Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Social Networking for Your Dog

In the past, puppies were often kept at home until their complete set of vaccinations had been completed. Unfortunately, these "bubble puppies" developed behavioral issues including being afraid of people or animals, and an inability to read other dogs' cues. This often led to unwanted aggression that could have been avoided with proper socialization.

Start Now
Today, veterinarians and trainers know that puppies really need social interaction to become well-adjusted dogs. A 2009 position paper released by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists stated that the importance of socialization for puppies less than 16 weeks of age far outweighs the slight risk of disease. Puppies between the ages of seven and 16 weeks of age are curious and ready to explore, but they must be monitored in a safe environment under the guidance of you or a pet care professional.

Socializing your dog isn't hard; it simply means acclimating your dog to as many new sensations and situations as possible to prepare him for his life out in the world.While the process of socialization may occur rapidly with a young puppy, don't be surprised if things take a little longer with an adult dog.

Socialization Starts at Home
There are things you can do to socialize your puppy out in the world that will prepare him for more interactive socialization later on. Here are a few tricks for making the process fun:

1) Take your dog for a walk on different types of surfaces, such as grass, dirt, gravel and sand to familiarize him with the feeling of different textures on his paws and to help him become more agile on uneven turf. 

2) Introduce your pup to new people on a regular basis. This includes men, women and children of varying ages, races, sizes and ranges of mobility. 

3) Pretend to be your dog's veterinarian. Inspect his ears, paws, teeth and tail to get him used to vet and grooming visits.

4) Purchase a socialization CD containing sounds that a puppy might find scary, such as fireworks or sirens. At first, play the CD softly, then gradually increase the volume when your dog has become accustomed to it.

Leaving the Nest
Morris K9 Trainer Robin Lash believes that "among the best ways to socialize your puppy is to enroll him in a good puppy class that screens for aggression, requires first vaccinations and de-worming, and regularly disinfects surfaces." Puppy classes are great controlled environments that allow puppies to acquire social interaction skills and keep young dogs engaged when they are the most energetic and inquisitive. 

Stick With It!
The key to socialization is introducing your dog to new stimuli slowly and steadily. Start with low-key interactions in your home or neighborhood, then move on to play dates with another dog or puppy, and finally consider enrolling your dog in a puppy class, daycare, or group class like those offered at Morris K9 Campus. Although it's best to practice some form of socialization with your dog each day, keep the sessions short and reward your dog with a treat or cuddle when you are finished. This will make the process fun and rewarding for both of you. A well-socialized dog is a happy, well-behaved dog that will make you proud!

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