It’s a big, loud, exciting world out there for puppies. So it’s never too early to start working with your puppy so he grows up well adjusted, good natured, and gracious in social situations. Here are six basics for socializing your puppy…
30 experiences in 30 days. Don’t miss out on important socialization opportunities in the first weeks of life. Give them one new experience, sound, or person to meet every day for 30 days. One day, give them a dance party and acquaint them to music. Another day, let them hear the sound of a kitchen appliance like the blender or cake mixer, and so on. By introducing every day activities and sounds slowly over the course of the month, you’ll reinforce your puppy’s confidence and not flood them with too many potentially scary experiences all at once.
Frequent Field Trips! In the first several months of your puppy’s development, she’s getting used to a lot of new sights, sounds and smells. It’s an exciting time to be alive! But it can also be scary when you’re little. Once your puppy has had all her vaccinations, capitalize on her natural curiosity by taking her on frequent field trips. Your puppy will be more likely to be anxious and fearful if they never experience life outside the comfort zone of their crate or your backyard. Take them to the pet store or the park. By exposing them to a variety of places, smells and landscapes early on, you will give them confidence that will translate in a more even temperament in adulthood.
Network and mingle. Introducing your puppy to a variety of friends and acquaintances will encourage a healthy connection with people. Have friends and family over for a dinner party so your puppy gets used to strangers being in your home. Take your puppy with you when you greet guests at the door to encourage your dog to feel at ease with visitors. Taking the time early on to include your puppy in your social time with friends will ensure she grows up to have healthy relationships with people.
Set a play date. It is just as important to socialize your puppy with other dogs as it is to social her with other people. If you have other dogs already, it will be easier. The most important thing to remember when socializing puppies with other dogs is to make sure they are introduced in a safe, supervised environment. If you can socialize them with other gentle, well mannered dogs early and often, they will be more likely to enjoy interaction with other dogs rather than fear it.
Turn up the noise! Loud sounds and sudden movements can startle dogs and make them anxious. But there are a lot of noises that are just a natural part of daily life – and it’s important to acclimate your puppy to those early to build their confidence and help them feel safe in a world of noise. Some helpful hints: vacuum near your puppy’s crate often, let them watch television and listen to music with you, ride in the car with the windows down, etc. Just make sure to introduce these activities slowly, paying attention to your puppy’s first reactions. If your puppy is naturally timid and fearful, loud noises can be traumatic.
Fasten your seat belt, it’s gonna be a bumpy life! Some dogs have a hard time with motion sickness, or experience tremendous anxiety when they have to travel in cars. One way to keep these issues from developing in your new puppy is to take her on frequent car rides early on. Some owners will put their puppy’s crate on the washing machine while it’s running to get them used to motion and sound. The more you can acquaint your puppy with the sensation of motion, the more likely she’ll be at ease traveling. Again, take care in making sure your puppy isn’t being traumatized by these experiences, and ease her into them over time.
Most importantly, when introducing your puppy to new sounds and experiences, do not reinforce their fear coddling. Instead, when they experience fear, turn it into a party! Become animated and playful to indicate that this should be a fun experience rather than a scary one.
The key to having a dog that is well mannered and even-tempered is building confidence. By exposing your dog to environments and situations that are a part of every day life early, puppies learn quickly that they are safe and cared for. That confidence will translate into healthy behaviors for the rest of their lives!