When it comes to training your puppy, everyone knows they need to teach the basic commands. Yes, teaching a dog to sit and stay is very important. But, there is another aspect of training that many people don’t even think about…puppy socialization!
Socialization is a big part of proper development in a dog’s life. While some of this happens naturally, there’s more you can do as a Doodle owner to ensure your puppy grows up in a positive environment. Puppy socialization ensures they have a well-rounded puppyhood.
The Importance of Socialization
Socialization is much more than meeting and playing with other dogs. It is about experiencing new places, smells, noises, people, and experiences. Essentially, you’re showing them all the good things the world has to offer.
These introductions need to be positive. If your dog sees other dogs, humans, and places as positive things, they are less likely to develop behavioral issues. Sheltering them from experiences as a puppy makes issues like anxiety, fear, and aggression more likely as they get older.
For example, introduce your puppy to other dogs and people outside of your household. A dog who isn’t introduced early is more likely to be fearful of others when they do encounter them.
When dogs have behavioral issues like anxiety or fear, it can lead to their suffering and a decreased quality of life. Dogs who are more difficult to care for oftentimes experience neglect and are much more likely to face relinquishment.
The good news is that many behavioral issues can easily be avoided with puppy socialization. Well behaved and happy dogs can accompany you just about wherever you go. You can go camping, on road trips, and to other new places without worry. Your puppy will be content with friends or family visiting the house, or having them watch your Doodle while you’re away.
Is Your Doodle Ready to Be Socialized?
Doodles are very friendly dogs. Since they gravitate towards people and other dogs, socialization is very important. An anxious or aggressive Doodle is not just out of the ordinary, but it’s sad! They are losing out on the life they should be living. Doodles should always be joyful dogs.
When you first pick up your Doodle from your breeder, they are going to be timid. Think about it from their perspective – they have been separated from their mother and litter and are now with a stranger in an unknown place.
Your Doodle will need at least a week just to get used to you. Let them approach you and get accustomed to their new home before trying to introduce them to anything new.
Chances are, you will know when they are ready. They will bond very fast with you and are quick to trust their owners. Slowly introduce them to new things as they get older, starting off small.
Always follow their body language – you will know when they are uncomfortable. Never force your Doodle to do something. A little anxiety about something new is normal and okay, but fear is not. When a dog experiences fear at a young age, it is bound to stick.
Puppy Socialization Basics
Before you begin puppy socialization, here are some important things you should know for the well-being of your furry friend:
How Old Should Your Puppy Be?
It might surprise you how young you should be starting! According to the American Kennel Club, the puppy socialization period between 6-14 weeks is the most critical for behavioral development.
Just like a baby growing older, their personality begins to shine through in these first three months. What they experience during this time will certainly reflect their mannerisms, personality, and behavior as an adult dog.
In a way, socialization begins before you even receive your Doodle. A responsible breeder will already have them socializing at a young age. At around 3 weeks old, a puppy should be more aware of their surroundings and will begin to approach people.
Breeders should introduce these puppies to positive experiences with children and new people, all with gentle handling. The dog should know what it is like inside and outside the house. Excellent breeders will also introduce them to concepts such as car rides, crates, and lots of new sounds and smells.
This is just one of many reasons why choosing a responsible breeder is absolutely crucial!
Does Your Dog Need To Be Vaccinated for Puppy Socialization?
While puppies do need to start socializing at a very young age, you also have to be careful. This critical socialization and development period overlaps with their vulnerability to catch illnesses. Puppies are especially vulnerable to canine parvovirus and canine distemper virus infection.
Before they are fully vaccinated, puppies will need to interact with other dogs. The best way to do this is with other older dogs who are proven vaccinated and are completely healthy. This means scheduling puppy play dates with friends in controlled spaces such as someone’s home or backyard.
Your Doodle will be ready to go wherever they please 7-10 days after their very last vaccination. This usually is at the 16 week mark. Only then is their risk of infection low and you can increase socialization. In the meantime, you will want to avoid dog parks and other high-traffic doggy areas.
Another option is puppy socialization classes. The professionals who run these classes are well aware of the concerns of unvaccinated puppies. They are quite good at following a strict protocol. Puppy classes should only be with dogs who are at a similar age and the same stage in their vaccinations.
The puppy should have also been examined by a vet prior to beginning classes. All dogs who attend these classes should have had their first vaccine and their deworming at least 7 days prior. Proper sanitation, such as the clean-up of accidents, is also beneficial in providing additional protection.
While it is something you need to know and pay attention to, try not to worry too much about your puppy’s interactions. The risks of contracting a disease are rather low. On the contrary, the likelihood of your Doodle developing a behavioral issue without proper socialization is high.
