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Socializing your puppy when she’s eight weeks old is the key to preventing serious behavior issues down the road. Early socialization sets your puppy up for success.
Socialization is different than exposure, in that through socialization, your puppy is learning how to interact with other living beings in the context of social acceptance. Exposure relates to things your puppy is introduced to that could be living or non-living, and doesn’t necessarily come into physical contact with. Often, the application of exposure training is visual only.
Socialization doesn’t mean forcing a puppy to endure a lot of different dogs and people in a short amount of time. While it is quite common for new puppy parents, with good intentions, to put their puppies in a situation that is overwhelming and a sensory overload, this approach almost always opens up the possibility for negative associations and the onset of fear.
On the contrary, some puppy parents continue to follow the outdated advice of their veterinarians, and shelter and protect their puppies from the real world by holding them hostage in their homes and only familiar grounds until they are fully-vaccinated. This also has a detrimental effect to their overall wellbeing.
It’s important to understand how to socialize your puppy early in a safe, healthy way, because this sets the foundation for their social mindset. This puts into their mind how relationships work, how it feels to be in groups of people or groups of dogs, and it gives them a framework that they use to make all their decisions appropriately.
Every young animal, including human children, is building a framework in their development. For puppies, the developmental period between 8 weeks and 12 weeks of age has historically been recognized to be the most beneficial time for socialization to occur.
Upon further research and years of our own learning at Doglando, we understand the information we have been following is quite vague and misleading.
Historically, 8 weeks of age was determined to be the best and most appropriate time in a puppy’s development for imprinting – not socialization.
Back in the day, people who lived with dogs had them because their dogs functioned as a means by which they were able to do their jobs, including hunting, farming, ranching etc. So that the human-dog relationship could develop in a way that the dog viewed their human as everything they needed in life… their “life-source”. It was beneficial for people to get their puppies at a young age, so that their puppies could imprint – recognize as a parent and or object of habitual trust.
Today, our lifestyles have changed rapidly, and it’s probably more accurate to say that separating puppies from their mom and littermates at such a young age is inhumane in the absence of a human companion. Sadly, and it’s difficult to talk about this without deeply penetrating one’s feelings on this issue… our puppies are more likely to experience abandonment than companionship in today’s world.
Soon after bringing home a new puppy, he or she is left alone in their crate or some form of confinement, isolated from the world, and all its comforts, at a time they experience emotional fragility at the highest degree!
Doglando has been tracking human behavior and its effects on puppies for almost two decades. For new puppy parents, nothing will provide your puppy with the structure, support, nurture, and nature they need more than our developmentally-appropriate puppy programs, beginning with:
- Potty Training and Puppy Development: 8 to 12 weeks of age
- Puppy Preschool: 12 weeks to 5 months of age
- Pre-K9 Level 1 Puppy Training: 5 months
Three Key Strategies for Effective Socialization:
- Protect your puppy by reducing (and ideally, completely eliminating) stressful conditions. Dog daycares, dog parks, and even getting together with neighborhood dogs can be overbearing for puppies. The same goes for introducing your puppy to people. Engaging in social situations can be energy depleting. Protect your puppy’s experience by keeping it manageable for them.
- Preserve the experience. These experiences should be rich and offer the puppy so much learning! More than dog-to-dog contact, you will find that a puppy will benefit more by having the company of other dogs to explore with and use their sense of smell, touch, sight, and hearing. Make social experiences a positive focus. Preserve their curiosity and desire to want to learn, and don’t push them beyond their readiness.
- Prevent behaviors related to fear, anxiety, and aggression by investing in your puppy’s learning by offering them your time, your guidance, and your support. You may not know how (and that’s where we can come in to help guide you), but know you have an important role to play in their development, from 8 week of age until 3 years of age… uninterrupted.
Doglando’s puppy programs are highly-effective because we understand that puppies develop over time, and we use that time specifically from 8 weeks to 3 years of age in a strategic way, so that you will have a confident, highly apt, social, dependable, and trustworthy canine companion for life.
Teena Patel is a Certified Dog Trainer and Behavioral Counselor who works with pet owners and owners of doggy daycares to bring her philosophy of Enrichment to the canine population. After almost two decades of successful dog training under her belt, Teena has done away with the standard doggy daycare “warehousing” of animals in kennels and runs. In place of an industrial model, she focuses on what is right for the dogs as living beings, providing experiences that improve and enhance their behavioral health. Coupled with a program of careful training, the Doglando experience results in companion dogs who are better-behaved, better integrated into their families, and above all, much happier. True to her passion, Teena Patel gives dogs the freedom “to be dogs”.