What is socialization (to a dog)?
During the first few months, puppies go through a socialization period that will forever shape what kind of dog they will grow up to be. Gently and positively exposing them to an assortment of new people, places, and varied situations can make a huge difference.
Socialization can mean many things, as it is more than just meeting and mingling with new people. At the most basic level, socializing your puppy can simply be exposing him/her to new things such as: crinkling a water bottle, familiarizing them with new surfaces (stairs, concrete, grass, hardwood, etc.), starting up the vacuum cleaner, or introducing them to your neighbors.
We brought our Dalmatian, Jackson, home when he was 12-weeks old. We were lucky that he had sufficient time with his litter-mates and a breeder who was very hands-on, which helped him to be well-socialized from the start.
After bringing him home, we began taking Jackson to every dog-friendly place that we could find. This included shops, restaurant patios, the beach, doggie daycare*, long walks at the park — any place that would have lots of new people, different dogs, and rewarding experiences for him.
We introduced him to our neighbors, took him on a road trip (lots of time in the car), familiarized him with sounds such as our doorbell, the vacuum cleaner, and a hair dryer. We even took him swimming at in the ocean and let him feel sand under his paws!
THREE REASONS WHY
Here are three reasons why I have found socialization to be important — especially from a young age:
- Dogs who haven’t socialized with other humans and/or animals or new experiences are often fearful of new situations and circumstances. Socializing your puppy through activities can be a great learning experience for them.
- Lots of varied positive experiences will help your puppy grow up to be a well-rounded adult. Lack of socialization can lead to a dog who is afraid of people, as well as new experiences and places. That being said, if you have an adult dog who is fearful, you may want to try working with a trainer to find the best avenue for socializing them.
- Have you ever heard the saying “a tired dog is a good dog?” It is so true! Dogs who spend time exploring, exercising, and playing with other dogs and people lead healthy and happy lives. If your dog is stressed or anxious, they are spending less time having fun and burning energy and more time feeling overwhelmed which could lead to negative repercussions.
WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES
Mistakes in socialization, even if intentions are good, can backfire and may even produce an overly shy or overly aggressive dog. According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, you should never force your puppy into encounters or experiences it does not want. Your puppy should undergo socialization on its own terms. Forcing the situation may create negative associations with certain sounds, places, and/or activities.
ALL GROWN UP
Jackson has grown up to be such an awesome dog (I might be a little biased). He loves meeting new people and trying new things! While not perfect — he loves to counter surf, and tends to jump up to say hello to people (we are working on these behaviors) — I feel he is well-adjusted and happy thanks to positive socialization.
What are your experiences with socializing your dog? Tell us in the comments below!
*Important note: Be sure to have all your pup’s immunizations complete before going to a dog park or doggie day care. You want to make sure that you keep your fur-baby healthy before meeting other dogs who could put them at risk of infection.
Hey y’all! My name is Julie and I am from Houston, Texas. I am married to a wonderful guy named Andrew and we have three amazing dogs: Heath, a blue Weimaraner, as well as Jackson and Bennett, two very spotty Dalmatians. Currently, I work as a higher education Public Relations Coordinator and am a graduate of Bethany College with a BA in communications and WVU with an MS in Integrated Marketing Communications. I am the fun-loving dog mom behind the scenes of the Instagram account @jackson_the_dalmatian. I hope you’ll follow along with our daily adventures!