The Importance of Socializing Your Dog in its First Year

Lee & LewisWe all love puppies; these cute, bumbling, fur balls can easily bring a smile to anyone’s face.  Deciding to adopt a puppy is a big move, and requires a lot of responsibility.  Most importantly, new owners must know how vital the first year of their new pup’s life is in their developmental and growth process.  Too often SPCA Florida intakes a dog who has no socialization skills and is frightened by everything from other dogs and people to cars and leaves.  Staff members have to work diligently to correct problematic behaviors and fear.  That’s why they strongly recommend socializing your dog in its first year – the greatest learning year when the pup begins forming its personality and absorbs everything there is to know about being a dog.

What is Socialization?

Socialization is an ongoing process of exposing your puppy to various changes and additions in life, so the pup can be better equipped when facing both good and bad situations.  Changes include other dogs, cats, new people, foreign objects, and the outside world in general.  As your puppy matures into an adult dog, socialization helps your pup develop a reference of experiences that will help it understand the world on a larger scale.  Without socialization your puppy may lack confidence later in life, be shy or timid and possibly even aggressive. However, patiently socializing your new furry friend will turn your puppy into an outgoing, friendly and trustworthy adult companion.

The Socialization Process

The socialization process is a slow, ongoing progression that requires a great amount of patience and understanding. Check out these following socialization tips that may be useful as you undergo this process with your puppy:

  • At 3 to 12 weeks your puppy is in its most important developmental period as at this age puppies are most open to new things that may be troublesome to adjust to later in life. You should expose your puppy to a variety of people and some new experiences during this time.brown puppy
  • Walks are very important to the socialization process, as they expose dogs to a massive variety of experiences. Try varying your walk lengths and paths to maximize socialization. Keep in mind factors like temperatures and time of year, as heat may make the pavement and walk unbearable or dangerous for your dog.
  • Never force your puppy into encounters or experiences it does not want. Your puppy should undergo socialization on its own terms. Forcing the puppy may create negative associations with certain activities or experiences.
  • During puppyhood, some puppies may lose some of the confidence they seemed to have previously; this is to be expected and you must be patient as your puppy regains confidence levels and is willing to begin socialization again.

Socializing in Adult Dogs

Many people, however, adopt a dog when it has already reached adulthood.  Although, most adult dogs will have already gone through socialization, some may have missed the step, depending on their upbringing and history, or may have lost some socialization skills overtime.  In these cases, you will need to begin reintroducing or introducing your dog to social situations. While a similar process, to socializing puppies, this process may be a bit slower, but altogether easier.  With the right training and patience, your new dog will soon be a model citizen and an absolute joy to have.

Got socialization questions? Email our trainer at [email protected]