Socializing Your Puppy

    Socializing Your Puppy
    By Sherry Woodard
    Puppies and dogs need to be socialized to the
    big wide world so that they won’t be afraid of
    new situations, objects, sounds, people and other animals. Dogs should be socialized when they
    are puppies – it’s critical to their lifelong emotional well-being and their ability to be comfortable in the world.
    There are a few guidelines to follow, however.
    Until the puppy has been vaccinated, you don’t
    want him to be around other unvaccinated animals, since he may pick up diseases (such as
    parvo, distemper, and hepatitis) that can be fatal to puppies. Consult your veterinarian about
    when and how to safely introduce your puppy to
    other animals.
    Even before vaccinations are complete, however, you can begin socializing your pup. Puppies
    can safely be around other vaccinated animals
    in your home. It can be fun to introduce the new
    addition to your family by having friends over
    for a small party. Your puppy can become accustomed to people who are loud or quiet, young
    or old, tall or short, active or inactive. Introduce
    your puppy to people wearing hats, glasses or
    sunglasses, helmets, coats or capes with hoods
    up, gloves and masks. You can also take the
    puppy on short car rides, so she’ll be a good
    traveler from an early age.
    Be careful to make all of your puppy’s socialization experiences positive. If something or
    someone seems to frighten your pet, introduce
    that object or person more slowly, and associate
    the object or person with positive things. For example, if your puppy is afraid of someone wearing a big hat, have the person with the scary hat
    offer treats to the puppy. Soon, the puppy will
    associate the hat with something good instead of
    something scary.
    You should also gradually introduce your puppy
    to a variety of household items and sounds, such
    as:
    • The sound and movement of the vacuum
    cleaner, broom or mop
    • TV and radio noise (play a variety of types of
    music)
    • The noises made by whistles and children’s
    toys
    • The sound of electrical appliances, like a
    blender, fan or hair dryer
    • The sound and motion of a kite or a plastic bag
    rippling in the breeze
    • The sound of a balloon as air is allowed to
    escape
    • A CD or tape recording of storm sounds
    (played at low volume)
    Start early with getting your puppy comfortable
    with handling and grooming. Touch all her body
    parts: Open her mouth, look in her ears, hold her
    tail for a moment, wiggle your fingers between
    her toes. Hold the pup on your lap and hug her
    for 10 seconds. To help her practice being calm,
    massage her whole body and have the puppy

    relax with you until she falls asleep. Friends and
    family can help by handling the puppy, too.
    Using positive reinforcement (treats and praise),
    introduce a brush, comb, and dog nail clippers.
    If you plan to use a professional groomer, introduce your puppy to the sound of electric hair
    clippers at home first.
    When the puppy is eight weeks old, other animals who are healthy, vaccinated and friendly
    can come to your home, and you can work on
    socializing your puppy to them. After you have
    your veterinarian’s blessing to take the puppy
    out into the world, you can introduce the pup to
    the delights of going for walks in the neighborhood or to the park, and visiting other people’s
    homes, where the puppy can get used to different types of flooring and stairs. Your puppy also
    needs to learn not to be startled by bikes, skateboards, shopping carts and wheelchairs.
    If you have more than one pet, make a point to
    spend time with your puppy one-on-one. The
    individual attention can prevent the pup from
    becoming codependent on another animal in
    the household. To be emotionally healthy, a dog
    needs to form his/her own personality.
    Finally, to enhance your dog’s socialization
    skills, do basic training. Teach your puppy to
    take treats gently, and to play with his toys
    (not your hands). You can make walks fun for
    both you and your dog by teaching him to walk
    nicely on lead. He should also be taught basic
    cues, such as “sit,” “down” and “stay.” If you
    are conscientious about socializing and training
    your puppy, he will be happier, more welcome,
    and more comfortable in our busy, often chaotic
    human world.

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