Welcoming a new (furry) family member

How to properly socialize your puppy

by Amanda Self, CPDT-KA,
trainer and owner of A Well Behaved Dog

The most important role you’ll have as a new puppy parent is socializing them. Learning from their mother and littermates is just the beginning for these sweet babies. They absorb the world around them, pairing every surface, sound, object, smell, person, and environment to either a pleasant or fearful memory — possibly carrying it with them for the rest of their lives.

The crucial socialization period is between six and 16 weeks of age. It’s best to make sure all the new things they experience leave a pleasant memory association because in a moments time, they have decided whether something is good or scary.

Properly socializing them means pairing new experiences together with yummy treats, fun toys, encouraging words, and praise to make that experience a happy one. Harsh, loud words, pain, or fearful things experienced during this time may stick with them for a lifetime and become scary triggers causing more fear and even possibly turning into phobias or aggression later on.

Puppies or adult dogs should never be pulled toward or exposed all of a sudden to anything new. If they put on the brakes, we stop there and try again later, luring closer with treats in small increments.

Allowing them to observe from a distance with treats, reassuring words, and being lured slowly on their terms is best. This will help build confidence. Socialization classes with a trained professional help navigate you and the pup through this magical time. Proper guidance now helps puppies grow up being happy, well-adjusted, fun, loving companions for years to come.

Training since 2008, Amanda Self has become a Behavior Specialist through her years of working with aggressive, fearful, reactive, and anxious dogs. She is adept at reading dog body language, assessing and creating protocol, management, behavior modification, counter conditioning and helping rehabilitate these problem behaviors. She can be reached by email at amandadogtrainer@gmail.com, or by phone at (770) 314-6018.

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