Like parenting a child, when you adopt a puppy you take on certain responsibilities. With your child, you expect that you are going to teach them to interact with you and the world around them. You are going to teach them how to behave in certain situations and how acceptable behavior in one situation is not necessarily acceptable behavior in another. With your puppy, this is called socialization. Just as you teach your child to interact with you and the world around you, you will need to teach your puppy the same. Socializing your puppy is one of the most important things you will ever do for him. Thousands of dogs are relinquished to shelters and later euthanized due to behavioral problems. Almost all socialization problems can be traced back to one of three things: socialization, training, or genetics.
Socializing your puppy should be viewed as teaching your puppy how you want them to interact with the world around them as an adult. There are two primary schools of thought when it comes to puppy socialization. One is to expose your puppy to 100 people in 100 days. While this may give your dog plenty of exposure, this method does not guarantee that it is GOOD exposure. For example, you may want your puppy to be able to interact well with children. While taking your puppy to a 6-year-old’s birthday party might provide plenty of exposure to children, it is not necessarily going to teach your puppy that children are fun to interact with. Instead, it might teach him that children are loud, boisterous, and scary creatures that should be avoided! Another school of thought is to make every new experience for your puppy a positive one by treating your puppy for every new event. For example, every time your puppy met someone new, they would give your puppy a treat. This may make your puppy super-excited to meet new people and rush up to greet them, but is that the behavior you want your 100-lb adult lab having?
Kayla Fratt of K9 of Mine has come up with a much better socialization plan. In her article, How to Socialize a Puppy: Puppy Socialization Checklist! she has come up with a checklist that will help you socialize your puppy into the adult dog that you want by your side. Her plan works because it takes into consideration what goals you have for your adult dog, and you socialize your puppy to those goals. Her checklist takes into account your life and helps you socialize your puppy into your life, not the other way around.
Check out her article and then tell us what you think! We would love to hear your puppy socialization stories!