How to Socialize a Puppy With Other Dogs
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Unless they are newborn, by the time you adopt a puppy their socialization period will already have begun. This is an essential period during a puppy's life which allows them to learn how to interact with other dogs, animals, people and environments. It is both a fundamental process of adaptation and a sensitive period for the puppy. This sensitivity means they can have some trouble adjusting. It also means problems will arise if their socialization needs are not met during this period.
If you have just adopted them, you will need to know how to socialize a puppy with other dogs. AnimalWised explains the best methods of socializing a puppy to ensure they are stable and happy when they mature. We also look at how best to socialize a puppy with humans and other animals.
- What is the socialization period for puppies?
- Socializing a puppy with other dogs
- Socializing a puppy with other animals
- Socializing a puppy with people
- Tips for socializing a puppy
- Socializing puppies with differnet environments
- Socializing a puppy with sound
- Consequences of poor socialization in puppies
- Extra tips on how to socialize a puppy
What is the socialization period for puppies?
When a puppy is born, their eyes are closed and they aren0t even able to defecate on their own. It is not until around three weeks of age they will start to be aware of their surroundings and develop the skills they need to interact with others. This is the beginning of the socialization period and it is the mother who is fundamental at the beginning. She will keep her litter in line and let them know what is and is not acceptable.
At the beginning, the puppy is learning canine language. They will need to know the typical behaviors of the species, as well as the limits of their play behavior. A very important factor in this learning process is bite inhibition. Puppies will teach each other when a bite stops being playful and becomes too aggressive. This is very important as we do not want them biting children, other pets or ourselves when they get older.
Due to the fundamental influence of their mother and siblings, a puppy should not be removed form the litter before a minimum of 8 weeks. After 12 weeks, the mother will send them off on their own anyway, so a puppy should stay with the mother until 8 to 10 weeks of age so they can learn their fundamentals of behavior. After this time, the puppy should know how to relate to other dogs and people, but will still be open to new environments and individuals.
Offering a wide range of positive experiences will allow the dog to relate correctly in their adult stage. We will review what this entails in more detail below. While the ages of 3-12 months is the most sensitive socialization period for puppies, we should know that this process never really ends. We will always need to reinforce correct behaviors in all environments and support the dog when needed.
Socializing a puppy with other dogs
Fortunately, socializing a puppy with other dogs is a relatively intuitive process. They are at a stage in their lives where they want to explore and meet others. There are some issues which can complicate this process such as early trauma, genetic issues or, as mentioned above, premature removal from their mother. In the majority of cases, a happy and healthy puppy will want to socialize appropriately.
For our part, we simply need to find ways to help them be social in a healthy way. Many local communities have set up puppy classes which allow puppies to get together and interact with each other, usually in a controlled environment. Although we should take our puppy out to the park where they may meet other dogs, we cannot guarantee the behavior of these dogs.
We can't guarantee taking a dog to a puppy class will also provide positive experiences, but we can be more in control. If we bring these dogs together, they should be able to provide positive socialization for each other. We should only intervene if the playing becomes too aggressive, but we need to allow them to test their boundaries.
Socializing the puppies together is only part of the process. You will also need to find a way to socialize them with older dogs. This will require being with dogs we can trust. It is best to contact someone you know with a friendly dog and introduce them to each other correctly. Learn how to do this with our guide to introducing two dogs.
After you have done this and the puppy has gained some confidence, then you can take them to a dog park or other areas where stranger dogs congregate. Be observant and remove them if trouble arises, but also allow them to investigate, exercises their puppy-ness and ensure we don't instill fear of other animals.
One very important practical factor is to do with deworming and vaccinations. Since a puppy's immune system is still developing, we shouldn't expose them to other animals until their vaccination and deworming schedules commence. This will prevent them from developing certain serious illnesses which can be life threatening.
Socializing a puppy with other animals
The socialization of the puppy with other animals is influenced by certain factors. They include:
- Our lifestyle
- The area where we live
- The animals that are in our home or environment
In the countryside, dogs easily relate to all kinds of animals, but in the city it can be more complicated. If we consider the option of adopting an animal in the future, we will need to consider these factors. Not all breeds will be good apartment dogs, but even those that can live in smaller spaces may need to interact with others.
The socialization of a puppy must occur voluntarily. To know how to socialize a dog with other animals you have to take some precautions, including:
- Ensure the safety of your puppy and other animals: a good way to present cats and dogs is to place the adult feline in a travel cage. In kittens it will not be necessary. If you want more information, take a look at our article on how to make a dog and cat get along.
- Prevent your puppy from playing with small or fragile animals: an example of this is hamsters. In this case, it will be better for your puppy to get used to ignoring these pets, since even playing together can hurt them or cause them stress. If you live where there are large animals like cows and goats, you should also socialize your puppy with those animals by walking nearby and using positive reinforcement to associate their presence with positive experiences. Only let the dog off leash if you are sure both the dog and the other animals will be safe.
Learn more with our guide to positive reinforcement in dogs.
Socializing a puppy with people
Socializing dogs with people is essential in any environment. Famed veterinarian, ethologist and trainer Dr. Ian Dunbar, suggests that a puppy should meet at least 1,000 people before they are 100 months old. This is not always possible, but we encourage you to interact with people of all kinds, whether children, adults or the elderly.
For there to be proper socialization, the interactions must be:
- Positive: it is not enough that the puppy is not afraid of people, but they have to associate the interaction with positive experiences when they meet all types of people.
- Voluntary: you don't have to force your pup to approach people, they should do it of their own volition. This way you will avoid the appearance of fears and phobias.
