We all know the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” While that isn’t necessarily true, it is much more difficult to undo fear or other learned negative responses in an older dog. Instead of trying to change established behavioral issues, dog owners can work to prevent these issues early. When dogs are puppies, they are open to new environments and experiences, so it is the ideal time to socialize them to the world around them.

When: 

There is definitely a critical period during which you should socialize your puppy.  The AKC states that this period is from seven weeks to four months, and most experts agree that eight to sixteen weeks is the critical time to socialize. 

Why:

Socializing your puppy helps him grow into a confident, well-adjusted dog, and can prevent many behavioral issues down the road. When your pup meets new people, sights, smells and experiences in a positive way, he becomes acclimated to them instead of being anxious or scared.

How:

Introduce your puppy to as many different sights, sounds and smells as you can…but remember to reward your pup so that the experiences need to be positive. It’s also important to closely monitor your puppy’s reaction to all of this stimuli, so that you can prevent him from becoming overwhelmed or fearful. Take it slow.

Here’s a helpful checklist published on Leash and Learn NYC:

In addition to socializing your dog on your own, puppy classes are a crucial tool in the process. They help dogs gain confidence through exploration and play. You may not feel comfortable introducing your puppy to other dogs, but the trainers running a puppy class are pros, and can alleviate your worries. The classes provide the opportunity to ask questions and learn tips from professionals, as well as to connect with other puppy parents.

Canine Humane Network’s Puppy Social classes can improve your puppy’s learning capability, memory, and cognitive flexibility, while also decreasing excitability and reactivity.  The classes are designed to give families with a brand new puppy the tools and support they need while providing puppies with a solid foundation. Topics such as body handling, potty training, play biting, and dealing with problem behaviors are also covered. For more information on our classes, click HERE or email training@caninehumane.org.

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