The Importance of Puppy Socialization in Training
Now that the holidays are over, veterinarians everywhere (including Cuyamaca Animal Hospital) will see an influx of puppies being brought into their clinics for exams and vaccinations. We love seeing how many families received a new furry family member for Christmas, and we certainly love meeting your new pups!
Still, we want to make sure our clients are fully prepared to set their puppies up for success, and not just with his physical health. While taking your new pup to the vet for his first physical examination is certainly crucial, a startling number of pet parents don’t consider training equally as important.
Here are the most important benefits of socialization training for your puppy:
Early Puppy Training Avoids Behavioral Problems in the Future
A common myth that we as veterinarians hear is that dogs should not begin training until 6 months of age. Actually, by the time your dog reaches 6 months of age, his behavioral development—good or bad—is already in place.
Even the first 8 weeks of your puppy’s life are formative, which means these first weeks are the very foundation of his development. Getting started early can help avoid problems in the future. You may be able to “teach an old dog new tricks,” but the fact of the matter is, the older your dog is, the harder it is to break bad habits.
We recommend using positive reinforcement during training especially when meeting new people and going to the vet or groomer. Creating positive experiences around these new situations will set your puppy up for success down the road. Unfortunately, the same can be said in the opposite direction. If he has a negative experience, it will probably only get worse in the future. For example, if your puppy experiences a traumatic nail trim early on, it is likely the nail trim will always be traumatic and you may not be able to get it done without drugs on board in the future.
P.S. That’s why Cuyamaca Animal Hospital utilizes Fear-Free methods in our practice (i.e. using treats, petting, a favorite toy, speaking in calm tones, and approaching in non-threatening ways). This method is especially important for new puppies as a prevention tool to future anxiety and stress.
And even if your pup develops bad habits in the future, they will be easier to correct because he has had an early education with you on what is okay and what is not okay. He has a foundation of understanding his relationship with you and his family.
Puppy Socialization is Key
At home, your new pup loves his new family, and you love him! But are you and your family the only people he knows? We know that even for the perfectly trained pup, visits to the vet or the groomer won’t always be fun. But it’s important to get him acquainted with different people and animals as early as possible (many behaviorists recommend socializing before 4 months of age) to avoid situations like stressful vet or grooming visits. This will also ultimately lead to less stress and anxiety later on down the road, for both your pup and you.
Training your pup early also ensures he will grow into a healthy, socialized dog who knows how to behave around others. For instance, during play, it’s a natural instinct for young dogs to mouth and nip on objects and hands - mouthing is their way of investigating the world around them. But as adorable as puppy mouthing and nipping can be (it usually doesn’t hurt this early on), it’s important to “nip” this behavior in the bud as soon as possible. After all, little teeth grow into big teeth, and you don’t want play to turn into pain, especially if other kiddos are involved.
Puppy Training Promotes Confidence
Confidence is key when it comes to your pup’s behavioral development. Much like how our own mental health often informs our physical health, the same goes for untrained puppies. When your pup is unsocialized, he is less confident, which leads to other unhealthy behaviors. A confident puppy has healthy eating habits, for instance, and is less skittish, and less prone to separation anxiety.
A confident and socialized pup also decreases the chances of him running away, which we know is every pet parent’s worst nightmare. He will likely also have fewer instances of messy accidents that can be embarrassing and shameful to both pup and parent. When he sees new people, or if you have to move, a confident pup will know he is safe, loved, and at home with his people… wherever he goes.
When we see new puppies come into the clinic, we don’t just give them their routine physical exams and vaccinations. Cuyamaca Animal Hospital also encourages and monitors your puppy’s progress with socialization and confidence - we make sure he is on track for normal behavioral development. If you have a new puppy, let us know! Give us a call at (619) 448-0707 so that we can make sure your puppy is on the right track for a happy, healthy life with his new family.