Why Dogs Need Socialization

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In order for our dogs to grow up to be well adjusted, stable adults, they must receive adequate socialization.  It is one of, if not THE most important aspect of raising a puppy, yet it is the one that people often fail to consider.  Socialization can prevent your puppy from growing up to be a shy, scared or even aggressive dog.

The process of socialization begins, for a puppy, at the moment of birth.  They learn tons of ‘doggy language’ from their mother and siblings, and should be handled from day one by the breeder.  For this reason, people should make certain that they do research into a breeder before purchasing any puppy, as well as avoiding pet stores that most often sell dogs from large scale commercial breeders.  The same holds true for puppies in a rescue situation, and the extent of their socialization will be evident upon meeting them.  Most rescue fosters do a great job of handling and playing with their charges.

Once you have your puppy home, it is necessary to continue to expose them to as many things as possible – sights, sounds, smells, surfaces, other animals and plenty of people.  Always ensure that these experiences are positive and provide a benefit to the puppy.  Make it a point to expose the puppy to as many of the things that they may run into throughout life.  Of course you won’t be able to figure out every single thing that your dog will encounter but, if your puppy has enough positive experiences with as many different things as possible, the confidence that this will build helps to make them take any other strange happenings in stride.

While puppy-hood is the best time to socialize a dog, many people who acquire older animals, often find themselves with a pet who was not properly socialized as a baby.  There is just as much hope for them as there is for a newborn puppy – its just a slightly different, and perhaps more difficult, process.  The degree to which a dog was not socialized as a puppy, will vary.  Many of these older dogs (usually 4 months of age or more), will act as though they have been abused and many people ‘cling’ to that thought as a reason for their dog’s behavior.  This can be detrimental to the dog as the owner tends to coddle the dog and cater to the fears that, nine times out of ten, spawn purely from a lack of socialization rather than conventional abuse.  It is possible to socialize an older dog, and its just as imperative to do so.  It is even more important in these situations to keep the individual dog in mind.  Know when you need to back off of things and know when its okay to move forward.  By reading your dog’s signals, this will become easier and easier to do.  Be patient with your dog – Rome wasn’t built in a day.  You are undertaking a far harder task than you would have were your dog an 8 week old puppy.  Expect setbacks, expect the whole process to take longer and expect to hit roadblocks.  Make sure to bring in an experienced positive trainer if you feel overwhelmed – and even if you don’t.  Having a professional to guide you can be invaluable and can oftentimes ensure your success.