By Tamara Sevigny
Socializing your dog is a vital part of raising a mentally healthy, well-adjusted dog. A young dog who has been introduced to people of different ages and ethnic backgrounds will be able to go on walks and meet people without being afraid. Dogs that are not properly socialized could grow up to be afraid of kids, senior citizens or people of different ethnic backgrounds then their owners. Unsocialized dogs tend to be very skiddish and nippy, often biting out of fear. You don’t want your dog to feel scared, nor do you want your friends or strangers to get bit!
Socializing is also for meeting other dogs and pets. Don’t be afraid to introduce your Chihuahua to a friendly Great Dane. It is important to introduce your dog to all breeds, sizes and colors of pets. He will then learn how to behave around these and other animals.
Another important part of socialization is introducing your dog to its environment. Let your dog hear and see birds, wild animals and loud motorcycles and cars. Let your dog meet the mailman and go for walks down busy streets. The more your dog sees and hears the better coping skills he will develop.
A dog that spends puppyhood shielded from the outside world will become afraid. Dogs need to see, hear and experience the world outside their home. Even if your dog is a small size and needs to be protected to a certain extent it can be done while still allowing them to experience their environment.
Make socialization a gradual process. Don’t introduce your dog to everything all at once. Socializing your puppy should ideally start around nine or ten weeks of age by introducing him to your friendly, gentle neighbors who can meet and cuddle with your dog. Introduce your puppy to things around the house such as the mop and broom or the vacuum cleaner. Then take him with you to do errands in the car on cool days, or bring him with you to the pet store when you are buying his food.
If your dog should become afraid don’t cuddle and speak softly to him, instead keep a straight, fun voice and walk up to whatever was scary and touch it, if you can, to show it is ok.
Enroll in puppy kindergarten! It is an excellent way for your dog to meet other dogs and people. Plus, most puppy classes have different toys and playgrounds to introduce your dog to. It is also a perfect stepping-stone into training classes.
Dogs are social by nature. They thrive on human and canine companionship. But due to their inexperience as puppies it is easy to convince them that the world is a scary place. A scared dog is an unhappy dog and a scared dog can turn into a biter. Don’t overprotect your dog, instead show him that the world is fun and exciting and protect him without him knowing you are.