First of all, what is socialization?
Socialization designates the set of processes by which individuals acquire and internalize the norms, values and roles that govern social life, thus constructing their psychological and social identity. The socialization period in puppies is between 3 and 9 weeks old and can often continue for up to 14 weeks. Thereafter, socialization is possible but will be more difficult to integrate.
Socialization includes all new sensory experiences, whether good or bad. Like for example, interacting with new people, new places, like the grooming salon, new touches, like for basic grooming, like nail trimming or ear cleaning, to noises from the house and those from outside.
The creation of good first experiences, gently, is essential, otherwise Ti-Loup will develop anxiety.
The risk, for a non-fully vaccinated puppy, of contracting a disease during socialization activities is relatively low, whereas inadequate socialization at this age can harm Ti-Loup’s well-being or lead to serious behavioral problems. . It is therefore preferable to start socialization quickly.
So why and how to establish a good plan of socialization ?
As you have just read, it is important to socialize your puppy to prevent him from developing anxiety in the face of new experiences. A socialization plan is required. Where to start ? Just plan the different steps:
Socialization through sounds
Plan the scenario of several sounds that Ti-Loup could encounter in his environment (i.e.: car noises, vacuum cleaner, telephone, etc.). Here is a site that could help you socialize with different noises: Noises for socialization, The sounds of life!
Socializing with people
Plan meetings with people around you, of different ages and genders if possible. Make sure people are calm. Ti-Loup must feel confident with these people.
Meetings must be regular and close together as much as possible so that Ti-Loup can remember previous meetings.
Socialization with other animals
As with people, plan encounters with other dogs or species, other breeds and different sizes. Also make sure the dogs have a calm temperament.
Go to places where a competent person can observe and intervene in the interactions, such as dog daycares. As each new experience must be positive for Ti-Loup, avoid at this stage places where there is little control and surveillance, such as dog parks.
In addition, make sure that Ti-Loup will only associate with animals that are well vaccinated and that they take medication for the prevention of external and internal parasites. Ti-Loup shouldn’t come back from hanging out with undesirable friends.
Socialization by touch
This section involves you personally. Although it is enough to regularly do certain manipulations, socialization by touch is essential in order to guarantee Ti-Loup ease during grooming or medical intervention at the veterinarian. So don’t underestimate the usefulness of these experiments that can easily be done at home, including:
- touching the ears;
- gently start cleaning the ears;
- touching the paws;
- start trimming the claws
- manipulating the mouth and touching the teeth;
- start brushing the teeth, etc
Socialization, experiencing loneliness
This is a funny section because we talk about socialization, but it is nevertheless an important, even essential part. Ti-Loup must be able to sleep alone, play alone and be alone in the house for a certain period of time. It is normal to reassure him at the beginning, when he arrives in the house, but afterwards, it is all the more important to allow him to be independent. For those who now work from home, this step is all the more important because you will certainly want to be able to go out, to go to a restaurant for example, without Ti-Loup being anxious or not tolerating your absence, even momentary.
How to recognize fear when socializing Ti-Loup?
- He may avoid the person or object that scares him.
- He might have his ears pulled back and his tail between his legs.
- He may stand still and bark at the person or object.
- He can also show signs that can be quite subtle such as raising a paw, licking his lips, panting, yawning and jumping.
What should you do when Ti-Loup shows signs of anxiety during a socialization session?
- It is important to encourage your puppy to gently and gently approach what he fears with positive words (high-pitched sounds are often synonymous with games for puppies) and offer him treats or games. If your pup is greedy, use the treats as they will help you a lot.
- On the other hand, do not pet him to try to reassure him, because that could rather tell him that Ti-Loup is right to be worried.
- Punishment should also be avoided, since your puppy is already worried, he does not need to experience more anxiety.
- As soon as you see anxiety appear in his behavior, take a step back from your socialization session and start again later with the same prompts that caused the anxiety.
Perseverance and patience will provide Ti-Loup with all the tools he needs to live well in society and learn to manage stressful situations. Do not hesitate to discuss a socialization plan with your veterinary team and use the socialization services offered by a supervised daycare.
Dre Chantal Riendeau, D.M.V
Photo credits: Pixabay, Gilberto Reyes, Anna Tarazevich, Rodnae Productions, and Denniz Futalan on Pexels