The current fad is to take a puppy everywhere to meet everyone and everything in the world. Unfortunately, there is also an extreme increase in dog aggression and leash reactivity, and fear with new people and places. This is not a coincidence – socializing our puppies is important, but it is more important to do it CORRECTLY.
When socializing a puppy, it is important that the puppy finds the new interactions GOOD. Just throwing a puppy in an arena with 20 other puppies will not guarantee that they will be social as an adult, and, in fact, may inadvertently CAUSE aggression issues as they mature. Rather than blindly sticking a puppy in with a group of strange dogs, we should encourage our puppy to experience the world while still maintaining that we, the owners, are the greatest being of all time. If done correctly, socialization will assist in creating a confident dog.
Socialization Questions to Keep in Mind
- Does the puppy/dog have an escape route if they are uncomfortable?
- Are they using the escape route frequently? If so, we’re pushing them too far, too fast.
- Does the puppy return to the situation on their own? Bounce back is a very good thing!
- Will the puppy experience the new item without food present? Some puppies are so “foody” that they will work through their fear to eat, but are not actually getting over the issue.
- Puppies learn more from stable, adult dogs than they do other crazy puppies.
- Waiting until a puppy is fully vaccinated to take them out causes owners to miss out on the prime socialization opening. See THIS POST (Why You Should Socialize Your Puppy Before It’s Safe) for more information.
- Dog parks and doggy daycare can cause reactivity issues later on, so it is important to monitor dogs in social situations closely for behavioral cues that they are not having a good time.
- Allowing dogs and puppies to greet other dogs while on leash increases likelihood of leash aggression later on.
- It is important to introduce puppies to new environments — not just other dogs and people — such as loud noises, slick floors, uneven surfaces, elevators, wheelchairs, etc.
- Any puppy or dog showing fear around humans and dogs should be referred to professional training.