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Socializing Your puppy

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As you probably know, socializing your puppy is the best way to help your dog become confident and well-adjusted to a variety of situations and surroundings.

The best time to begin this process is as soon as the breeder lets you take him home, which usually occurs around seven-nine weeks of age.

Without the opportunity to explore many aspects of everyday life, your dog may grow up to be fearful of new situations, people and other dogs and/or possibly aggressive toward them.

Introducing your dog to the world around him - also referred to as socializing your puppy - is a necessary and very worthwhile process to ensure he develops into a happy and secure adult dog.

There are several ways to make sure your dog gets well-socialized, but the main thing to remember is to start early. In actuality, socialization should begin while the pup is still in the litter - learning his place in the pack and being exposed to the varieties of day to day life. Though this ends when he leaves his litter mates, it should continue to unfold when he joins you and his "human" pack.

So a good way to begin socializing your puppy once you bring him home, is to teach him that you are now the leader of the pack. Let him start by following you around the house or teaching him the "come" command when you have walked away. Don't forget to praise him as he makes progress, as this will start to build his confidence. Do this routinely until your puppy seems secure and your alpha position is established.

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From this point you can move on to social introductions. Invite friends to visit and set up approachable low-key situations where your pup will become curious enough to want to get involved. Don't force interaction, just let it happen casually and naturally. Continue to introduce your puppy to people both large and small, as well as friendly strangers you may meet out on a walk - perhaps even walking their own friendly dog.

Taking your dog out for walks will not only start the leash training process, but will also give him the opportunity to experience new situations as well as a variety of sights, sounds and scents - all the while secure in your leadership and guidance. Try to also include outings that introduce him to different terrains and surfaces such as cement, sand, wood, vinyl, metal etc. Look for opportunities to guide him whenever he seems cautious or fearful about new things he encounters. But don't try to soothe him in these situations by saying it's okay, it's okay, or he might confuse this with praise for being afraid.

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Another aspect of puppy socialization is accustoming your pup to human contact for necessary tasks. As part of your daily routine, give your dog some hands on grooming attention. A gentle brushing, along with an overall inspection of his paws, ears, eyes and nails, will help him get used to being touched and this will later have the added benefit of him being less fearful when he needs to visit the vet.

To further expand your pet's introduction to the world, enroll your dog in puppy school. The timing of this can usually occur around eight to ten weeks. Puppy school will expose him not only to other humans and dogs, but will begin the process of structuring his behavior, under safe, experienced supervision. In addition to puppy school, some vets and training facilities offer puppy parties for the ongoing purpose of socializing your puppy.

Parting advice - with emphasis: Don't overlook the importance of puppy socialization - it is the key to shaping the kind of dog he will grow up to be. And remember to get started during the early weeks of your pup's life to have the most and best impact.

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› Socializing Your Puppy



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