by Lorie Huston, DVM on August 7, 2013
Properly socializing your puppy can help him grow to be a confident, well-adjusted companion rather than a fearful, shy, or even aggressive animal.
Unsocialized or improperly socialized dogs. I see them every day – in the animal hospital, in my neighborhood, in the park, everywhere. You probably do too. It’s sad because so often these dogs are really miserable. They have no social skills or manners, particularly when it comes to dealing with other dogs but sometimes even with people as well. Many times, they’re scared of everyone and everything. Sometimes they’re scared to point of growling and acting aggressively toward strangers or other dogs that come near.
Way too often, these poor dogs are accompanied by an owner who doesn’t understand that their dog’s reaction is one of fear and inexperience. So they discipline with a tug on a choke chain, or a zap with a e-collar, or a whack on the rear end, never realizing that they may actually be making matters worse, or that there’s a better way to handle the situation.
Too often, these behaviors escalate to the point where the owner can’t handle the dog any longer and ends up relinquishing the pet to the nearest shelter. Or worse, the dog’s fear escalates to the point where someone gets injured, prompting euthanasia of a dog that reacted not out of maliciousness but out of fear.
No, this doesn’t happen with all unsocialized dogs. But it happens with too many of them. There’s an easier solution. Socializing your dog really isn’t that difficult and it can actually be a lot of fun for both pet and pet owner when it’s done correctly.
Ideally, socialization starts with a young puppy. The best age to socialize is before four months of age. However, even after four months, it’s still important to keep working on social skills and obedience with your dog. And even with older dogs, it’s still not too late, though it may be more of an uphill battle. Take a look at the video below, provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association and behavioral specialist Dr. Christopher Pachel, to learn more.
There was a time when veterinarians (myself included) cautioned puppy owners about allowing their puppy to be around other dogs. We told owner not until the puppy had finished their puppy vaccination series and were fully protected against things like parvovirus. Now we realize that, though protecting puppies from disease is still important, socialization is just as important. Fortunately, there are lots of options to help puppy owners socialize their puppies in a controlled safe atmosphere. Puppy play classes are available through many different shelters, training, and boarding/daycare facilities and provide a wonderful way to socialize your puppy safely.
Don’t forget also to introduce your puppy to the things he’s likely to run into during the course of his life. Get your puppy used to the car. If you plan to travel, introduce him to things like elevators. Acclimate your puppy to things like vacuum cleaners and other household appliances that may be noisy and/or frightening so your puppy won’t fear them later in life. Of course, basic obedience training is a must as well. And it’s very important not to punish your dog for reacting timidly or fearfully to any situation. Give your puppy time to adjust and let him approach at his own pace.
A properly socialized puppy is much more likely to grow up to be a confident, friendly, outgoing dog. Just the type of dog that you want as a companion and best friend.
About Lorie Huston, DVM
Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.
This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette