How important is Socialization?
Socialization is extremely important. For me, it's the top priority after food. It affect in many area, reducing the fearful response in the future daily life, reducing the risk of timid or aggressive dog, reducing many behavioral problem like submissive urination and more.
What is Socialization?
Socialization is a process of recognizing something new in your life. We need socialization in order to understand, know the benefit, the process, the cause, and the reason of something.
The Relation between Socialization and Fear
Lack of socialization = fear that's the relation if I want to describe it in few words. But in deeper explanation, dog just like a human, we fear of something that we don't know.
Don't believe me? Let's remember our childhood, Think you are a 6 years old kid, alone in the house because your dad have to go to Alaska doing business and your mom go to Brazil doing another business. They never intended to leave you alone, they hired a baby sitter to watch you, but today she was so sick and can't get out of the bed, your family never hire a maid because it's too expensive, your closest relatives are 500 miles away, your neighbor are so closed to you and you feel like living alone in the neighborhood.
This makes your mom worried and calls her relatives to watch you and call you to tell about it. When you pick up the phone, you think you are bold and said "I'm grown up now! I won't scared to live alone in MY house, don't worry mom, I'll be okay." While you scream out loud in your heart saying "Yeah I can watch TV and play games until late! Hooray!"
Unfortunately, that night was a stormy night, blackout everywhere (No TV and No Light! and No Internet!) you look at the window and it's so dark, you heard cracking noise comes from the window, the light of the thunder exposing a figure like a hand of a ghost scratching your window. You are so afraid and screaming HELP!
In the next morning your closest relatives shows up after a long ride, you tell him your story seeing a ghost scratching your window, he take you to check it out, and it just a tree branch, both of you laughing and feeling it was okay and nothing need to be feared of.
See the point? The point is even we (human) fear of something we don't know and tend to relate it on something scary. We are smarter than a dog, we can think, we can learn science, and we can figure out something after examining it. After we understand it, we can sum up the idea, telling the action-reaction of a phenomenon and make our conclusion.
Like a human, dog also have such learning cycle but much more limited. The learning cycle of socialization in the story above is when your closest relative come and takes you to check out your window. That's the socialization, a learning process of knowing or recognizing something. After you knew what it was, it won't be such terror to meet similar phenomenon, you even laugh about it when you know it was just a tree branch.
Now if you take your time to socialize your dog to various activities, places, sounds, people, and other animals they will feel less feared because they know it. I hope the story makes sense, because that’s the true story of mine, except the Alaska and Brazil part lol.
Why Minimize Your Dog's Fear Can Help Your Life
Dog isn't like human in the way they communicate an idea, they don't speak, but they bark, lick, scratch, wagging the tail and bite to express the feeling and idea. Now if they feel feared of shadow they will bark trying to tell the master about it, if they fear of stranger they can attack the mail man or any stranger that come into your property, if they feared of other dog they can bark, growl or attack any dog that passing by in the street. If they feared of crowd noise, they can go "berserk" when you take her to the crowded place like the groomer or the vet. Now if you can make your dog feel less feared of such things, it will make your life easier.
How to Socialize Your Puppy?
Now we arrive to the main part of the article, how to do it? The socialization will be different based on age. Each will need different approach and goals. Now let's take a look on the first part, Puppy Socialization. For another series of the article, I will update this post and adding new links as I finished writing the next socialization part.
Puppy is the cutest time of all, the uncoordinated movement makes her looks like a toddler trying to walk, and its funny isn't it? The formal socialization start at 7 weeks old, but the very first socialization should be done as soon as possible.
The Socialization Goals for Puppy
- Let her know that she lives with human and they don't need to afraid of human.
- Let your puppy know that there is other puppy, dogs and so many animals out there.
- Make your puppy comfortable among children, even if you are a single. As a single, you may think it's not necessary, but it's important since you never know when some friends come over and brings their kids along.
- The last goal is to make your puppy comfortable being alone.
