You have probably all heard the blanket statement, "Make sure you socialize your puppy!" Or even professionals who create puppy socials for pet parents to sign up for, specifically for puppies. Is it important to socialize your puppy?Absolutely! That I do hope is very common knowledge. But it begs the question, why are we stopping there?
Socialization, just for a temporary recap, is basically a way for people to help their dogs experience a wide variety of people, other dogs, settings, and experiences so they are able to feel more relaxed, safer and adjust to novelty than dogs that have not been socialized. It is widely believed that socialization in the early years helps reduce aggression and reactivity in dogs. I agree with this to a certain extent. I want people to understand that when we look at socialization as a process just for puppies we are setting up our dogs to fail.
Years of working with shelter dogs, rescue dogs and personal dogs of clients has definitely made it crystal clear that when we stop providing our dogs with outings, car rides, vet trips (when it is not medically necessary), to families homes, on vacation with us, to the park, walks in the neighborhood, patio dining, etc. then we have unintentionally caused our dogs to experience, smell, see hear and be in modes of observation and contact less and less. Socialization increases a dog's trust bubble, when we quit growing their bubble we can see reactivity, destruction and aggression increase.
We want to have healthy minded dogs. Having your dog literally be part of life as much as possible creates dogs that have the mental capabilities to handle a wider range of distractions and scenarios.
Socialization throughout a dog's life is being proactive, prepared, and on a journey to creating as many positive experiences as possible. Maybe taking your dog out to use the elevator, if you live in an apartment, is really scary the first time. Well if you stop all together it will always be really scary. It is a self fulfilling loop to keep a dog home because they are having behavioral problems. Using a careful behavioral plan and socialization we continue to help the dog be exposed to experiences they might otherwise try to avoid and in doing so our dog comes out of the process happier, more confident and able to go more places to continue to widen their world.
Ideas for socialization: