One of the most important things we can do with a new puppy, I learned, is to socialize him. And I nearly broke into a cold sweat when I read that the age a pup needs to be socialized is from about 3 weeks until 16 weeks, and after that the window is shut, permanently. Oh my gosh! What if I blow it. Am I doing enough? Am I doing it right?
|I’m cute, right? Why do I need anything else?|
If we expose our puppies during this time to a wide variety of sights, sounds, smells, people and other dogs, we can help them learn not to be fearful or anxious when faced with something new.
Well-socialized dogs are less likely to react with fear or aggression. I must admit I think often about what Petey’s temperament will be like when he’s older. Sure, he’s adorable now, and funny and sweet and playful. But what about when he is a puppy adolescent? And adult? I feel a huge responsibility to do everything I can to help ensure Petey is a friendly and happy and well behaved dog, and one who gets along with Ernest too. We’ve been adopting senior dogs, who come to us pretty much as they are (and as a side note, I’ve been amazed that after all they’ve gone through, they’re almost always well behaved and loving,). A puppy is different. We play a significant role in his developmental process. Oh Petey, the pressure!
So we’ve enrolled him in puppy manners class, a kind of puppy Kindergarten. (More about that in future posts.) There are also puppy playgroups where the pups can learn to interact in a safe, supervised environment. And then there’s the socializing. We walk Ernest and Petey in our urban neighborhood a couple times a day. Because of this, Petey is exposed to cats, squirrels, dogs, people, children, buses, birds, cars whizzing by, sirens, fallen crab apples, puddles, sewer grates, trash cans, motorcycles, blowing leaves, garbage trucks and more. With Ernest’s gentle lead, Petey trots along confidently.
|Side by side. Ernest is a good calming presence.|
We also take him out almost every day. To Great-grandma’s. To friend’s
houses. To parks. And sometimes he gets to help me do the shopping.
Wheeling him around in a cart at the pet food store, we attract many
other shoppers who squeal at his puppiness and can’t resist patting him.
I welcome their attention, because they’re helping me socialize him.
Petey enjoys the outing because I usually can’t resist letting him pick
out a toy.
|I like shopping with Mom.|
|Socialize-schmocialize. Let me at these toys!|
Pretty soon Petey will be entering the next stage of puppyhood.
We’ll get through it together.