How to Help a Puppy become a Calm, Friendly, Unafraid Dog
Most puppies are already friendly, active, and playful. These behaviors are normal, and a part of how a puppy learns both good and bad about the world. The window of time for learning is primarily from 7 weeks to 16 weeks of age in the puppy. This is when a non fearful puppy can see that loud noises, new people, animals and car rides are not a threat, especially if some kind of reward goes along with the experience. This is socialization. Basically the puppy who will later grow into a dog, feels happy and content when experiencing lots of different situations.
So, puppies do not automatically become socialized. They need lots of chances to go to new places, meet people and other animals while being rewarded for acting calm or friendly. This is where puppy socialization classes come in. Your puppy has a chance to learn with you the owner, how to meet and greet other dogs well. You learn what a reward for your puppy is. For most it is food, but for some it may be verbal or physical praise. Some puppies are ball crazy so having their toy to play with is their reward. Owners need to know how, when and why type of reward for thier puppy. That is why a class is helpful, to teach both the owner and the puppy.
Puppy socialization classes are not obedience classes. One or 2 commands may be taught as part of your puppies needed learning, but that is not the focus of these classes. Owners are teaching their puppies a lot at this point such as house training, leash walking, proper play, and they need some guidance on these things. Puppies need a chance to play with other pups to learn how to communicate with other dogs too so play sessions are a big part of class but not all of class. All of these things are covered in class.
In the past veterinarians recommended keeping puppies away from other dogs or places until all the vaccines are finished. Current medicine now shows that this can hurt the puppies behavioral and health development. It is important to have your puppy start the proper vaccine and worming program as soon as you get your puppy. This will start their protection while in class and actually being around other dogs stimulates their vaccine protection. You can find more information about this at the American Veterinary Society on Animal Behavior website.
Some puppies are timid and fearful right at the start. This may be due to some harsh experiences that the puppy already had, but actually may be genetic in this puppy. Mix breed dogs as well as purebred may be "wired" to be timid. These pups really need socialization class to help them learn at a controlled slower pace that they need.
If you have questions about socializing your puppy, please give us a call at 217-253-3221. If your puppy is already afraid and these tips don't seem to help, give Dr. Foote a call to set up a behavior consult. We can also help adult and senior dogs who are afraid.
- written by Dr. Sally J. Foote