The Importance of Canine Socialization
Let’s talk about socialization or the lack there of.
As a dog trainer, the most common issue I see are dogs that lack socialization with other dogs and people, which is very sad when you know how unnatural it is for them to be anti-social.
Dogs are pack animals with a strong need for social structure, which is an innate quality inherited from their ancestry to wolves. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “you can’t fight the genes.” This statement couldn’t be truer when talking about dogs and their need to engage with people and other dogs.
The “Socialization Period” for dogs starts between 8-16 weeks of age. It is a once in a lifetime natural window when social relationships develop as well as being sensitive to psychological trauma. This period is also known as the “Cutting Age”, cutting teeth and cutting strings, which means they are growing up and their natural instinct to explore new stimuli starts to develop. In short, it’s not about you anymore. Yes, you are still the center of their universe but there is also a whole new world out there waiting to be discovered and they’re ready.
Once your puppy is fully vaccinated and you have a clean bill of health from your vet, start introducing your puppy to as much as possible and as carefully as possible. Remember that dogs are very impressionable at this age, so avoiding negative experiences is just as important as having positive experiences. It is a time when things can be overwhelming for your pup. For instance, taking them to a fireworks display is a no-no or anything your dog will perceive as intimidating or frightening. A traumatic experience can haunt them for the rest of their life. Use common sense and be responsible.
If you are starting from the beginning with your dog, it is important to introduce them to other dogs and people during this time period. If you have other dog(s) in your home, they don’t count because they are family. Your dog needs to meet and play with other dogs too, particularly other puppies. By doing so you are ensuring your dog will grow up to be dog friendly. The same is true with people. They should be introduced to lots of people including all ages of children.
If you happen to have gotten your dog as an adolescent or adult and are noticing social issues, it isn’t too late to help them. There are no quick fixes for dogs that have poor socialization skills but with training and patience life can be a lot happier.
So get out there and enjoy life and have fun together. Besides, it’s always nice to meet new friends, four legged and two.
Dawn L. Archibald-Corby
Canine Etiquette, LLC