old dog new tricks. (And by tricks, we of course mean handshakes and hugs!)
The same methodology follows true for older dogs as it does for puppies. Start slow, and put even more of an emphasis on positive reinforcement.
If your dog has an existing fear or phobia (for example, fear of men or riding in the car), focus on slow exposure to these circumstances, making it as fun as possible for your dog. This way, she'll begin to associate the same things that once scared her with all the fun she's having with her family.
So what now?
If you know one thing about our team, you know that Frenchie Bulldog LOVES puppy pictures. Wherever you're at in your puppy's socialization process, we'd love to see every step of your journey.
Plus, for a comfy and stylish leg up at the dog park, check out Frenchie's collection of adjustable strap harnesses and bandanas -- adjustable to fit your puppy as she grows!