Sadly, behavioral issues are cited as the number one reason for the surrender of dogs to local shelters and have become a major concern for dog owners. The good news is, you can take proactive steps now to ensure your dog’s long-term success.
Recent research conducted by behaviorists have determined that the first three months of a dog’s life is the critical socialization period. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior “believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.”
During this period, your puppy should be exposed to various people, animals, and experiences. This exposure will help to reduce fearful behavior which is often linked to aggression. Being proactive in the socialization process will help avoid unwanted behaviors like barking and lunging on walks; dog fights; human aggression; and overall reactivity and impulsivity.
Unfortunately, upon the advice of veterinarians and trainers, many dog owners have elected to delay socialization until four months of age when their puppies have been fully vaccinated. It is important to note that puppies are provided with immunity from their mother as well as the primary vaccinations. Along with proper care, deworming, and good nutrition, the risks are reduced significantly. The AVSAB Position Statement on Puppy Socialization warns that “behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.”
One popular and effective way to increase socialization and introduce and expose your puppy to new things is through puppy classes. This allows you to begin training; strengthen your bond; and provide socialization with other dogs and people in a new environment. It provides a support group for you to share with others and discuss puppy challenges such as housebreaking, crate training, nipping, and much more. You should gain insight into what is realistic for your puppy and how to gauge expectations for your puppy’s behavior. These classes should also provide training techniques to utilize in order to shape a well-balanced and behaved dog. And while you’re learning, the puppies are learning too.. Puppies are learning from each other about proper play etiquette and building confidence.
Dr. Ian Dunbar, veterinarian, animal behaviorist, and dog trainer, shares that classes such as these provide an opportunity for puppies to learn “1)bite inhibition through puppy play and 2)proper interaction with people during off –leash play and while being handled by strangers. And owners learn to train their puppies in a controlled setting in which training is integrated with play. In this setting, a puppy’s reward for training is play with other dogs.”
Set your puppy up for success. Positive reinforcement training along with the protocol of early socialization will prevent problem behaviors from occurring. You will create a stronger bond built on leadership and trust.
Have you had a positive socialization experience with your puppy? What do you think you and your puppy might gain by joining a class? I’d like to hear your thoughts.
“Acquire the skills to build a better relationship with your dog.”