Socialization IS giving your puppy safe, supervised opportunities to learn about the world they live in. This includes, but is not limited to: public outings, meeting new people, meeting other dogs, exposure to sounds, and walking on many different surfaces.
Socializing your puppy is NOT: passing them around a group of friends, forcing them into situations they are clearly uncomfortable with, allowing anyone and everyone to approach and touch, leaving them unsupervised around other dogs, or coddling them when they are frightened.
The experiences your puppy has in his first 16 weeks will set in place filters and associations that follow him the rest of his life. So what’s the best way to approach this all important aspect of puppyhood? With great care.
Take time to build a bond of trust at home before you begin taking him out into more stressful environments. He’s going to look to you for direction on how he should react, so teach him he can trust your judgement. One way to begin the process is with sound training, or desensitization. We have a free app that helps you do this by playing many different sounds, from sirens to dishwashers, that your puppy will encounter in life.
Understanding stress signals and taking on the responsibility of being your puppy’s advocate are especially crucial during these early months. When it’s time to go out in public be sure your puppy has been appropriately vaccinated. Also, be aware of the environment. Going to places frequented by other dogs and puppies that may be carriers of illness isn’t a good idea until your puppy has an immune system and sufficient antibodies from vaccination to ward off disease.
Watch for signs of stress and fear. Where is his tail? Is it tucked between his legs? Hanging straight down? Is he licking his lips a lot? Ducking away behind you? Shaking? Are his eyes as big as dinner plates? Does he refuse food? These are all indicators that your puppy is experiencing stress and/or fear. Being aware of where you are and what’s happening when you see these signs will help you better understand what is making him nervous.
Remember to keep it short and sweet. Give your puppy the chance to step back, regroup, and breathe a little. It’s much better to spend 10 minutes in a good state of mind than 30 feeling stressed and anxious. Over time you’ll notice your puppy becoming more confident and curious about his world thanks to your guidance and support.