A Help from Your Friend
Ask friends to come over (especially who has puppy and child), useful to make your puppy feel comfortable being close to human (including stranger). Your friend's puppy also an added benefit, it will make her comfortable when seeing other dog. Since both are still in the same size the experience will be less threatening, don't directly bring your puppy to meet a big dog.
The kid will be so useful to socialize your dog to act appropriately with kids; in the same time you can tech the kid how to touch a puppy or dog. Make sure you have some treats (for you and the kids), the treat will make this experience enjoyable. Try to do this often, and make sure you also visiting your friend who owns a puppy. Try to do this with as many repetitions as possible with different people, to make your puppy feel safe with stranger.
Use Your Child's Friends and Your Neighbor's Child
Ask your child to bring some friends and play with the dog, this is another idea to socialize your puppy with kids. You should expect the unexpected reaction when kids playing with your puppy, so watch them playing, make the game-time a pleasant experience by avoiding any accident.
Kids sometime get too passionate when seeing cute puppy, especially girl. While the boys usually getting too rough with the puppy, try to avoid both. And give some treat for the puppy and kids to make them enjoy the experience. Give treat to the kids first and don't let the kids fed the puppy with their treats, so the puppy will have the idea that the kids are "above" dog in social-leadership hierarchy.
After the kid finishes their meal, encourage them to give a treat to your puppy. This will make your pup getting used being fed by someone else and kids. Soon your puppy will grow to a child best friend.
If you don't have a child, ask the kids around your neighborhood ask the parent first to arrange the best time and ask the kid to bring some friends along.
Take a Walk
After three months old, your puppy will gain a little control over their movement, this means you can start to take her for a walk, take her to the park, walk the street for a short period, and any other places that you can think of without exhausting your pup.
Try to pick a place where you can meet people and other animal like cat, dogs, even squirrel. Just a precaution here, some disease can spread via urine. At this stage watch your puppy closely while wandering on the park, don't let her smell other dog's urine.
When Getting “Puppy Shots”
At the vet, try to make some sort of introduction with other people and other dog. If you do this in animal hospital instead of clinic, take a walk of the area before you go home. Make her feel comfortable seeing so many people around her with so many dogs, cat, and even guinea pig in the area. Just pass by, not really need to have your dog "know" other dog, the current goal just to make her feel safe being around other animal and people. If your puppy can walk with confidence, not being submissive or aggressive then she already gets it. The best time to apply this is when you try to get some "puppy shots".
Puppy Kindergarten Class
Join Puppy Kindergarten Class to meet other dog and having a trainer teach your puppy to socialize with people and dog. This is a good idea if you can afford the cost.
The Crate Training
Puppy is a pack animal; socialize your puppy to feel comfortable is something that often missed in most socialization training, because socialization often associated with meeting other.
You need your puppy to feel comfortable being alone so you can do your own activity. Crate training is how you can do it, you can find the resources here.
This will socialize your puppy to various environment, people and animal since the early age. Don't make the same mistake like many people do, only socialize the puppy after 8 weeks (some even 12 weeks) because they thinks the puppy was to small and vulnerable. That's a mistake, not because most puppy kindergarten class started at these ages, then earlier socialization isn't needed.
Puppy develops their brain since the very first seconds they are birth. You can socialize your puppy in your home, in your friend's house, in your relative's house since very early age, and it's beneficial!
If this material isn't enough, you can check Dr. Ian Dunbar's blog (a great people in the world of positive dog training), he post an article that explain how much you need early socialization for a puppy here.
In that post he says you have to make your puppy meet at least 100 people before the age of 3 months! See the point? So start socializes your puppy as soon as possible, start it on your house, bring her to your friend’s house, make the kids in the neighborhood meet and play with her, take her for a little walk when she grow a bit stronger at 7 weeks old, take her to the vet so she get another “touch” from people and see how crowd the animal hospital is. Make her feel comfortable with the experience by praising her a lot after any social activity.
2nd part of the article about adult and adolescent can be found here, while the last series about old dog can be found here.