Puppy so­cial­iza­tion part 2: Get­ting it right

The Citizens' Voice - - Local / Nation - JUDY ENDO Judy Endo writes about pets. Con­tact her at judyendo@out­look.com.

This is the sec­ond part of a two part se­ries on puppy so­cial­iza­tion.

Last week, I of­fered some in­sight into why puppy so­cial­iza­tion is one of the most im­por­tant things you can do with your new ar­rival. Today, lets talk more about so­cial­iza­tion strate­gies that work, and some that don’t as you help your lit­tle one get used to the great big world around him.

Puppy classes

One great way to help so­cial­ize a puppy is to at­tend puppy kinder­garten classes. Th­ese are classes de­signed es­pe­cially for puppy train­ing and early so­cial­iza­tion. In a typ­i­cal puppy class, off-leash play and play-fight­ing helps so­cial­ize pup­pies with each other, teaches them to be gen­tle with their mouthing and bit­ing, and gets them used to be­ing han­dled by a va­ri­ety of peo­ple. Some classes even in­clude ex­po­sure to odd sights and sounds us­ing props, CDs of sounds, and the­atrics with cos­tumes to ac­cus­tom the pup­pies to a wide range of life ex­pe­ri­ences. Puppy classes also teach some ba­sic obe­di­ence skills, so on top of the so­cial­iza­tion com­po­nent, you’ll learn how to ask your pup to com­ply with your re­quests and be­have ac­cord­ing to your ex­pec­ta­tions with th­ese dis­trac­tions.

Vac­ci­na­tions and dis­ease risk dur­ing early so­cial­iza­tion

Most young pup­pies aren’t fully pro­tected against the dis­eases we vac­ci­nated them for un­til they’ve had all of their puppy shots. This is mainly be­cause the an­ti­bod­ies they get from their mother can in­ter­fere with the abil­ity of the vac­cine to have its full ef­fect. Even though pup­pies’ im­mune sys­tems are still de­vel­op­ing dur­ing their early months, if we wait un­til a puppy has all of his shots be­fore so­cial­iz­ing him, we miss our chance to do it. He’ll sim­ply be too old. The good news is that if you take some com­mon sense pre­cau­tions while so­cial­iz­ing your puppy, the risk of in­fec­tion is quite small com­pared to the much larger risk of your puppy de­vel­op­ing se­ri­ous be­hav­ior prob­lems with fear and ag­gres­sion later in life. Ve­teri­nar­i­ans spe­cial­iz­ing in be­hav­ior rec­om­mend that own­ers take ad­van­tage of every op­por­tu­nity to so­cial­ize young pup­pies in en­vi­ron­ments like puppy classes, where the risk of ill­ness can be min­i­mized. They state that: “Puppy so­cial­iza­tion classes of­fer a safe and or­ga­nized means of so­cial­iz­ing pup­pies. Each puppy should have up-to-date vac­ci­na­tions and be dis­ease and par­a­site free be­fore en­ter­ing the class. Where pos­si­ble, classes should be held on sur­faces that are eas­ily cleaned and dis­in­fected (e.g., in­door en­vi­ron­ments). Vis­its to dog parks or other ar­eas that aren’t san­i­tized or are highly traf­ficked by dogs of un­known vac­ci­na­tion or dis­ease sta­tus should be avoided.”

The ex­perts now agree that the risk of a puppy be­ing given up or later eu­th­a­nized for be­hav­ior prob­lems is so huge that young pup­pies must be so­cial­ized be­fore they are done with their vac­ci­na­tions. The rec­om­men­da­tion is to so­cial­ize pup­pies as safely as pos­si­ble by ex­pos­ing the puppy to peo­ple, places and other an­i­mals while not tak­ing un­nec­es­sary risks. Well-run puppy classes, in­door classes where all the pup­pies have been vac­ci­nated at least once, are a safe and smart way to so­cial­ize a puppy.

“In gen­eral, pup­pies can start puppy so­cial­iza­tion classes as early as 7 to 8 weeks of age. Pup­pies should re­ceive a min­i­mum of one set of vac­cines at least 7 days prior to the first class as well as a first de­worm­ing. They should be kept up-to-date on vac­cines through­out the class.” The Amer­i­can Vet­eri­nary So­ci­ety of An­i­mal Be­hav­ior be­lieves that it should be the stan­dard of care for pup­pies to re­ceive such so­cial­iza­tion be­fore they are fully vac­ci­nated.

Other safe ways to so­cial­ize a puppy who is not fully vac­ci­nated

Drive to a busy mall and hang out with your pup on a mat at the en­trance. Strangers will flock to you be­cause they want to pet your puppy and they’ll will­ingly feed him the treats that you’ve brought with you.

Host a puppy party! In­vite friends and fam­ily over, play some mu­sic, toss some stream­ers, and pass your pup around.

Bring your puppy to in­door Scouts meet­ings. Su­per­vise the chil­dren in­ter­act­ing with him to make sure he’s not fright­ened by them and they’re be­ing gen­tle.

Take your pup on car rides through dif­fer­ent neigh­bor­hoods, drive-thrus, car washes, and out into the coun­try where he’ll see and smell a va­ri­ety of farm an­i­mals.

Ar­range play ses­sions with other pup­pies and adult dogs who you know are healthy and friendly. Al­ways su­per­vise play ses­sions.

If your puppy is small enough, carry him around town and let strangers pet him and give him treats.

Fi­nal re­marks

So­cial­iza­tion is es­sen­tial for help­ing your puppy de­velop into a happy, fun and safe com­pan­ion. Most peo­ple find it eas­ier and more en­joy­able to live with a dog who’s re­laxed with strangers, gets along well with dogs and adapts eas­ily to new ex­pe­ri­ences. While some dogs are born with ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tions that can make this dif­fi­cult or im­pos­si­ble, most dogs are very im­pres­sion­able when young and can learn to take ev­ery­thing in stride. So­cial­iz­ing your puppy gives him the great­est chance pos­si­ble to de­velop into a dog who’s com­fort­able in his en­vi­ron­ment and a joy to be with.

Dog bless.

Re­source: We­bMD, ASPCA

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