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October 2011 – Pet Training Talk: Puppies and the Importance of Socialization

Mary has extensive experience training dogs of all ages and skills. She discusses socialization and explains how we can improve our dog’s behavior by some basic playing early in life!

Dog trainers hear on a continuous basis: “my dog is afraid of men, he must have been abused”, or “my dog doesn’t like kids”. I’m not saying that certain dogs may not have been abused at some point in their lives (neglect is abuse), but most dogs don’t harbor ill will towards children or men because of one bad episode. Chances are the dog is afraid of men because it was not socialized enough as a puppy towards different kinds of men, and the dog who grows up to be wary of children just didn’t have enough exposure to children while it was young.

Our dog’s socialization window is between birth and 16 weeks of age. If we keep our puppy shut off from the rest of “normal” society, then by 16 weeks this window is closing and so are our opportunities to introduce our puppy to things that it will become exposed to as it grows up. The fact that we have another dog at home is great, it gives our pup some training with its own species but this does not get the puppy to relate to other dogs of different types and personalities. I can’t express enough how important it is to get your puppy out into society and meet and greet lots of people, children, and polite, vaccinated dogs. Your puppy comes with his own personality, and may be shy or territorial or gregarious no matter how socialized we get him, but why not start off on the right foot? We can’t go back into time and resocialize! Once the puppy is past 6 months, this window of opportunity is almost closed and then it becomes a training matter vs. just letting the puppy absorb its environment. Exposing our puppy to lots of stimuli in a positive manner while it is young is insurance for its behavior in the future.

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s position statement on Socialization:

During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli, and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing over-stimulation manifested by excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior.

Puppy classes: The ins and outs and in-betweens:

Puppy classes should start in a safe, clean environment with an educated trainer. They should include lot of socialization with the other people in class and short periods of play time with the other puppies in class. The owners should sit back and watch the interaction, asking appropriate questions and letting the puppies check it out for themselves. Some puppies are shy and want to sit back and watch for awhile while others jump right in and run the show. They all mature at their own rate and will usually find appropriate playmates in the group. Though we all want to get a head start on obedience, puppy classes need to include this recreation time for the dogs in order for them to develop emotionally and help them turn into stable dogs. Puppy classes usually involve some obedience as well, but the owners need to focus on the socialization both inside and outside the classroom for the pup to be a successful companion for their home. Enrolling in a six week course will give both you and your puppy a head start on training, and following this up with an obedience course will help secure the behavior of your pup and keep you on track with training.

Puppy Classes are held at our Glenwood, Falls Pointe, and Grace Park locations. We have a rolling enrollment so that you can start as early as 8 weeks with your little one. For further information on puppy training and socialization tips, contact Mary at

Remember, your new puppy is like a ball of clay to be molded and shaped how you see fit. They all come with their own personalities but the more we put into it especially in the beginning when they are young, the better the outcome is going to be and the happier our pet and our lives with them.
Happy Training,

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