April 3, 2023

The Importance of Puppy Socialization

The Importance of Puppy Socialization

Isolating your puppy in the house and yard during their critical socialization period of 4-16 weeks is a big mistake.  Lack of puppy socialization during the critical period of their life is the number one reason they develop serious behavior problems as adult dogs.

Here is the link to a resource on the importance of puppy socialization from  Robert K Anderson, DVM  http://trainyourdogmonth.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/APDT_TYDMRKLetter.pdf 

Here are some great places to take your dog for socializing, enrichment, and practicing obedience commands with distractions. These stores require your dog to be on a leash, but also consider parks and other outdoor places to socialize off-leash.

  • Home Depot
  • Lowes
  • Ace Hardware
  • Bass Pro Shops
  • TJ Max
  • Michael's
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Dicks Sporting Goods
  • Petco
  • Petsmart

This is just a short list of indoor socialization stores where you can bring your dog or puppy. Be sure to contact the store in your area before going, as individual locations may have specific dog rules.

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I'm Dale Buchanan, and this is Puppy Talk, the podcast that offers free advice and tips for raising a happy, healthy, and obedient puppy. For more information on this podcast, visit us online@puppytalkpodcast.com. Welcome to Puppy Talk, episode number 72. Today I want to discuss the importance of puppy socialization. Before we get started, let's talk about what puppy socialization is not and what it is. Puppy socialization is not your puppy playing with other dogs. It's not your puppy meeting all people. It's not your puppy going to the dog park. It's not your puppy going to dog friendly patios, restaurants and stores, and it's not greeting dogs on leash. Puppy socialization is exposure to different sites, smells and noises, exposure to different body handling, also called cooperative care. It is being neutral around people, dogs, and kids. That means non-reactive. It is maintaining focus in highly distracted environments.

And finally, it is building positive associations with all of the above. A puppy that is under socialized during its critical period of four to 16 weeks old will likely have behavior problems later in life. And I don't mean behavior problems such as jumping on people or chewing furniture, I mean serious behavior issues such as fear, anxiety, stress, and possibly even leading to aggression. This is why puppy socialization during the critical period is so important. I want to reference an article that I have, which is actually a letter on puppy socialization from Dr. RK Anderson, d v m, diplomat, American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, and Diplomat of American College of Veterinary Behaviorist. He says in this letter that over the past 10 years in parts of the United States, the risk of a dog dying because of infection with distemper or parvo disease is far less than that much higher risk of a dog dying from euthanasia because of a behavior problem. Many veterinarians are now offering new puppy owners puppy socialization classes at their hospitals or nearby training facilities in conjunction with trainers and behaviorists because they want socialization and training to be very important parts of a wellness plan for every puppy. I will put a link to this full letter in the show notes. There's a lot of other information here, but this is just one thing that stood out to me during my puppy training programs that I do in home here in Huntsville, Alabama. I always recommend socialization as

A part of the puppy's learning process. I start training them in the house, four basic commands, sit down, stay, come, and I also add a bed command, plus we work on impulse control, leave it and drop it, and then we start lease training. At the end of the program, I take the puppy to socialize at Home Depot, Lowe's Tractor Supply Company, or a pet friendly store so that the puppy can get desensitized to all of the things that I mentioned early on in this podcast. It's not about the puppy going to greet everybody. It's not about the puppy going there and having fun and playing around. Check out the Top Gun Dog training Instagram page, and you'll see videos that I post almost daily of me socializing puppies in these locations in all three of my books, the Complete Puppy training, manual potty training, your puppy and lease Training, your puppy, all available on Amazon.

I talk about the importance of puppy socialization. One of the easiest ways to start socializing your puppy is lease training. I speak about this in more detail and in my last two podcast episodes, the importance of mental stimulation and how to meet your puppy's needs. What I recommend when you begin lease training your puppy is to put the harness or collar on them. Attach a six foot leash, get them calm before going outside. Take them out to the driveway and have them sit, watch and wait. This mental exercise is a high level of socialization, believe it or not. They don't have to be running around in the yard. They don't have to be walking by people. All they need to do is observe cars driving by people, walking by other dogs across the street. They need to observe these things and be non-reactive. This way.

When you begin taking your puppy to Home Depot or Lowe's or someplace like that, they are already desensitized to all of this stimulus, and they will not have a reaction. They just watch and calmly wait. Most of the time, they'll even lay down and be a good boy or a good girl. This is a high level of socialization and this is what you want. I see a lot of new puppy owners in my neighborhood that never socialize their puppy. They never take them for walks. They rarely take them out of the house. They don't do anything with them to get them highly socialized. So when the puppy's 6, 8, 10 months old, there are behavior problems. Most of the intake forms that I get through Top Gun dog training.com for new puppy owners here in Huntsville, Alabama area, sound something like this. Stop chewing, stop barking, stop jumping, stop pulling on the leash. Stop this and stop that. After I have a conversation with the owners, I find out that the puppy was never socialized during its

Critical period of four to 16 weeks old. This is also very common for people that rescue dogs from shelters, puppies that were dropped off, or dogs that are under one year old usually were under socialized. So at about six or eight months old, the owners started having serious problems with the puppy, so they gave it up because they didn't know what to do. They couldn't control the puppy's behavior, and they either didn't have the money or time to put into training the puppy properly so that it got the socialization it needed to prevent serious behavior problems from occurring. One other thing to keep in mind is that puppy socialization is a lifelong process. Dixie is now over three years old, and I socialize her a lot. Yesterday we went to the pet store to get some treats. We went through the car wash the day before that.

Today she's at daycare, and then we're gonna do something later tonight. Tomorrow I will probably take her for an enrichment walk in the park, and then over the weekend I'll take her with me to Home Depot or Lowe's. Socializing your puppy does not have to be complex or complicated. Get your puppy out of the house, make sure they can go into social situations and be relaxed, be calm and be non-reactive. Another thing to remember is find the best socialization place for your puppy. All dogs have different needs. I tried taking Dixie to someplace once this summer when my mother came to visit, and it didn't work out for her, so we took her somewhere else. And like I said in the last episode, how to meet your puppy's needs. You have to find out what is the formula for your puppy? What socialization outlets are great for your puppy? Where do they like to go, where they can behave the best and learn the most? This is very important. I hope you find this information helpful. As always, if you have any questions, you can message me through my website, puppy talk podcast.com. Have a great day.