Proper puppy socialization is one of the corner stones to successfully raising a dog. In my experience, most aggressive dogs display fear-based aggression. This can be due to many factors, but a lack of socialization and improper socialization are major contributors. Use this Puppy Socialization Checklist to help you.
Once your puppy is cleared by their veterinarian to interact with the public, it is important to safely expose them to various people and environments. Let them meet different adults, walk by cars, bikes, shopping carts, strollers, watch children play, etc. I had one client tell me that a coworker suggested she take her puppy down to the train tracks for exposure to the train. I told her there is no reason to socialize your puppy to situations that are atypical for you and your dog’s life. If you love to walk on the bike path or watch your husband’s softball game at the park, take your puppy there. If these are things you never do, but would like to take your dog to work with you every day, and then begin exposing your puppy to that situation.
It is important for a puppy to see, hear, smell, and be a part of life in different environments, but they should be positive experiences, not frightening or intimidating. I get calls every week from owners who want to stop their dog from lunging, barking, growling, etc. at other dogs. One question I always ask is, “Has your dog ever been attacked, bit, or intimidated by another dog?” The great majority of owners respond with a resounding, “Yes, how did you know?” It is not unusual for a dog that has had a negative experience with another dog to develop fear-based aggression toward other dogs. Their mentality is “I’ll get you, before you get me.” That is the reason why we need to make sure all interactions are safe, controlled, and positive for our puppy.
I would make sure to only introduce my puppy to people I know who are calm and not overwhelming to my puppy. When it comes to introducing your puppy to other dogs, only let them play with dogs that are calm and well behaved. Frequent and consistent socialization throughout the puppy’s first three to eighteen months is very important.
Just as every human is different with their own unique personality and disposition, every puppy is different. Some puppies are more confident and resilient, while others are more fearful and timid. We are not looking to change your dog’s inherent genetics, we are looking to best equip them with confidence and experience that will make them a well-rounded adult dog. Frequent positive socialization to different people, sights, sounds, and environments is the foundation that will last a lifetime. View my Puppy Socialization Checklist to make sure you are covering all you need. Your next progression to consider is Conditioning a Puppy to Touch and Handling. This will help make grooming, nail trimming, teeth brushing and other important life skills easier for dog and owner.