Is It Ever Too Late to Socialize Dogs?
Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks lied! If you’re adopting an older dog into your life who is experiencing behavioral issues, don’t lose hope.
Some say that the window of opportunity for socializing a dog closes at the 16-week mark. While those first four months are the most important, you can still socialize a dog at any point in their life. It will take a ton of time and patience, but you will get there.
Start off small and slow. Breaking habits takes time, and you can’t expect to tackle major issues quickly. Always remain calm when your dog is behaving poorly or having issues, as they feed off your energy. Give them lots of praise whenever they do well.
Most issues with older dogs revolve around being fearful or aggressive to other dogs. This can be handled in similar fashion as with a puppy. You’ll want to slowly introduce the dog to other dogs in a mutually safe environment.
Choose another well-mannered dog to start off these interactions with. Start by walking these dogs together from a distance. If they are doing okay, let them eventually meet and sniff each other. Once comfortable with one another, they can graduate to being off-leash in a backyard together.
Weekly doggy daycare can also benefit your dog. They will get used to being away from the house as well as interacting with other dogs. Make the daycare aware of your dog’s issues so they can ensure they’re comfortable and well equipped to handle it.
Lastly, avoid dog parks when you adopt an older dog until you have a strong bond. Not only do you need to have control over your dog, but you also want to make sure they’re comfortable. You need to be able to read their language and stand up for them when they need it.
How To Socialize A Puppy
Puppy Socialization is all about getting your puppy used to everything they may encounter in life. These tips will help you get started on their socialization as soon as you get them.
Begin on Day One
A young puppy brain is a sponge. Don’t wait and get them used to what their new life in your household is going to look like. Of course, day one is as simple as letting them look at their new owners and home. It’s a lot to take in!
Slowly introduce them to things, starting off small and working your way up. They should learn what sounds, textures, smells, sights, and activities to expect at home. Every day, make sure your puppy is experiencing something new and exciting to wag its tail about.
Puppy Socialization Tip: Introduce Them To Everything
When we say everything, we mean everything. Consider this list:
- All weird things. To a puppy, this can mean brooms, vacuums, flashlights, wind, mirrors, balloons, etc. Think outside of the box here.
- Traveling. How will your puppy get around? They’ll likely need to know how to travel in a car. But, also consider things like elevators, escalators, planes, carriers, etc.
- Other animals. Even if you don’t have other pets in the house, they are going to meet other animals. Think of cows, horses, squirrels, deer, and even bugs.
- Different types of people. Think of how different you can look just by appearing in a different outfit. Wear hats, winter clothes, masks, and all sorts of clothing around your dog. Introduce them to different people with other hair colors, with a cane, in a wheelchair, etc.
- Different surfaces. Imagine how different textures feel on their paws. Introduce them to gravel, carpet, tile, hardwood, etc.
- Water. Watching a dog see snow for the first time is magical. Also consider rain, the beach, hoses, sprinklers, pools, rivers, etc.
- Places. Take them to different environments where you might take them. Consider outdoor sports areas, parking lots, the office, a campsite, etc.
- Loud noises. Loud, sudden noises can be quite frightening. Think of cars, skateboards, lawnmowers, power tools, fans, smoke alarms, etc.
- Handling and Being restrained. Your dog really needs to be comfortable with you touching them or gently restraining them. Think of harnesses, ear drops, looking inside their mouth, nail trims, brushing, muzzles, etc.
Puppy Socialization Classes
Puppy socialization classes are a blast for not only your dog but for you as well. Seeing your Dood happily interact with other puppies is such a joy to watch. Not only do you expose your puppy to other dogs and people, but they may also learn some of the basic commands, too!
Puppies like to play, and it’s nice for them to play with other puppies who have the same energy level. Another great thing about puppy socialization classes is trainers are always present to keep all dogs safe and happy. It is a safe place for puppies to wrestle and have fun.
Go at Your Doodle’s Pace
Every dog is different, even amongst the same breed. You need to listen to your dog and go at their own pace. If they are taking a little longer than “normal” for certain activities, don’t fret.
Go slow when you introduce your dog to new things. Only move on from your home to outdoors, along with other people and dogs, when you’re sure they’re ready. You want to be careful not to overwhelm them and stick to a few new things at a time.
Always make every experience positive with plenty of treats and praise. Never force your dog into any situation as it can lead to fear and anxiety for the pup.
It’s also important to note that what might work for one dog, may not work for another. By listening and creating a strong bond with your Doodle, you will quickly learn what is best for them.
Now you’ve done all your research on how to socialize a puppy. So, go out there and show your Doodle what this world is all about!