What is Puppy Socialization?
You have probably heard the term “socialization” in regards to dogs but what does it mean?
Socialization is simply introducing puppies to new things and situations that they will encounter during their lives in a human world. This means introducing your puppy to a variety of people, places, sights, sounds, smells, and experiences. Poorly socialized puppies become aggressive, fearful, hyperactive dogs that often experience separation anxiety, can’t cope with stress, and don’t get along with other dogs. Properly socialized puppies become dogs that can handle stress in their everyday lives, exhibit self-control when scared or excited, can calm themselves, and get along with other dogs. The goal of socialization is to create a dog that will be able to handle new situations in their lives without stress in the future.
One of the reasons that you may have chosen a Harman Corgi may be due to the work that we do with our puppies before they leave our care. We have spent the first nine weeks of your puppy’s life working on socialization, desensitizing to both sounds and touch, and teaching your puppy basic manners. What happens next is up to you. Your puppy is not fully trained. It is your responsibility to work with your puppy for the next 9 weeks and beyond to create a great dog that can function in a human world. If you do not continue with socialization, desensitization and manners your puppy will quickly forget what it has learned and you will have a bossy little monster on your hands.
There is a short window of time when dogs can be easily socialized. Most experts will tell you that this time period ranges from weeks 3 through 12 weeks of age and may extend to 16 weeks in certain breeds. Luckily, I find that Corgis are often later maturing so I see this period lasting through 16 weeks of age. So what you do with your puppy in the next 7 to 8 weeks will be critical. We want to expose your puppy to other animals, people, places, new surfaces, sounds, and smells during this time. Your puppy will not be fully vaccinated until it is around 15 weeks of age so you will need to be careful not to expose your pup to Parvo or Distemper but there are still lots of things you can do with your puppy to help socialize it safely.
How to Socialize when your pup is not fully vaccinated
- You can carry your puppy or place them in a backpack or stroller so that they can safely experience the world around them.
- Take your puppy for car rides. A car ride when it is raining or through a car wash is a great experience since they will not only experience the sound of the rain but moving windshield wipers as well.
- Take your puppy to home improvement stores, garden centers, banks and other places that dogs do not normally frequent. Do not allow them to walk but simply place them on a pee pad in the shopping cart. They will get to experience lots of new smells and sounds as you push them through the store and see lots of people too. DO NOT take your puppy to a pet store, park or dog park until they are fully vaccinated!!!
- Make a list of activities that you want your dog to be comfortable with during its lifetime and places that you will take your dog and take them there – just carry them, place them in a backpack or push them in a basket or stroller.
- Introduce your puppy to as many people as you can before they are 16 weeks old. You want to expose them to people who look different or wear different clothes – young people, old people, tall people, short people, people with a beard, people with hats, people in uniform, people with sunglasses, people with blonde hair, people with dark hair, people with blue eyes, people with dark eyes, people wearing a coat, people wearing a hood, people wearing a mask, etc. The pandemic has not made this task easy but there are many things that you can do at home with your family such as dressing up and wearing a coat, a hood, sunglasses, a wig, an umbrella, masks, etc.
- Let them experience eating in different places like their crate, a friend’s house, the car and the back yard.
- If possible, let them experience an overnight trip to a family member or friends home or in a hotel. Take them for a ride in an elevator, let them see and hear traffic, visit the city and the country. Let them meet animals of all species.
- Introduce them to grooming tools and basic grooming such as brushing, combing, nail trimming and bathing.
- You may expose your puppy to other dogs if you know for sure that they have been fully vaccinated and are friendly. If you do not know for sure that they have been fully vaccinated, keep your puppy away!
Socialization after your pup is fully vaccinated
Once your puppy has been fully vaccinated, it will be safe for them to be around other dogs or go to places where other dogs have been. This is when you will want to take them on adventures with you and expose them to your hobbies and things that you like to do.
- Socialize your puppy with other dogs that you know are friendly. Puppy class or kindergarten class is a great place for your puppy to meet other dogs while being supervised. There they will meet a variety of breeds of dogs so they understand that dogs come in different colors, sizes, with prick ears and floppy ears, with tails and without tails. They need to meet dogs that are not members of their pack so they will learn to politely greet and interact with other dogs. Most puppy kindergarten classes are great places for your puppy to meet other puppies but look for adult dogs as well for your puppy to play with.
- NOTE: It is more important that your puppy not meet mean dogs that may harm them than it is to meet other dogs in general. If a puppy has been hurt by an older dog they may imprint on that experience and always be scared of other dogs. It is your responsibility to investigate other dogs before the interaction occurs and to monitor the interaction!
- Look for possible places to take your puppy such as beaches, schools, sidewalk cafes, farms, stores and mostly places that you enjoy and they will go with you in the future. You want your puppy to see the world and all its exciting components.
Places to Avoid
Even after your pup is fully vaccinated, you may want to be cautious of the following places where your pup could come in contact with a sick dog or parasites.
- Vet Clinics – When you go to the veterinarian carry your puppy into the clinic and keep them on your lap. Remember that vet clinics treat sick animals and you do not want to expose them to organisms on the floor from a sick animal. Never put them down outside to go to the bathroom where sick dogs may have used the bathroom.
- Avoid dog parks completely until your puppy is mature and fully vaccinated. Dog parks are breeding grounds for parasites and other diseases. Also, remember that a bad experience with a big dog can leave your puppy traumatized for life.
- Avoid pet stores until your puppy is fully vaccinated and protected against this distemper and parvo. I actually prefer to order my dogs toys rather than let them pick toys from a pet store where toys may have been slobbered on by a sick or unvaccinated dog.