You must find ways to ensure your dog has fun with people. Although we have to take care they don't get scared or hurt in any of these interactions, we want to meet up with people who will enjoy their company also. A negative experience could cause the appearance of unwanted behaviors. When your dog has all his vaccinations, daily walks will serve to strengthen their socialization with people.
You will may have seen sites on the Internet which claim a dog should not be socialized with many people if you want to be a good guardian. This theory is false- Moreover, it is very dangerous. An incorrectly socialized dog that experiences fear or insecurity towards people can end up showing very serious aggressive behavior. Although we can socialize adult dogs, it is much harder to do and some dogs will never learn to properly adjust.
Tips for socializing a puppy
Now you have the basic considerations you need to make when learning how to socialize a puppy, here are some practical tips to help you along:
- Invite your friends and family: ask them to give your dog a few minutes of attention. They can offer them a small piece of food, pet them, play with them or even do something more active like go for a run together. As long as the actions are positive and meet the dog's limits, it should be good for their socialization.
- Take your dog outside: this provides regular opportunities to meet others. If your dog still does not have their vaccination schedule up to date, you can carry them in your arms or a carrier to avoid contagion. You don't need to take them a miles-long walk, but just short trips round the block may be enough. If you live in the country, you will need to seek out places where people and animals can be encountered.
- Get them used to the presence of small children and babies: for this, allow them to approach small children and give them a little food when they are calm. In this way, they will associate small children with good things. Control these interactions very well so that children do not hurt your dog.
- Puppy classes or other dog meetups: classes for puppies or dogs will also help you to socialize your dog with people because the owners of the other dogs are present.
- Get your puppy used to being handled: pet them, pick them up, touch their legs, check his teeth, etc. Do all of this gently and calmly, giving positive reinforcement when they stay still and allow you to manipulate them. It is highly advisable that other people also practice handling your puppy. This way they will get used to it and more easily accept veterinary check-ups.
- Show them different types of people: in addition to introducing them to children, adults and the elderly, your puppy also has to meet people of different ethnic origins, differently-abled persons or even people with different styles. The more diverse, the better.
Socializing puppies with differnet environments
We sometimes overlook the importance of socializing dogs with different environments. However, just as a puppy might be scared of a certain type of dog because something about them signals danger, certain environments can do the same thing. For example, areas with lots of traffic can be particularly threatening to dogs.
There are many cases of dogs in their adult stages chasing after or even trying to attack vehicles, especially bicycles. This is due to poor socialization with these objects leading to fear and insecurity. For this reason, we should take our dog for walks in areas which have these elements. We can even approach someone on a bicycle and ask them calmly if their puppy can have a sniff. This is better done with someone you know, but it may work out well. Always introduce them gradually so the puppy does not become overexcited.
Socializing a puppy with sound
Although we humans are used to noisy environments, there are some that may scare even us from time to time. This is especially when they are loud and unexpected. Dogs are no different.
Dogs must try to get used to various types of noises when they are young. If we can show them that sounds such as storms, vacuum cleaners, fireworks or even birds will cause them no harm, they will grow up with less fear. Provide positive reinforcement, stay by their side and remain calm yourself. This way, the dog will intuit there is nothing to worry about. Conversely, when there is a danger, show them we need to stay out of the way, but do so in a calm manner, e.g. when near heavy traffic.
Learn more about how to help your dog with our article on why dogs are scared of noises.
Consequences of poor socialization in puppies
Preventing our dog from interacting with other dogs, animals, people or environments will put their well-being at risk. Doing so will breed insecurity and it can cause the dog behavioral problems. Such insecurity can lead to:
- Fear towards people
- Fear of other dogs
- General insecurity
- Aggressiveness towards people
- Aggression towards dogs
- Separation anxiety
In the most serious cases, dogs which live in poor environments without the possibility of relating to other animals or people can develop sensory deprivation syndrome in dogs. When this occurs, they are unable to relate to others and will develop physiological symptoms. These include paralysis, depression, poorly controlled elimination, uncontrolled barking, etc.
We must know that to a greater or lesser extent we can almost always work on the socialization problems of dogs. However, some dogs which have experience trauma, abandonment or similar issues may live with certain restrictions, e.g. never been allowed off-leash in public. In these cases, it is best to seek the advice of a qualified canine ethologist who will be able to find practical ways to improve their well-being which relate to their specific circumstances.
Extra tips on how to socialize a puppy
We will finish our guide to socializing a puppy with other dogs, people, animals and environments with some practical tips. These include some general guidelines to bear in mind when helping the puppy through their socialization period:
- It is a gradual process: we will avoid overexposing the dog to stressful environments or situations that can trigger an anxiety disorder.
- Do not force your puppy: you could cause the appearance of fears and phobias when interacting with other dogs or experiencing an unpleasant situation.
- Positivity: try to make the experiences varied and positive.
- Bite inhibition: practice bite inhibition so your dog learns as soon as possible. Keep practicing it daily until your dog is four and a half months old, or beyond, if necessary. You don't need a lot of time for this, five minutes a day is enough. Find out more with out related article on bite inhibition in dogs.
- Basic commands: teach them basic obedience commands for dogs promptly. Always do so as a game, so their mind is active and stimulated.
- Travel: get him used to traveling by car, to using the collar and leash, even before they have to go outside. This way he will know how to walk safely when the time comes.
If you have any doubts, we advise you to go to your trusted veterinarian. They will tell you in detail about all the needs in terms of socialization or care that your specific puppy requires. Also, learn more about basic puppy care with our video below:
If you want to read similar articles to How to Socialize a Puppy With Other Dogs, we recommend you visit our Basic education category.