Socializing a puppy is one of the important things you can do to prepare it for the “real world.” By exposing your puppy (or rescue dog) to a variety of sights, smells and sounds, you help it to become acclimated with its world and thus help it live a healthy, stress-free life.
So, how do you socialize a puppy?
There are no shortage of tips and techniques online, but the fundamental concept is the same: letting your puppy experience the world around them.
Here are some ways to do it effectively, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).
1) Start early
Experts say the socialization window for puppies closes at around 12 to 14 weeks of age. And while you can certainly continue to socialize a rescue dog at any age, this is a critical period for puppies that will shape the rest of their lives, so it’s important to begin socialization techniques as early as possible.
2) Introduce the puppy to new places and people
This is the big one!
As the AKC explains, “Try to come up with as many different types of people, places, noises and textures as you can and expose your puppy to them.” This can be as simple as having the puppy walk on different types of flooring or as “involved” as meeting people wearing different clothes and getting out of different types of vehicles.
3) Keep it positive
Every new experience should be positive – even the ones that startle your little puppy! You’re there to let your puppy know that these new, unfamiliar things are okay. So lots of love, encouragement (and age-specific treats) are a must!
4) Involve the kids
The more people, the better! (Although introduce them slowly, one at a time, not as a large group all at once.) Kids of different ages will naturally bring different types of energy and affection to the room, so this is a great experience for your little pup to observe and see that “These people are ok!”
5) Have fun with new noises
Loud noises don’t have be stressful for your pup, which is why you should introduce them at an early age. Vacuums, washing machines, beeping ovens – these are all sounds you should slowly introduce to your pup to let them know they are a harmless part of daily life.
6) Keep things at a distance at first
Don’t “force” any new objects or experiences on a puppy too quickly. When bringing new people or things into a room, start at a distance. Let your puppy observe and decide how to react. He may be eager to move forward or may need a little time. Gauge his reaction and proceed accordingly when he’s ready.
7) Try new environments
Initial socialization should begin at home, where the puppy is most comfortable. But after you’ve expanded to new rooms and spaces in your home, it’s time to explore other areas too. Once the puppy has all its vaccinations, a great place to start is a local pet store or dog park.
8) Attend puppy classes
The littlest puppies may not be ready yet for full-on obedience training. However, local AKC training clubs and other dog-training facilities may offer these classes to introduce basic commands to your pup, and simply taking part in the experience will help to socialize your pup.
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