We have all heard about the window of opportunity for puppy socialization that ends at about 14-15 weeks. Does this mean that this critical door slams shut at 14 or 15 weeks of age?
Of course not.
It tells us that during this time in a puppy’s development, they are little sponges that absorb everything we expose them to. Their experiences, their feelings, their fears, their joy. While there is a critical time in that window where socialization is crucial and lack thereof can impact a pup’s social skills, people with older puppies should not despair.
Understanding puppy socialization for your Edmonton dog is critical to contributing to their development.
If you have obtained a new puppy and need some guidance on puppy socialization, keep reading this blog!
What is Puppy Socialization?
Puppy socialization is how you get your dog used to the world and being around other animals and people. A well-socialized puppy is confident and knows who he can be around and trust. It is not uncommon for puppies to skip out on the benefits of socialization. According to research papers, those puppies have been just fine, as long as their owners started below threshold socialization, as soon as possible, and continue it for life.
The statistics show us that far too many people who bring their puppies to class let them free play and learn in a class environment for a period of six to eight weeks and consider that a “job well done”…
That is barely a drop in the bucket where social activities are concerned. We all need to do our very best to ensure that the puppies in our care during that critical period get adequate and appropriate safe socialization.
Why Is Puppy Socialization Important?
At Diamond in the Ruff, I stopped the “leashes come off” type of free play in class. No matter how much pre-education I provided and how safely I set up these groups, inevitably, someone’s puppy had a bad experience or they learned that bullying could be quite fun. That does not mean that I stopped socialization. It means that I stopped socialization that could result in a puppy learning how to bully other dogs. The result that I have witnessed is that very few of the puppies that I have put through classes with Diamond in the Ruff have not shown any signs of leash reactivity as they move on through life.
Using our methods of puppy socialization is meant to ensure that your pup knows how to behave and feel safe and secure while they are on their leashes. We want our dogs to grow up to become good well-mannered pups who know how to behave in different situations.
How We Socialize A Puppy At DITR!
Socialization does not require that puppies tumble ‘tail over teakettle’ in a no-holds-barred fashion. There are shy puppies, bold puppies, puppies that love other dogs, and puppies that are more interested in people. Free play often results in some puppies in the room having a great time while others are looking for a way to escape.
If you look at how a domestic dog spends their days, you will find that very few participate in the off-leash park “socialization.” Unless properly supervised in small playgroups, those with a few carefully chosen playmates have a poor experience.
In my classes, nearly all of my socialization occurs ON leash. For the dogs who socialize in my class, the leash means that their owners will keep them safe and that seeing another dog does not equal “dogpile”. On-leash socialization does not mean that they get less opportunity to greet dogs. What it means is they get multiple opportunities to greet dogs while they learn that the leash does not mean that they have no flight opportunity.
Putting Puppy Socialization Into Perspective
Picture a room of eight to ten puppies. All different breeds and sizes living in different environments with different families and different lives. These puppies have each come from a unique situation. Whether they are from a breeder, a friend, or a rescue, their beginnings are all unique. Their temperaments are all unique, as are potential predispositions, likes, and dislikes.
Now, picture all of those leashes coming off. Even in groups of two to five puppies, free play, as it is seen in many puppy classes, can, and often does result in an unintended free-for-all.
This can be extremely terrifying for some puppies. It can create a situation where “bullying” is reinforced. It only takes one event to create a tailspin. Pun intended.
Body language is everything and can be subtle and completely missed in a group environment. Teaching puppies to greet on a leash, to feel safe on a leash, and to be able to make choices on a leash, will always provide that puppy with positive socialization and appropriate exposure.
Are you ready to get your pup started off on the right paw for training? Contact us today for more information on how we can help you and your beloved Edmonton pet.