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What is socialization?
Socializing your new puppy or dog is something you should start with right when your new dog enters their new home. Socialization does not only cover getting adapted to other dogs or animals, it also involves being introduced to new environments, sounds and many different people.
A puppy’s socialization window lies between the age of 8-16 weeks. This is where they are most perceptible and open to exploring new things. If you have gotten your puppy from a good breeder they will already have started with socializing your puppy to new things. This could be moving them from their box onto grass for the first time.
It does not take much to socialize a puppy in the beginning as everything is new to them. In the first period after you bring your puppy home, your puppy will socialize to you and his/her surroundings.
Where to start socializing?
The socialization starts with you. Your puppy or dog will start connecting with you, learning how the home functions and in the first period in his/her new home he/she will work on socializing with you. Slowly building a relation with you.
If you have a puppy this relation between you will grow fast as your new puppy’s socialization window is wide open, but even with an older dog it will only take a couple of weeks before your dog has bonded with you.
You can help this relation. By giving lots of love, pets and praises. Looking your new dog or puppy in their eyes will release Oxytocin in both of you. Oxytocin is both the happiness and the attachment hormone. That means that when you look into your dog’s eyes or give them a good pet, happiness will flow through both of you but it will also create a strong relation (Read more about the relation between humans and dogs here).
Throughout this first period you should start giving your new puppy or dog little daily exercises to create that strong bond. This could be having them look you in the eyes before getting their food or teaching them easy cues and exercises. For your puppy everything in the world is new.
Think about slowly introducing your puppy to as many different environments, people and animals as possible but focus on what is important for your lifestyle and what your puppy will be exposed to a lot in his/her future daily life. Then start slowly.
If you like to entertain and have gatherings, then start by introducing your puppy to a new person and then slowly increase. If you have to take the train every morning for work and will bring your dog, then start with just a little walk to the station to look at the trains.
How to create good socialization?
Good socialization skills come from happy associations. In another blog I wrote about how important it is to create happy associations for your dog as this boosts their confidence. The more happy associations your puppy or dog gets, the better equipped they will be for future unknowns and experiences (Read more about happy associations here).
Science have shown that by slowly socializing your puppy or dog, you will decrease the likelihood of your dog developing problem behaviors in the future. Puppies that have had a slow but steady socialization showed less tendency to having separation anxiety, general anxiety and was more comfortable being touched and handled.
Despite your puppy being over 16 weeks of age you should not stop socializing him/her. Socialization is for life. The more your puppy experiences the more confident they will be and the better at handling future encounters. Continue providing new experiences for your dog but in small dosages in order not to overstimulate.
How to not overstimulate my dog?
If you stimulate your dog too much your dog will stop creating happy associations with the new introductions. Instead he/she will become highly stressed and the experience will become negative. If the over stimulation continues your dog might start acting out to release the stress he/she is feeling (read more about stress in dogs here).
It is a fine balance and here it is important that you are able to read your dog well so you can tell when they have had enough (Check out our dog body language library to learn how dogs communicate). Give your new puppy or new dog plenty of time to process their new experiences, which is often done with a good nap. Puppies especially need their sleep, but even older dogs need rest to regain energy and process what they have learned and experienced.
Socialization is key in a healthy dog development and should be a part of your daily training. If you have trouble knowing how to start with socializing your dog, then contact me for a consultation and I will help you get started.