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Socializing your puppy

Thursday March 31st, 2011

Puppies start to learn as soon as they are born. They are especially receptive to retain what they learn during their first 13 to 16 weeks of life. It is especially important that puppies have experiences with other dogs, as well as with children and adults, from birth to 16 weeks, the optimal time for socializing.

Dr. Pamela Reid of the ASPCA revealed in a study that when comparing two pups from the same litter, the one who has spent time with other dogs and people at least once a week is less likely to display difficult behavior as an adult than the puppy who was isolated at home.

Puppy development

As do our children, young puppies go through a progression of development. The time from seven to 16 weeks of age is the "socialization stage." Puppies are keen to explore new surroundings, meet new people, and get to know other dogs. Researchers have found that this socialization stage starts to wane at around 16 to 20 weeks of age.

After that, an event known as neophobia can take hold. If puppies haven't had plenty of enjoyable contact to new people, dogs, and situations before 20 weeks, they can acquire trepidations and anxieties, as well as affection and aggression behaviors. These problems can be irreparable, with the puppy unable to become a true companion to his or her owners.

To ensure the bond between you and your puppy, classes on socialization should be at or near the top your new owner's list. That bond can stretch over a lifetime that can last 12 to 18 years.

When looking for a puppy socialization class:

  • Your questions should include the training method used and what age range of puppies is allowed to attend.
  • Be sure to pay a visit to the class before you join to see if it will work for you and your puppy.
  • Your veterinarian can be a source of knowledge in your search for reputable socialization and training classes.

Vaccinations and socialization

Most veterinarians recommend that puppies begin socialization classes around the age of 8 to 9 weeks. By then, puppies should be through their first series of vaccinations against infectious diseases.

Many owners fear their vulnerable pup will contract a disease through socializing and being exposed to new germs. Veterinary behavior specialist Dr. Karen Overall shed some light on this decision when she said, "The single biggest killer of pets is not infectious disease; it is behavioral problems."

Source: Adapted from the ASPCA

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