Why and When to Socialize Your New Puppy
Puppy socialization should be a top priority for responsible breeders and shelters and should start while still under their care. New owners should continue socializing the pup once he is home and throughout puppyhood. By introducing your puppy to different environments during his developmental stages he will be better acclimated and more confident as an adult dog.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of relinquishment to shelters and cause of death for dogs under 3 years of age.
Why is socialization so important?
- Prevents fearfulness in dogs that can lead to stress and aggression
- Allows dogs to be taken to public places
- Makes interaction with other animals and humans friendly and laid-back
- Reduces stress and anxiety levels of dogs when left at home alone
- Increases ease of veterinarian and groomer visits
- Helps develop well-mannered, happy dogs
The socialization period for dogs is the time when they open and introduced to different environments, their littermates and mother, other animals of their species, humans and other species.
Socialization should begin during the "sensitive period", which is between 3 and 14 weeks of age when puppies are highly willing to explore and show little fear when encountering something or someone new. During this time, puppies will most benefit from being introduced to new stimuli but will move at their own pace when meeting unfamiliar people or other dogs. Timid pups will take a bit longer to become less anxious in new situations and should always be rewarded with praise or treats after a successful social encounter.
With continued exposure to people, places and things, many will continue to adapt their behaviors beyond the sensitive period.