When people get a dog, they focus on the big things like keeping them healthy and well-fed, and unfortunately, even the most well-meaning owners often forget about the importance of socialization. Socialization, simply put, is exposure.
Socialization is making sure that you are safely letting your dog experience a wide variety of different locations, people, animals, sights, and smells.
Socialization certainly doesn’t have to reach the extremely high levels that are needed for service or therapy dogs, but at least a moderate amount of socialization is an essential factor in raising a well-rounded and happy dog.
Without proper socialization, dogs are much more susceptible to developing fear, aggression, and overall agitation at anything or anyone outside of their home. And even if you and your pet tend to be homebodies, a lack of socialization will cause problems with even routine activities like vet exams, grooming, play and exercise, and the introduction of children.
If you get your dog as a puppy, you can work on socialization right away; introduce them (safely) to everything you can while they still have the enthusiasm and fearlessness of an explorative toddler. However, if you adopt an older dog, you will likely have to put in extra effort and care to make up for any deficiencies.
Of course, socialization needs to go hand-in-hand with training. You won’t do well in your attempts to take your pup everywhere with you if they lose all sense of proper manners every time they’re in public, so provide them with lots of positive experiences at your side. Start small with walks, short car rides (to places other than the vet), trips to dog-friendly locations, and training classes. Once they start to adjust well to social situations add in outings like dog parks, Doggy Day Camp, or even play dates with other dogs.
This is especially important if your dog is an “only child” and may develop aggressive or anxious tendencies if not properly exposed to members of their own species. The pack mentality of dogs keeps them all in line, but if your dog only spends time at home with you then they’re missing out on a critical element in their development.
The good news is that your pup can’t ever be socialized too much. So get out there and explore the world together!
Want to work on your dog’s socialization? Contact us and we’ll see if your best friend is ready to make a few friends through one of our highly-rated training programs.