Socialization means introducing your dog, or ideally your puppy under the age of 16 weeks, to as many things and situations as possible that it will experience in her life. Examples include:
- Textures to walk on
To be effective, when you introduce your dog to new situations, do it in a way that your dog enjoys. By making these new experiences positive, your dog will be comfortable when they happen in real life.
For instance, if you only take your puppy in the car to go to the vet, she will associate the car with going to the vet. To prepare your dog for veterinary visits, take the time to stop by the vet’s office before a scheduled appointment, for instance to get her weighed, and give your puppy the opportunity to enjoy the environment in a stress-free way. Of course your vet and the office staff will be happy to help with this by giving lots of treats and affection.
This is Lady, a 12-week old Cocker Spaniel puppy who stayed with me for a board and train program. Since she still needed socialization, I took her with me to the tire store when I had my car serviced. She got to experience the sounds and smells of a tire store, meet many new people, and relax in a new situation.
Dogs often react to things they haven’t seen before such as people wearing hats or in wheelchairs, people wearing headphones, toddlers, etc.. By introducing your dog to as many types of people as possible, you will avoid stressful situations in the future.
This is my dog, Indy. We competed in Agility, so there were many things he had to be able to do for us to be successful. He had to pay attention to me and not run out of the ring, ignore the crowds in the stands, ride comfortably in the car, be quiet when we stayed in hotels and not have accidents in the room, act properly with other dogs and people in the tight quarters of show site, potty on leash in many different location, walk on many different surfaces, climb staircases with open backs, and on and on and on. I started Indy’s socialization as soon as he came home at 10 weeks because I wanted him to be comfortable and confident in anything we did together. And he was.
Working with an adult dog who has already formed a negative association with certain situations may be difficult to tackle on your own. In this instance, you will benefit from the knowledge and experience of a professional dog trainer, who can customize training plans and protocols to help your dog. If you have a new puppy that needs socialization, but you’re not sure where to start, contact me and I’ll be happy to put together a training program specifically for your puppy. I can be reached by email at sarah@sarahlowelldogtraining.