I can't stress enough how important it is to socialize your puppy if you want an adult dog that is not nervous and scared around people, other pets and his world in general. Puppies are most receptive to new things from about 3 weeks up to about 12 – 14 weeks of age. It's vital that you put in the effort to expose your new friend to as many new things as possible during this critical time of developement.
Socializing Your Puppy
Socialization means learning to be part of society. When we talk about socializing pet puppies, it means helping them learn to be comfortable as a pet within human society—a society that includes many different types of people, environments, buildings, sights, noises, smells, animals and other dogs.
Most young animals, including dogs, are naturally made to be able to get used to the everyday things they encounter in their environment—until they reach a certain age. When they reach that
age, they are naturally made to become much more suspicious of things they haven’t yet experienced. Mother Nature is smart! This age-specific natural development lets a young puppy get comfortable with the everyday sights, sounds, people and animals that will be a part of his life. It ensures that he doesn’t spend his life jumping in fright at every blowing leaf or bird song. The later suspicion they develop in later puppyhood also ensures that he does react with a healthy dose of caution to new things that could truly be dangerous.
What Age Is Best for Puppy Socialization?
Puppies are most accepting of new experiences between 3 and 12 weeks old. After that age, they become much more cautious of anything they haven’t yet encountered. From about 12 to 18 weeks old the opportunity to easily socialize the puppy ends—and with each passing week it becomes harder to get the pup to accept and enjoy something that he’s initially wary of. After 18 weeks old, it’s extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible, to teach a dog to like something new, or help him become comfortable with something he finds frightening.
Why Is Puppy Socialization Important?
Well-socialized puppies usually develop into safer, more relaxed and enjoyable pet dogs. This is because they’re more comfortable in a wider variety of situations than poorly socialized dogs, so they’re less likely to behave fearfully or aggressively when faced with something new. Poorly socialized dogs are much more likely to react with fear or aggression to unfamiliar people, dogs and experiences. Dogs who are relaxed about honking horns, cats, cyclists, veterinary examinations, crowds and long stairwells are easier and safer to live with than dogs who find these situations threatening. Well-socialized dogs also live much more relaxed, peaceful and happy lives than dogs who are constantly stressed out by their environment.
Socializing your puppy is perhaps the best thing you can do to insure a calmer, happier dog who isn't spooked by every new person or thing or situation he or she encounters. A well adjusted dog makes for a happy owner.