It is getting into puppy season! Which means that we have lots of new litters of puppies up for adoption (spay and neuter your pets, people), but it also means that we see lots of dogs that were not properly socialized as puppies.
What does that mean for us and for the dog? Dogs are like children in that they need lots of experiences when they are young in order to learn about the ups and downs of the world. What is safe, what is not, what is proper behavior, what is offensive to others, etc. Puppies need to be exposed to a wide variety of sights, sounds, smells and sensations without becoming fearful. They need to meet other dogs! Walk on a leash! Children! Cats! Car rides! Do all the things you would expect any dog to do at certain points in its life, in a calm and positive way. Make sure your puppy is enjoying what is going on. This allows them to have good associations with new things. Dogs that get this exposure usually grow up to be happy and confident in many situations.
However, the greatest window of learning in a dog's life starts – and finishes – early. It opens around 3 weeks of age and closes between 16-20 weeks. Unfortunately, when a dog does not get proper socialization in this time period, they can become fearful and/or aggressive to other dogs and people. Everything is new and scary to them, and it can be very difficult for the dog to override those emotions. Under-socialized dogs will always have behavioral problems, it just depends on the severity.
Do you ever see dogs on our website listed as, “No kids,” “No cats,” or described as fearful? These are usually dogs that have been under-socialized as a puppy. If you are interested in adding a puppy to your family, please take the time to work with them to make sure they have the best chance at being a well-adjusted canine citizen. And if you don’t think you have the time or patience, there are always lots of older pets looking for homes!
This video is a great guide-line to socializing your puppy:
Be sure to pay attention to the number of positive interactions a puppy needs!