Early Puppy Socialization – Advice, Research, Power Tips

Socialization is the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do for your puppy, but we all but miss it in most every household Why it's so critical, and how to do it, coming up

Ian here with Simpawtico Dog Training and before we start talking about Early Socialization please make sure you're subscribed so you never miss any of our videos Also, follow us on all the major social networks and don't forget to check that YouTube description for notes, links, and resources about the stuff we talked about Early socialization is a subject I'm passionate about I see way too many dogs that have problems related to undersocialization Reactivity, anxiety, hyperactivity, excessive barking, aggression, resource guarding, poor manners

and all of them can be attributable to some extent to undersocialization I feel like people don't fully understand the concept of socialization It's kind of just a word they've heard bandied about, and they know it's important, but then they procrastinate on it and they say things like "I'd like to do an obedience class, so my dog will learn to listen and, you know, for the socialization, too

" Like it's an afterthought to learning sit and stay Believe me, nothing — NOTHING — is more important than socialization I want to help you understand why it's so critical and how to do it constructively We're going to look at the research, talk to some veterinary professionals, and give you a list of power tips to get out there and socialize like a boss You can also skip to the parts you want by checking the time stamps in the description

Our discussion begins with the 1965 book, ‘Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog’ by John Paul Scott, and John Fuller This volume collects 20 years of research and is still one of the most comprehensive references for canine behavior Science since then has tweaked and shifted their findings somewhat but the overall scaffold they developed has remained pretty much intact Scott and Fuller helped us understand that puppies have well-defined periods of development, and that what happens—or doesn't happen—during these periods has a tremendous impact on the rest of their lives For the common puppy owner that means we have some crucial deadlines to meet: Socialization with People should be completed by about 12 weeks of age, Bite Inhibition and Socialization with Dogs by about 18 weeks of age, and work on Preventing Adolescent Problems should be full steam ahead by five months

From the time you bring your puppy home to between 4 and 6 months is probably the most important span of time you'll have with your dog, greatly impacting the dog they'll ultimately grow up to be Do not underestimate the need for life experiences and positive socialization during this time, and do not isolate your dog Now, here's where we usually start getting a little pushback A lot of owners isolate their dogs because of the possibility of infectious diseases There's a prevalent and outdated notion that we cannot socialize our puppies until they're completely vaccinated which in some cases might not be until they're 5 or 6 months of age

This is misguided and potentially disasterous By then you've already missed the most critical periods for socialization So how do we strike a balance? Well, between those two things—the need for socialization and being cautious about disease—there is a radical middle ground To help out I interviewed a couple of our local vets at Lake Road Animal Hospital here in Elmira, New York Hello, I'm Dr

Mike Brennen I'm the medical director and owner of Lake Road Animal Hosptial Kathy Hughes, veterinarian Been here for 20many years Been a veterinarian longer than most people here have been alive Most [laughing] You know, I think in general veterinary medicine

go back 20, 30 years and I think the recommendations were wait until they're fully vaccinated Fully vaccinated at about 4 months of age I think certainly the behavior community and most veterinarians have changed that thought, just because of your point

Socialization in our puppies starts probably 6, 7 weeks of age and is really shutting down at 14 weeks of age So if we're waiting until then we're really missing an opportunity to create confidence, well developed, well behaved animals But I also tell peopleyou know I have people come in: "The breeder told me, you know, this puppy can't go see any other dogs until it's, you know, four months old" or whatever it's like, that's just really wrong You know, as long as your dog has got a half-decent immune system and the vaccines are given appropriately and at the right times, you need to get 'em out and you need to get 'em around people, other dogs, strange places, every place you can think of to go and every other place you can think of to go But don't just take their word for it Dr R

K Anderson who is both the Diplomat for the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and the Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists recommends that puppies attend early socialization and training classes as early as 8 or 9 weeks of age He's posted an open letter on the website for the Association of Professional Dog Trainers where he asserts that: "Experience and epidemiologic data support the relative safety and lack of transmission of disease in these puppy socialization classes over the past 10 years in many parts of the United States In fact; the risk of a dog dying because of infection with distemper or parvo disease is far less than the much higher risk of a dog dying (euthanasia) because of a behavior problem " There's a link to Dr

Anderson's full letter in the YouTube description Likewise, the official position statement on Early Socialization by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, says that: "The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing overstimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated" I'll link to the AVSAB Position Statement in the description as well

OK, so we know we need to socialize our puppies because the clock is ticking, BUT it should be protected socialization How do we do that? Well, here are the power tips you've been waiting for! Socialization's driving goal is providing a puppy with as many positive experiences as possible in the widest variety of environments as soon as possible This will assure maximum confidence and stability later in life General public places, so, meeting grounds with the parks and those sorts of things What I said about their first round of shots, that's not what I'm talking about

I'm talking about I'm talking about a structured environment that you're gonna provide, and you're sure everyone else has had their shots Going out to the parks and in the general public, uhmm, I like to see at least their 12 week The 12 week is probably the most important vaccine our pets are gonna get Most dogs are gonna convert at that point

