The word "socialize" is one of the most misunderstood words in the world of dog training. This misunderstanding contributes to a significant number of behavior problems in dogs, including fearfulness, dog-dog aggression, and aggression toward people.
The term socialization has a very specific meaning to those who study canine behavior and developmental stages. "Socialization period” is a specific, critical developmental period that occurs between three and sixteen weeks of age. This is the period of time when puppies are most susceptible to absorbing information about their world. Unfortunately, this is the same period of time where they are most susceptible to infectious diseases. In fact, some veterinarians caution their clients not to take their puppies anywhere until after all their vaccinations are complete. Other veterinarians understand the significant behavioral risk this poses, and recommend outings that are safe and relatively risk-free.
For information about veterinary-recommended early socialization, read Dr. R.K. Anderson's letter ,"Puppy Vaccination and Socialization Should Go Together”.
For more detailed information about critical developmental periods, read The Dog's Mind by Bruce Fogle or Another Piece of the Puzzle: Puppy Development, edited by Pat Hastings and Erin Ann Rouse. Both are available from dogwise.com.
Start as soon as your pup comes home. Invite friends and family over, one or two at a time and have them gently hold the pup and give him/her a couple of really tasty treats. Be careful to supervise young children who may scare a very young puppy.
Use DogPACT's Socialization Chart to search out a wide variety of sights, sounds, people, and animals to introduce to your pup. Make sure that each experience is a good one by taking some really yummy treats along on your outings.
Think about family and friends who might have a pup and invite them over for a puppy play party. Find a few older dogs who like young puppies, but won't let the puppy take too many liberties before reprimanding them without hurting them.
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