If you’ve recently brought home a brand new puppy, you’ve probably got a lot on your plate! It’s exciting and fun, but it’s also a lot work. Potty training, working on manners, figuring out a routine are all probably top of mind right now. But, it’s important not to forget about socialization – with both humans and other dogs. If your puppy is too young to be fully vaccinated, you’ll want to avoid letting him or her interact with sick dogs, and avoid places like dog parks where there are a lot of dogs around, but it’s not necessary to completely isolate your young pup.
The importance of puppy socialization
Puppies, much like human babies, are very impressionable at a young age, especially during their first three months of life when they’re essentially learning how to be a dog. During this time, it’s important they have a good experience with things they’ll encounter on a regular basis like adults, children, other dogs and even cats.
How to socialize your pup
1. Sign up for puppy socialization classes. One great way to help socialize a puppy is to attend puppy kindergarten classes. These are classes designed especially for puppy training and early socialization. In a typical puppy class, off-leash play and play-fighting helps socialize puppies with each other, teaches them to be gentle with their mouthing and biting, and gets them used to being handled by a variety of people. Some classes even include exposure to odd sights and sounds using props, CDs of sounds, and theatrics with costumes to accustom the puppies to a wide range of life experiences. Puppy classes also teach some basic obedience skills, so on top of the socialization component, you’ll learn how to ask your pup to comply with your requests and behave according to your expectations.
2. Crate training. Teach your pup that the crate is a safe place for him to sleep and spend time.
3. Introductions to new things. Introduce your pup to plenty of new scents, smells and environments. Make play dates with friends who have social dogs and cats and make sure you introduce them to lots of different people during those impressionable months.
4. Handling your pup. Touching your pup’s ears, toes, and other body parts can be a big help when it comes to trimming their nails, or even when it’s time to visit the vet. Puppies aren’t born being comfortable with being handled so it’s important to take the time to get them comfortable with being touched.
5. Independent play time. Just like children, dogs can develop separation anxiety. Give your pup some toys and leave him alone to play by himself. This will help discourage an unhealthy attachment to you.
6. Vaccinations and Disease Risk During Early Socialization
Most young puppies aren’t fully protected against the diseases we vaccinated them for until they’ve had all of their puppy shots. This is mainly because the antibodies they get from their mother can interfere with the ability of the vaccine to have its full effect. Even though puppies’ immune systems are still developing during their early months, if we wait until a puppy has all of his shots before socializing him, we miss our chance to do it. He’ll simply be too old. The good news is that if you take some commonsense precautions while socializing your puppy, the risk of infection is quite small compared to the much larger risk of your puppy developing serious behavior problems with fear and aggression later in life.
Other Safe Ways to Safely Socialize a Puppy Who Is Not Fully Vaccinated
- Drive to a busy mall and hang out with your pup on a mat at the entrance. Strangers will flock to you because they want to pet your puppy and they’ll willingly feed him the treats that you’ve brought with you.
- Host a puppy party! Invite friends and family over, play some music, toss some streamers, and pass your pup around.
- Bring your puppy to indoor Scouts meetings. Supervise the children interacting with him to make sure he’s not frightened by them and they’re being gentle.
- Take your pup on car rides through different neighborhoods, drive-thrus, car washes, and out into the country where he’ll see and smell a variety of farm animals.
- Arrange play sessions with other puppies and adult dogs who you know are healthy and friendly.
- If your puppy is small enough, carry him around town and let strangers pet him and give him treats.