So after that vaccine I'm more comfortable with them getting a little more worldly Lots and lots of Classical Conditioning will be the game You don't need to be a behavioralist or Applied Psychologist to do it Just do it in this order: stimulus, followed by food or play In that order Person with a hat appears–feed

Loud truck goes by–feed, feed, feed The food isn't a distraction; it's programming a positive emotional response Couple this with play, petting, praisethe whole nine yards Socialization is an ongoing process and it's happening whether you want it to or not Be aware of your dog's experiences, or lack of experiences Pay attention because they're learning all of the time If you do nothing, you have no control over what your puppy is learning

Socialization is not necessarily direct interaction; you don't have to be nose to nose or toe to toe; it can simply be good experiences in proximity to new stimuli Novelty is the game Make new things seem awesome Play with your pup, feed your pup, and let them have positive experiences *around* people, dogs, and environments This is called Protected Socialization

This means that you can avoid, or work at greater distances from things you can't control This includes dogs you don't know, people you don't know, and people who won't listen to your wishes OR, things that you want to expose them to, but may be too intense at close range Don't force a fearful puppy to interact Gain some distance, get them under threshold, and continue the work

Even if you just sit on a park bench and eat lunch together, this is powerful stuff You need exposure to multiple people Your puppy should have met at least a hundred different people by the time they're three months old Many of them should handle the dog, hand feed the dog, and do easy and fun little training exercises provided they will do it the same way you do You need exposure to multiple dogs

Your other dogs, or your sister's dogs that visit once in a while, or your neighbor's dog they play with are not enough And I commonly hear people say, you know, like "Oh he's around a lot of other dogs My brother has two dogs, and they come over to play all the time" Or, you know, "My mother-in-law, we take them over to my mother-in-law's" And it's like, well good they're socialized to one family and two dogs

That's not gonna cut it in real life You know, and it's really hard to get that concept through to some owners And it doesn't matter if they have a pure-bred dog, or a mixed breed dog, or they got it at the shelter or whatever I think it's hard to get people to grasp that concept of how important it is to get them off the property, strange people, strange places, that sort of thing They need many chances for exposure

Consider puppy parties at home, off-leash socials at training schools, and puppy classes Puppies should interact mostly with other puppies around their own age This is the most efficient system for teaching bite inhibition, social skills, and confidence This is also an opportunity to help your dog learn to engage with you around competing motivators Well structured, off-leash Puppy classes are fantastic opportunities for high density socialization

A good class will allow supervised, functional socialization while integrating it with the training Clean facilities where other vaccinated dogs come are also perfectly safe, although many vets recommend that you carry your dog in parking lots as they are pretty filthy Carry your puppy into puppy school, but once there, allow them to play freely Puppies should also have interactions with friendly adult dogs too These dogs should be social but not too overbearing or permissive

These "neutral" older dogs will help round out those social skills Avoid dog parks There is no pathogen control on the grounds, no mandatory vaccinations for the older dogs, and no way to screen the tempermant or experience of the other dogs, or the owners for that matter In my opinion, they're a hot mess Save those for later, if ever

While dog to dog interaction is a necessary component, the caveat is that too much of it can make them overly preoccupied with other dogs Let them have experiences with other dogs, but don't let them become dysfunctionally obsessed Keep them engaged with you, and break up play sessions every few minutes for mandatory settle downs and small training "breakout sessions" Your puppy also needs good experiences in a variety of places and environments Think about having protected exposure to traffic, crowds, construction, automatic doors, etc

Don't take anything for granted Carry food in your pocket, and use it to do your Classical Conditioning Work to develop strategies tailor-made for your dog's individual temperament Don't overwhelm them, but definitely challenge them In this vein, you should also design experiences to zero in on your puppy's weaknesses; if your dog is weird about your tile floor, or your neighbor's leaf blower, for example, these are places to divert your energy

Pay attention and don't expect your dog to grow out of it Dogs don't tend to grow out of things, the tend to grow INTO things Take the wheel and steer that ship Speaking of which, vet visits are a common trouble spot for dog owners Be proactive and guide your dog this too

Make an appt to introduce your puppy to the staff and the doctor without any procedures Classically Condition surfaces, the scale, exam tables, and equipment If your puppy is uncomfortable, don't force it Do some protected socialization and ease into more later

Socialization doesn't end with the end of puppyhood! You should absolutely pay special attention in the early periods but definitely continue into adulthood Dogs can de-socialize with isolation, so keep getting your dog out to have experiences or it will unravel A lot of bad behavior is rooted in insecurity caused by undersocialization By 8-10 months of age annoying adolescent behaviors will be in full swing, so short circuit these with good socialization! Having that solid foundation often prevents many behaviors, or at least makes them much easier to deal with in a shorter time frame All right puppy owners, I hope this has lit that fire under your ass to get out there and get to work on your socialization

Do not waste time and opportunity Now, question for you what has your socialization regimen been like? What have been your challenges, how did you overcome, and what questions do you have? Let's connect in the comments Don't forget to thumbs up this video and as always, keep learning, keep practicing, and we'll see you next time Thanks for watching


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