Socializing a Growing Pup
The first sensitive period of socialization for puppies is 4-12 weeks. Your breeder will have socialized your puppy during this time. Between 12 weeks and 6 months is the juvenile period where pups begin to develop fears. During this timeframe it is essential that you expose your puppy to new tastes, feelings, sights, sounds, and experiences. This is the best time to interact with as many novel situations and people as possible in a positive way. Once your dog reaches 6 months of age it will become much harder to introduce new concepts of any kind.
Below is a list of things your pup should experience now so that they will happily allow them into their world as adults. When first encountering anything on the list for the first time make sure your puppy is relaxed and gets a treat.
Socialize With People
Introduce your puppy to people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and races: from babies to teenagers to adults to seniors, and don’t forget to include a good mix of male and female and different ethnicities and skin colors. It’s also important to make sure your dog encounters people with (or on) the various devices they often have with them: crutches, wheelchairs, walkers, bicycles, skateboards, shopping carts, strollers, and more. Think also of clothing and other things that “alter” human appearance or behavior; have your young dog meet people in uniform (including service and delivery people coming to your door and into your house) and people with umbrellas, hats, beards, backpacks, tools, cameras, kites, balls – any “accessory” you can think of – as well as people behaving and moving in various ways: dancing, shouting, playing sports, or cavorting on the playground.
Socialize In Vehicles
Get your puppy accustomed not only to your vehicle (and the proper way to enter/leave and behave in it), but to the other vehicles that make up life in the human world: motorcycles, garbage trucks, delivery vehicles, buses, emergency vehicles, boats, and construction equipment.
Socialize with Other Animals
Other animals are a big part of life for some people and their pets, perhaps not so much for others, depending on where and how you live. Be sure, though, to get your puppy accustomed to meeting other dogs (puppy class and CGC training are great for this, as are daily walks around the neighborhood), and if possible allow your dog to also encounter horses (think mounted police in the park and carriage rides through urban downtowns), cats, birds, and – from a safe distance – wildlife, when permitted. (A good grip on the leash is an important consideration here.)
Socialize in Different Environments
Get your puppy acquainted with as many environments as possible. This is true on the “macro” level – urban areas, small towns, woods, bodies of water, playgrounds, farmer’s markets, vet clinics, café patios – and on the “micro” level: wood floors, tile floors, linoleum, asphalt, gravel, stairs, bridges (both solid and slatted or grated) – and don’t forget that bath tub! And don’t forget the sights, sounds, and smells (we’re talking about dogs, after all) that go along with these different environments: everything from doorbells to church bells, vacuum cleaners, appliances, electronic devices, blow dryers (see the Lifestages article on grooming tools), lawn and yard tools, loud music, video game and toy noises, cooking aromas, the smell of cleaning supplies, perfumes, the barbecue, and that just-delivered pizza. Some environmental phenomena you will have no control over – thunderstorms, fireworks, the neighbor burning leaves, the dead skunk in the middle of the road – but even these, when encountered, provide learning/socialization opportunities, so be ready to take advantage of them. Do you think you might want to have your Newf pull a wagon in a parade? Then be prepared not only to train him for pulling (when he’s old enough; talk to your vet or breeder), but get him used to the sound of bands, fireworks, and maybe even “noise cannons” as well as to the sight of balloons, flags, decorated vehicles (and people), and more!
There’s a world of fun for dogs (and people) out there just waiting to be experienced; early socialization can be key to being able to experience that world in a pleasant and rewarding way.
© 2016 Newfoundland Club of America
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