4 Steps to Socializing Your Puppy

Your puppy has to learn to live in its new world — and that includes the occasional guest, the regular arrival of the letter carrier, and the fierce growl of the vacuum cleaner.

Fortunately, a few simple steps can help you socialize your new puppy so it can manage these interactions. Here’s a look at how to handle some common situations that your puppy will face:

Socialization Step No. 1: Meet new people.
It’s essential that your puppy can relate to people both inside and outside of your home. As your puppy engages successfully with new acquaintances, always reward it for demonstrating a desired behavior.

  • Home turf first. Begin by introducing your puppy to quiet friends on your own home turf for short periods of time. Invite one or two neighbors over to have some refreshments and to scratch your puppy’s ears. When greeting your little one, have guests crouch down low and allow your dog to approach them on its own time. This will give your pup a greater sense of control.
  • Meet all kinds of people. It is also important to introduce your puppy to adults of different ethnic backgrounds, ages and professions, as some dogs might develop an aversion to people who don’t look like you and thus seem unusual to them. (The mail carrier will thank you later.)
  • Introduce kids. Once your dog begins to enjoy new adults, introduce it to older children for short amounts of time. Supervise the visit, of course, as kids can play roughly and scare your pup. If you don’t know any children personally, take your dog to a park and your puppy will likely draw kids in on its own.

    (Please note: Even if you don’t have kids in your family, it is imperative to socialize puppies with them. If dogs don’t interact with children early in life, they often develop aggressive behavior toward them later. Small children who race around and make high-pitched squealing noises can trigger prey instincts in dogs that are not used to them.)

Socialization Step No. 2: Meet other dogs.
Even puppies that consider themselves “human” will have to learn to get along in the canine community. At the very minimum, you’ll come across another dog (or its scent) during your daily walks. So your dog needs to practice doggie-speak.

  • Visit the park. Once your pet masters home visits and feels comfortable around people, try taking it to the park or on a dog run. Let your pup decide who to meet and for how long. Allow cordial sniffing and some play, but back off if your puppy seems intimidated or if the other parties have poor manners. You never want to force your pet into a situation in which it feels fearful. (Of course, make sure the person your dog approaches wants to be greeted. Some people are afraid of dogs — even puppies.)
  • Host a doggie playdate. Invite friends to bring their dogs to your garden or backyard for a game of Frisbee.

Socialization Step No. 3: Integrate other pets.
Your new puppy and your cat might never be best friends, but you can at least encourage them to tolerate one another.

  • Introduce slowly. Begin by keeping the newcomer in a kennel and allowing the resident pet to visit it through the safety of the bars. Gradually extend the length of visits before allowing the two to meet face-to-face. Supervise these meetings until you feel confidant that all will go well.
  • Protect other pets. Please note that no matter how well-behaved and well-socialized your puppy is, it will likely still try to chase animals it considers to be prey.

Socialization Step No. 4: Introduce new experiences.
The vacuum cleaner can be a terrifying thing for a young puppy. All is quiet, and then suddenly this towering devil growls to life and begins sucking up hair from the couch. Introduce your pup gradually to new experiences and noises, and it’ll better adjust. Here’s how:

  • Let your puppy check out the quieted vacuum, car, baby toy, or hair clippers on its own.
  • Next, place your puppy a safe distance away before turning the object on for a moment or two. After turning it off, stand by the object and call your pup to you. Reward him with a pat.
  • Finally, try calling your pup to you while the noise is actually going. It will eventually see that the television, fan or washing machine is no big deal.

Raising and socializing a puppy is a labor of love that pays off in a happier everyday life — for both of you.

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