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If you have a puppy, bite the bullet and socialize it now. The effort you put in now will reward you a thousand fold. Socialization is the best chance your dog as to live a happy life and does not become emotionally crippled. Socialization is the process by which a dog must be exposed to everything he needs in order to experience a well-adjusted life. The crux of this socialization period is constantly disputed by the experts, but the average estimate is that it occurs between the ages of 7 and 14 weeks. This means that your little puppy has the best chance of growing up to be a “normal dog” if he has many repeated positive exposures to all sorts of people, places, things, and animals.
The opportunities for this exposure are endless. By offering treats to your puppy whenever he meets up with children, older people, people of different colors, physical disabilities, people with mustaches, hats, beards, glasses, other dogs, loud noises, cars, buses, trucks, horses, cats…(you get the idea!), you increase your chance that he will have a positive association with them.
It is preferable that the puppy experience each of these things several times. The reason for this is that dogs do not generalize very well. It takes them many more exposures to something for them to group them together than it does for humans. It is our job to help the puppy to do that. Furthermore, a loud noise or other distraction may create a negative association for the puppy to that thing. Several positive exposures will help to dissipate the negative association.
But your work does not end up there. The socialization period is not over at 14 weeks. Puppies become more suspicious of new things as they get older. It’s still relatively easy to introduce them to new things when they are 4 months, but at 5 months they are starting to be more leery. By 6-8 months you may have difficulty in new situations with your dog, and by one year you may need to do remedial work with your dog in new situations. Needless to say it becomes painfully obvious that the best time to do this work is BEFORE problems occur.
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