What Is Puppy Socialization, and How Can You Get Started?

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Answered by: Tammy, An Expert in the Dog and Puppy Care Category
If you've just brought your first puppy home, then you're probably super excited! There's no denying that adding a new puppy to your household is going to be an exciting, albeit tiring and tricky time, but sooner or later, your puppy is going to grow up. What may seem cute and funny while your furry friend is tiny (with tiny teeth to match), aggressive behavior, fear and anxiety, or trouble being around other animals or children are a lot less endearing when they're all grown up.

• What Is Puppy Socialization?

Puppy socializing is the process of getting your new puppy used to being a good canine citizen while he or she is little, so that they integrate better in your family, your life, and your community when they are bigger. It's also about teaching dogs to be tolerant of other animals and people early on, and getting them used to a certain amount of noise (such as traffic noise.)

Dogs that have not been socialized properly tend to be more scared, more aggressive, and more prone to erratic and unpredictable behavior, so it's always a good idea to make the time for this stage of your dog's development.

• How Does Puppy Socialization Work?

After the question of what is puppy socialization, the most commonly heard is probably how it works. It's actually quite simple, and relies on positive reinforcement to ensure that your dog wants to behave the way he should when you're out and about.

As soon as your puppy has had his shots and can safely venture out into the world, it’s a good time to get started. It's important to wait until after vaccinations though, because you wouldn't want him to catch something while you're out and about!

Consider signing up for a puppy socialization class, or visit your local dog park with a pocket full of treats.

Choose a park that doesn’t have too much activity, and keep your puppy close by, on his harness, so you can control him if things get complicated.

Allow other dogs to come over and say hi, and when your puppy reacts well, praise him and give him a treat. If there are children at the dog park (other than your own) encourage them to play with your pup too. The more contact he can have with things that make him nervous in a controlled environment, and the more often he has a good result, the better he will handle those situations in future.

Other ways to socialize your puppy include walking him near busier streets, where he can get used to road noise, and introducing him to other animals, like cats (if he hasn’t already met any in your home!)

The most important thing is to ensure that your puppy is safe at all times, and that when he reacts the way you want him to (calm and friendly, rather than aggressive or scared) you praise him profusely and offer treats.

You’ll soon have a little dog who is confident and ready for any situation, and that makes your dog a lot easier to train and control later on.

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