The socialization of the puppy, which generally goes from the eighth to the twelfth week of life, is a period of fundamental importance to ensure that it grows “balanced”, or at least that it does not have problems linked to negative experiences of this period.
We hear a bit ‘everywhere that the puppy must know as many things as possible and make important experiences. But how? Do we leave him in the middle of a playground and wait for him to find his way home by watching him from a distance? There are ways and means of socializing your puppy, and it’s important to do the right thing to avoid problems in the future.
If it is well known that the positive experiences made in this period will help him to grow more balanced, it is equally clear that negative experiences made in this period will mark him almost indelibly. In these cases, unless you intervene with an educator, helping him to overcome phobias or other undesirable behavior can be very difficult.
It all depends of course on the intensity of the trauma, but it will always be easier to remedy a problem born after three months of life than one born during the period of socialization. For this reason the very first experiences of socialization, in reality, should always be carefully planned, choosing people, dogs, places and so on.
One of the best ways to socialize a puppy is to socialize with the mother (if you haven’t adopted a puppy too early, they should still be together at eight weeks). By letting the mother participate, the result will be that any moments of fear, or even just perplexity, will be overcome by imitating her behavior and drawing the necessary courage from her.
Unfortunately, however, it is not always possible, because maybe the mother is no longer there or because she would not be a good teacher. In some cases, in fact, even if she has the innate maternal instinct which will lead her to take care of the puppy, if she is not a well-balanced dog she could very easily transmit to him her anxieties, her fears or even her aggressive manifestations.
FIRST ROAD TRIP
Here too, the ideal choice would be that the first trip by car would also be made in the company of the mother (if she is not afraid of the car). Since the vestibular apparatus, i.e. the inner ear, is very stressed, there may be disturbances which are not very pleasant for the puppy (car sickness).
But since a big factor is the way the stress is perceived on a psychological level, the reassuring presence of the mother and maybe the little brothers and sisters will surely lower the negative perception of this new experience.
Of course, it is not always possible to make the first car journey in this way, especially if you have already adopted the puppy and are taking him home.
If this is not possible, we can at least avoid making the mistake many people make: going from the place where they took the puppy to their apartment, or even worse, to the vet for a visit! Nothing more traumatic for a puppy, which will inevitably associate the car with a not entirely pleasant experience.
Better instead if you can associate the car with a pleasant event: a nice park with a green lawn and first experiences in the open air!
IN A PARKING LOT
At first it is preferable to choose a place that is not very frequented. While it is true that the puppy should meet other dogs and socialize as much as possible, it is not equally true that he can meet anyone.
Ideally, the first encounters should be with very balanced and sociable dogs (male or female). It is pointless and detrimental to throw him into the fray with other unknown dogs. The biggest risk is in fact a very bad experience.
Care should also be taken with other puppies. The game, in this case, should be limited to puppies of the same size and not too impetuous. Not having particular inhibitory brakes in fact, the puppies risk hurting themselves, even unintentionally. We always observe the little ones playing, and if they go beyond the normal small playful fights, we calmly interrupt the meeting and go somewhere else.
In the days following the arrival, it is important to let the puppy know different situations, people, noises and whatever else. Limit continuous caresses from strangers, because they can be annoying in the long run. Every person you meet on the street will want to pet your puppy, but he may not necessarily like to be caressed.
It is advisable to introduce him, if possible, to people of different sex, age, type of build, etc.; whether they have glasses, a hat, or beard; whether they are nuns, priests, or Santa Claus; whether they are coloured, Asian, or dressed in floral patterns. Everything is experienced, and if you meet them as an adult you will not be surprised.
For the same reasons as above, it is of fundamental importance that the puppy comes into contact with children during this period. However, it must be VERY well-behaved with dogs.
A possible negative experience during this period could put you at risk of having an aggressive dog towards them. They also play with them “as children”, running, chasing each other, throwing games, etc.
It is clear, however, that children should not harm the puppies in any way. but if this happens inadvertently, the important thing is to keep playing. Puppies should not be kept under a glass bell.
At the risk of repeating ourselves, we stress once again the importance of the first encounters with his fellow men. Any kind of encounter with other dogs must be thought of in advance. A negative experience with an unbalanced or even worse aggressive dog may be impossible to correct as an adult.
All this not to mention the possibility that an aggression during this delicate period could also seriously injure your delicate puppy, or even kill him. The meeting should be carefully planned. The dog or dogs he or she will meet will have to be absolutely balanced and in turn well socialized and without any problems with their peers.
For the dogs it is worth a little what said for the humans: it is better that they are numerous and all different: males, females, adults, old, big, small, morphologically similar to puppies or very different from puppies.
It is very important, therefore, that puppies learn that there are men, women, children, large and small dogs, cats, chickens, horses, cars and everything else they may encounter in their future lives.
They must be able to face every new situation with balance and serenity, and our task is to accompany him in this growth by making sure that his being a dog comes out in the best possible way. Let’s not deprive him of good experiences just because we are afraid to let go of that leash, but at the same time we must always be vigilant and avoid him getting into trouble. It’s a full-time job.
The purpose of socialization is not to make the dog a friend to everyone regardless, but to make him not afraid of anything or anyone. He will then decide who he wants to socialize with and who he prefers to avoid, but it will be a peaceful and conscious choice, guided by his balance.