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Just as important as housebreaking and good behaviors, socialization is a vital part of a puppy’s training regimen.
The importance of socialization
For families with a new dog in their home, getting started with this essential training should begin right away. In fact, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) takes the position that puppies can start their first socialization classes as early as 7 to 8 weeks and seven days after the first shot and deworming treatment.
“Before 12 weeks is the best window for meeting new people, other dogs and taking in new experiences that will inform puppies’ future behavior and reactions,” said Debbie McKnight, a PetSmart training expert.
Puppies that socialize with other puppies, dogs and humans develop into healthy, confident dogs. A dog that hasn’t been properly socialized may startle easily, may bark at people they are not familiar with, or react poorly to other new experiences in the future. This type of interaction is especially important during the winter months, when dogs spend a lot of time indoors.
Good socialization is an everyday commitment. Here are some ways to create a healthy environment for your four-legged friend:
• Play: Attend scheduled classes and find times for interactions with adult dogs that are tolerant and healthy, as well as other puppies.
• People: Allow the puppy to meet as many people as possible within their comfort level. The pet parent needs to be an advocate for his or her puppy and not allow petting if it makes the puppy nervous.
• Experiences: Expose the puppy to different surfaces, sounds and other situations.
Tips for good play
“Good play involves give and take from both dogs,” McKnight said. “The important part is that all parties are having a good time.” Here are some tips to make the most of playtime:
• If the pet parent is worried the play may be getting too rough, try moving away the more assertive puppy. If the less assertive puppy moves to keep the play going, they are probably both having fun.
• Tug toys can be used if there are no signs of aggression.
Helping pets with socialization
In support of National Training Month in January, PetSmart will host in-store, off-leash puppy play dates for $10 every Sunday in January to support puppy socialization. During the event, accredited pet trainers will narrate the playtime to help pet parents understand what they are observing. To participate, puppies must be between 8-16 weeks old. Vaccination and health requirements also apply.
To learn more about training programs and to find a program visit petsmart.com/training.