Many dog owners don’t understand why they should socialize their puppy. They think that it should be done because the puppy is going to be safer and because it will keep him from hurting people when they are out in public. There are many things to consider when socializing your puppy.
First, what is socialization and why is it so important? Just think about it… how would you feel if you were suddenly surrounded by strangers all of sudden? Most people feel very scared and uncomfortable in that situation. Dogs feel the same way.
When a puppy is taken away from the only familiar “face” he has ever known (his dad and mom) and is introduced to a new ‘baby’ that is very different to the one he is used to, it is no wonder why he can become fearful and anxious. A puppy that is not properly socialized will often grow up to be a dog that barks, whines, and resents strangers.
People who are not familiar with the concept of socialization will think that dogs are just being overly loud and annoying. This is rarely the case.
Dogs are quite social creatures and live in packs in the wild. Packs always have a leader and if the dog is not trained properly, he will not acknowledge that role. When a dog gets to a new environment, he becomes fearful because he does not know how to ‘marks’ his position.
When it comes to a new home, he feels threatened because he is not sure who is going to be the boss. He will just become fearful and if a person makes a rude gesture to him, he will become defensive. This is why when you adopt your pet from shelter, it’s important to teach him how to socialize as soon as possible.
To prevent a puppy from becoming a dog that believes he is at the top of the pack, you have to treat him like a dog. That means that you have to establish yourself as the leader of the pack and give your puppy a lesson with a firm, strong-willed command that lets your pup knows that you are the boss.
Never try to punish or hit a puppy when he bites. Physical punishment is the worst approach to address biting behavior. You can try shoving the puppy’s mouth with your hand or just saying “no” in a gruff tone of voice. You may have to pull your puppy back and repeat the command to stop biting. Usually, it is advisable to cease playing with the puppy until the biting behavior ceases.
A dog can grow fearful because he hasn’t been introduced to anything – exposing to different objects, people, noises, and colors. Ideally this should be done during the critical period of socialization. Try to introduce your dog to as many activities or environments as you can.
Remember that when there are a lot of unfamiliar stimuli, a puppy can experience fear, so ensure that you’re not alienating your young dog to many new “stuffs” at one go. Do it in gradual pace.
It’s also a good idea to involve the puppy in activities that are away from the house, like going to the shops or taking a trip in the park. Give your puppy time to be familiar with these situations. If your puppy begins to jump or bark, wait until he’s calmed down. If you haven’t already taught him the “leave it” command, you’ll need to do so here.
Gradually, begin to expand your puppy’s horizons. Remember that a puppy’s reality is that he lives in a very constricted place, with very little space. He needs to explore everything he encounters. Start with your home surroundings, followed by outside environment. Taking him out can be very exciting for him.
Dogs who didn’t have proper early socialization during the first weeks of their life may have problems with fear later in life, in particular for those who have suffered abuse, or are raised in a bad home, may be fearful as they age. Thus, I believe that it is important to train your dog when he is a puppy. This way he will learn not to fear anything.
If you don’t feel comfortable training with a puppy, then try doing it when he is a bit older. Take him out frequently so that he becomes familiar with seeing people in different coats, and don’t become afraid of them. Also, before you do any training, reward your dog for his good behavior with food treats. Playtime with you is a great reward, too.
Playing to your puppy’s strengths, such as confidence, persistence, attentiveness, affectionate rather than possessive, and avoiding stressful situations, is the most effective way to help create a bond with your dog.
Combine the right amount of protective instinct with a fair understanding on how your puppy is communicating, you will have the foundation to create a bond with your reactive puppy and slowly trained your dog to socialize.
A puppy that is well-socialized can be let out to a park or somewhere else where there are lots of people. He is free to approach other people and make friends with them. He is also free to make friends with other dogs.