Socializing your puppy

      PUPPIES GO THROUGH A CRITICAL SOCIALIZATION PERIOD FROM 6 TO 16 WEEKS OF AGE THAT WILL DRAMATICALLY IMPACT THEIR BEHAVIOR FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. DURING THIS PERIOD, THEIR BRAINS ARE LIKE TINY SPONGES – SOAKING UP EVERYTHING THEY EXPERIENCE AND FILING IT AWAY FOR THE FUTURE. I SHOULD NOTE HERE THAT SOME EXPERTS IN THE FIELD CONSIDER THE SOCIALIZATION PERIOD TO END AS EARLY AS 12 WEEKS, AND THERE IS ALSO SOME EVIDENCE TO SUGGEST DIFFERENCES IN THE OPTIMAL SOCIALIZATION WINDOW FOR DIFFERENT BREEDS – WHICH IS A FASCINATING TOPIC IN ITSELF, BUT BEYOND THE SCOPE OF TODAY SUFFICE IT TO SAY, AS A GENERAL RULE OF THUMB, 16 WEEKS IS A GOOD ESTIMATION.)    WHATEVER PUPPIES SEE AT THIS AGE, THEY WILL CONSIDER A NORMAL PART OF LIFE AS ADULTS. KIDS ON BICYCLES? FINE. PEOPLE WITH UMBRELLAS AND SHINY COATS? NO PROBLEM. LAWNMOWERS, CRYING BABIES, MEN WITH BEARDS AND HATS – FOR A WELL-SOCIALIZED PUPPY, THESE THINGS ARE ALL A NORMAL PART OF THE WORLD AROUND THEM. BUT… BEYOND 16 WEEKS, SOMETHING HAPPENS. NEW THINGS, WHICH BEFORE WERE ACCEPTED WITH CHEERFUL CURIOSITY AND A WAGGING TAIL, ARE NOW MET WITH SUSPICION. ANYTHING THAT THE PUP HAS NOT ALREADY ENCOUNTERED IS AUTOMATICALLY ASSUMED TO BE DANGEROUS AND SCARY – SO BICYCLES, UMBRELLAS, LAWNMOWERS, ETC. ARE NOW TERRIFYING MONSTERS TO BE BARKED AT OR COWERED AWAY FROM. YOU MAY HAVE MET ADULT DOGS WHO ARE FEARFUL OF EVERYDAY OBJECTS OR UNFAMILIAR PEOPLE; IN MANY CASES, THIS IS THE END RESULT OF POOR SOCIALIZATION DURING THIS ALL-IMPORTANT PERIOD. IF YOU WANT YOUR PUPPY TO BE OK WITH ANY ENVIRONMENT, PUT HIM IN EVERY ENVIRONMENT. KIDS ROLLING ALL OVER THEM, GUNS, FOUR WHEELERS, PARKS, FIRECRACKERS, PEOPLE EVERYTHING! :)   SO, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU? IT MEANS TO BE SMART ABOUT WHERE YOU TAKE YOUR PUPPY BEFORE SHE’S FULLY VACCINATED. I NORMALLY RECOMMEND AVOIDING PLACES LIKE DOG PARKS, PET STORES, AND HIGH-TRAFFIC PUBLIC AREAS WHERE LOTS OF STRANGE DOGS ARE WALKED. INSTEAD, VISIT FRIENDS WITH HEALTHY, VACCINATED PETS. GO FOR CAR RIDES – VISIT MCDONALDS, STARBUCKS, OR THE DRIVE-THRU LANE AT YOUR BANK OR PHARMACY. WALK YOUR PUP AROUND THE BLOCK TO MEET YOUR NEIGHBORS. INVITE THE KIDS PLAYING OUTSIDE TO SAY HELLO.  ​ 

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