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Socialization is the learning process through which a puppy becomes accustomed to being near various people, animals, and environments. By exposing puppies to different stimuli in a positive or neutral way, before they can develop a fear of these things, owners can reduce the likelihood of behavior problems in the future and help build a stronger bond between pets and the rest of the family. The critical time to socialize a puppy is during the first 3 to 4 months of its life.
Unfortunately, behavior problems remain the top reason that pets are relinquished to animal shelters. Proper socialization will help make puppies more tolerant of changes in their environment and help prevent common behavior problems in the future.
Attending a puppy training class led by a training specialist gives your puppy an opportunity for socialization with other puppies and with children and adults. Puppy kindergarten classes are offered by some veterinary clinics, dog training facilities, and pet supply stores.
Reputable training facilities will require that your puppy is vaccinated and dewormed before attending the course to ensure that puppies aren’t exposed to diseases or parasites when their immune system is still developing. Vaccinations should be given at least 10 to 14 days before the class. Check with the training facility about its specific requirements. Also, consult your veterinarian to determine when your puppy is ready for class.
The goal of socialization is to expose your puppy to different people, animals, environments, and stimuli in a safe manner, without overwhelming your pet.
Start by familiarizing your puppy with your touch. Whenever possible, you should handle your puppy’s paws, ears, mouth, and body. Once your puppy is comfortable with being handled, it will be easier for you to trim nails, brush teeth, clean ears, and give medications.
Next, introduce your puppy to people of different ages, sexes, heights, and races. If your puppy tolerates it, allow other people to touch his or her paws, ears, mouth, and body. This will help your puppy be more comfortable with being handled by others at the veterinary clinic or grooming facility.
It’s also important for your puppy to learn to be comfortable around other animals. Puppy kindergarten is a safe place to expose your pet to other puppies because vaccination is usually required for all participants. In general, you should avoid taking your puppy to a dog park or other public area until he or she has been properly vaccinated. Exposing your puppy to an infectious disease, such as parvovirus, when his or her immune system is still developing can have devastating results.
Puppyhood is also a great time to familiarize your puppy with all the sights and sounds of his or her world, from riding in a car to being around a vacuum cleaner. Once your puppy has been properly vaccinated, you can take your puppy to places such as the park and the grooming or boarding facility to expose him or her to different sights, sounds, and smells. Each time you introduce your pet to a new stimulus, make sure to provide positive reinforcement in the form of praise, petting, or treats, so that your pet associates a positive experience with new people, pets, or environments.
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