Puppy Social Skills: Nature or Nurture?

Posted by Maureen Lake at

Socialization is just as important to your puppy as it is to a human baby.

Why is socialization so important? This one aspect of development sets the stage for later growth. Up until 20 weeks of age this is the most important developmental period in your dog's life. Exposure is key. Make sure your puppy is around as many things as possible~ people, children, other pets, and noises such as vacuum cleaners, washing machines etc. Handle your puppy a lot and don't be afraid to allow others to gently handle her as well. Try to make experiences happy and don't forget to reward her for a job well done!

Exposure to children is very important too and will set the stage for a lifetime filled with love. Remember that until your puppy is fully vaccinated, it's important that she only socializes with other dogs that are fully vaccinated too. Please try to avoid taking your puppy to community areas such as dog parks or other areas where dogs are allowed to roam.

Social Skills and the Shy Puppy

People are born with different temperaments and personalities and dogs are too! Some puppies are gregarious while others are reserved. Temperament is partially inherited but it is also influenced by the environment and circumstances in the early experiences of your puppy’s life.

If you have a shy puppy it is very important to be patient and kind. Forcing your puppy towards situations or objects that scare him is NEVER the correct approach. While it is extremely important to continue to socialize your pup you must never pressure your puppy either. Time and baby steps are necessary when it comes to reconditioning the shy behavior.

One key component that will help your puppy learn new behaviors is to identify some of her favorite treats and positively reward her for calm and confident behavior. Don’t be in any rush to conquer her fears; remember small baby steps are huge accomplishments for a shy puppy.

If you find your puppy in a panic state you will need to calmly get your puppy to a safe location and reward her for calm behavior once the panic subsides. Slowly reintroduce the situation again in a day or two. With time and plenty of patience your puppy will soon blossom into a confident dog.

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