Congratulations! You've made the big decision to bring that sweet and adorable, tail-wagging, puddle-making puppy into your family. You have plenty of work to do: potty-training, frequent veterinary visits, puppy-proofing the house, purchasing supplies...
Don't forget what is arguably one of the most critical parts of those first few weeks at home: thorough puppy socialization!
Puppy socialization refers to the way a puppy interacts with the world around them. More specifically it is the period from about 3 weeks until 16 or 19 weeks of age. During this short window of time, most puppies are like little sponges, willing to take in all that is going on around them in a positive light. After that time period, most pups become a bit more cautious. Dogs that have not been properly socialized will be the ones cowering behind their owner's legs instead of approaching a stranger with tail wagging. Poorly-socialized dogs are more likely to suffer from anxiety and aggression.
Your job during the socialization period is to create many, many opportunities for your pup to have positive interactions with the outside world. You want your puppy to meet and greet people of all ages, male and female, tall and short, high voices and low voices. If you don't have children in your household, go find some! Be sure to closely supervise all contact with children and other animals.
Remember, these interactions must be positive. If your puppy seems nervous at any point, allow her to take a step back and think of a way to make this experience less intimidating. A scary experience might have a negative effect. Reward positive, confident responses from your puppy but ignore scared or hesitant reponses. Cuddling, praising, and reassuring a hesitant puppy feels like the right thing to do, but will teach the puppy that their response is appropriate and defeat the purpose of socialization.
What things should your puppy be introduced to during this time period?
- people, people, more people
- your friendly veterinarian and staff
- water - swimming and bathing
- teeth brushing
- ear cleaning
- car rides
- vacuum cleaner
- other pets
- etc, etc, etc
Get that puppy out into the world and teach her it is a fun place to be. A well-socialized dog will be worth your effort!