Let’s talk about socializing your puppy! Socializing is of the utmost importance. What you do or don’t do during the puppy’s socialization period will affect them for the rest of their lives. I’m including a visual charts for reference for some ideas of what socialization is.
A puppy’s socialization period starts at about three weeks (when ears and eyes are fully opened) and continues until around 12-14 weeks of age. That doesn’t mean you can’t “socialize” after that period, but new experiences fit more into the “desensitizing” category. During the socialization period your puppy is a little sponge soaks everything up, whether good or bad.
On the other hand your puppy has to go through a period of puppy shots (vaccinations) and is not fully protected from things like parvovirus or distemper until she has completed that series of shots with the last one given at 16 weeks or later. The reason why they go through a series is because we don’t know (without titer testing) when the mother’s immunities wear out and puppies immune system is fully covered by its own vaccine protection.
So what do you do when your puppy is not fully protected from diseases until 16 weeks, but their prime socialization ends at 12-14 weeks. You can do a lot! Yes, you need to be aware and careful, but socialization is so important. Do not skip it and cloister your puppy away at home until they are done with their shots.
Since we live in the boondocks, it’s a bit more challenging to socialize puppies, but we do what we can with what we have and try to give your puppy a good foundation for you to build on.
Having the puppy play area in the garden is handy for exposure to the “traffic” we get. My BIL frequently zips in on his four-wheeler, son has a car with a loud exhaust, Fedex drives in for deliveries, etc. The hubby and son are always working on cars and making banging noises and using the air compressor and air tools. Hubby takes a couple days to mow all the yards either with the push mower or the riding one. So there is always lots of noise and activity out front. Big dogs visit, small dogs bark in their yard, the chickens and horses add to the chaos. So though we don’t have typical town noises, they puppies are hearing and seeing things that will help in their socializing,
We try to introduce them to different people, although we don’t get many visitors out here. I invite friends with kids over (like yesterday’s post) and if my grown kids are visiting, I twist their arms to interact with the puppies. *wink
Make sure your puppy meets lots of people of different ages, sizes, etc. People with hats, people with uniforms (think UPS, Fedex, etc), people with facial hair, people on bikes, people in wheelchairs (go visit grandpa in the retirement home), people with helmets, etc. You can even go to the Good Will and get some different costumes, wigs, hat, umbrellas, fake beards and whatever you can think of to introduce your puppy to many novel things. Make it fun and use treats. You never want to scare your puppy with something new.
Introduce them to different surfaces; linoleum, wood, gravel, grass, tile, carpet, etc. Learn to use a couple small stairs (the puppies practice on the two toys that have steps already).
If you have friends with friendly pets, go visit them (unless they are frequenting the dog park a lot). Meet different animals; cats, bunnies, birds, goats, horses, whatever you can find. Please be careful introducing them to other dogs whether they be big or small. Make sure they are good around puppies and there is supervision.
Include your puppy in family outings. Places such as Lowe’s, Home Depot and Hobby Lobby are pet friendly. I would take a dog bed or blanket and put it in the grocery cart, put your puppy in and cruise through the store. Puppies are people magnets so take treats and let those that want to, come up and meet your puppy and give it a treat. Farmers markets are in full swing this time of year, so take your puppy in a backpack and wander through the crowds as you go shopping. Outings like this are where the litter box comes in handy. Keep a small one in your car for your puppy to relieve herself in before you head out on your venture and when you return before putting them back in their travel crate.
Practice grooming your puppy, handling their face, feet, mouth, ears and they are comfortable with your touching them all over. Put them on their back and rub their belly. If they squirm and wiggle, talk quietly and rub their belly until they relax. Don’t let them up if they are thrashing around and unhappy. They need to learn you are the top dog and be comfortable submitting to you. Being on their back is a vulnerable position.
What you don’t want to do is walk puppy or put him down on the ground especially in public areas (parks, dog parks, even walking in your neighborhood) where stray, sick dogs may have been before you. If you don’t have a fenced yard or live in an apartment with just a general dog potty area, it would be best to continue using the litter box exclusively until your puppy is fully vaccinated. Then you can transition them outdoors on a leash to the potty area. Parvovirus can live on the ground for a long, long time. And when you take your puppy to the vet as she continues on with her puppy vaccination series, carry her and don’t put her on the floor at the vet’s office. They clean, they disinfect, but you can’t be too careful in a place where sick dogs come for treatment.
On another note, even after your puppy is fully vaccinated don’t be tempted to take them for long walks. Their joints are still developing and too much too soon can be damaging. Most of their exercise should be free play in the house or back yard.
The main point is do things with your puppy! Include them in your activities, make new things fun, reward your puppy with new interactions and new things. Just use your common sense where you take them and avoid the ground in public areas where other dogs may have been.