It is that time of year again. The holidays are approaching and many families will find a new puppy under the tree on Christmas morning. Everyone knows what you need to do with a new puppy - give him attention, house train him, feed him, exercise him, and keep an eye on him so he doesn't chew up your new shoes. But the one thing most people overlook, or aren't aware of, is the need to socialize their new puppy. Socialize, socialize, socialize.
It is said that more dogs die from the lack of socialization than for any other reason. That is because dogs who are not adequately socialized by 16 weeks of age will often develop a fear of strange places, people and things as they grow older - and they can display this fear by barking, growling and even biting. So now is the time to vaccinate your dog against under socialization! You can do this by exposing him to as many new people, places and things as possible before he is 16 weeks of age.
Stop! Before you pack up and run out the door to socialize, keep the following tips in mind:
1. All new experiences should be POSITIVE for your puppy. Don't hesitate to use treats or his favorite toy to help him relax when meeting new people or going to new places. It is also important to let your dog overcome his own fear - allowing him to gain confidence. Introduce new sounds as you are feeding treats. If he is afraid of an object don't force him to interact, be patient and let him take his time working up the courage to approach it on his own.
In the video below, the puppy, Karly, is afraid of Theo, the Mastiff. Notice how we use treats and a controlled, calm environment to allow her to investigate. Also, she is not confined, contained or forced to interact. She knows she can escape at anytime. By the end of our brief session she had worked up the courage to actually touch Theo and make eye contact.
2. Safety is a concern. If your puppy is not fully immunized don't risk exposure to unvaccinated dogs or even areas that may be accessed by unvaccinated dogs. If you take him to a pet store keep him in the cart and off the floor. If going to a public park where people walk their dogs it might be best to carry him. Of course, if you go to a friends house and you know all their dogs are vaccinated a romp in the yard should be ok. And be sure to talk to your veterinarian about attending a puppy class.
3. It is also important that your puppy meet new dogs but be very selective. We want your puppy to have positive associations with other dogs so it is important that he never be scared or harmed by another dog. Try exposing him to dogs that you know are good with puppies. Try to find other people with vaccinated puppies and have a weekly play session. Since positive interactions are so important do not expose your puppy to strange dogs since you will have no idea how they might react. Remember that you don't stop and interact with every person you see walking down the street and neither should your puppy!
So now you are ready! And don't let those cold snowy days stop you. Get off the couch, out of the house and socialize, socialize, socialize!
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