Socialize Your Puppy
One of the most valuable lessons you can teach your puppy is that the world is a safe place, with kind humans and friendly dogs and other animals. The act of exposing your puppy to the world is called socialization. Many puppy owners have heard that this is important but really don’t know how to go about doing it correctly. If you do it right, you’ll help your puppy grow up to be confident and outgoing. If it’s done wrong, you can inadvertently create a frightened, aggressive puppy.
A critical time for your puppy’s learning is from birth to 16 weeks of age. During this time, puppies can absorb a great deal of information, but they are also very vulnerable to bad experiences. Puppies who are not properly exposed to different types of people and other animals can find them very startling or frightening when they do finally encounter them at an older age. They may react by growling, cowering, or even biting. But if they have positive experiences with people and animals before they turn 16 weeks of age, they are less likely to be afraid of them later.Soon after you bring your puppy home (preferably no younger than eight weeks of age), it’s time to start your socialization training program.
Protecting Your Puppy’s Health
Most puppies will not get all their shots until they are 15 to 16 weeks of age. Some breeders and veterinarians recommend an even more extended schedule. It’s very important that you do not expose your puppy to dangerous diseases until she’s had vaccinations to protect her.
Puppies can get diseases by walking where sick dogs have been and by picking up traces of feces or other bodily fluids. Some viruses, such as the parvovirus, are extremely durable and contagious, and it only takes a small amount of exposure to infect your puppy. How do you prevent exposure?
Do not let your puppy walk in public places. This means that you should not let your puppy walk in the neighborhood or in public parks until she has had all her shots. If you must take your puppy to these places, carry her. Of course, this will be easier with a Maltese puppy than it will be with an English Mastiff, but it’s up to you to keep your puppy safe.
The need to keep your puppy safe from disease can compete with the need to socialize her. If the ideal window for socialization is up to 16 weeks, and your puppy will not complete her shot series before then, how can you expose her to the world? Here’s how to do it safely:
- Invite friends and family to your house. If your puppy can’t get out, bring the people in! Ask them to remove their shoes before coming into your home just in case they’ve stepped in something that can cause your puppy harm.
- Invite safe, friendly dogs to your home. If you have friends who have suitable dogs for your puppy to meet, invite them to come play at your place.
- Only visit safe houses. If you have friends who have a suitable, healthy dog who would play well with your puppy, visit their homes. This is safer than letting your puppy walk in a public park or in a neighborhood where you don’t know the dogs who have been there. Be sure to carry your puppy from the car into your friend’s home.
- Do not let your puppy run up to dogs you don’t know, especially at the veterinarian’s office. Dogs who visit the veterinarian may be sick. If you let your puppy greet them, you could be exposing her to a contagious disease. Carry your young puppy into the veterinarian’s office, and keep her in your lap (or in her crate) until her immune system is protected.
These simple steps will allow you to socialize your puppy while minimizing exposure to disease.
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Excerpted from Puppy Care & Training© 2007 T.F.H. Publications, Inc. Used by Permission.