What Is Socialization?
Socializing pet puppies 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. Well-socialized dogs also live much more relaxed, peaceful and happy lives than dogs who are constantly stressed out by their environment.
What If My Puppy Seems Frightened During Socialization?
Even though 3 to 12 weeks old is a time when puppies are most comfortable with new experiences, they might sometimes find a new experience frightening. Whenever this happens, it’s important to introduce your puppy to the scary situation much more gradually, and to make a big effort to do something your puppy loves during the situation or right afterwards.
Vaccinations and Disease Risk During Early Socialization
Most young puppies aren’t fully protected against the diseases we vaccinated them for until they’ve had all of their puppy shots. This is mainly because the antibodies they get from their mother can interfere with the ability of the vaccine to have its full effect. Even though puppies’ immune systems are still developing during their early months, if we wait until a puppy has all of his shots before socializing him, we miss our chance to do it. He’ll simply be too old. The good news is that if you take some commonsense precautions while socializing your puppy, the risk of infection is quite small compared to the much larger risk of your puppy developing serious behavior problems with fear and aggression later in life.
"The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated."
Socialization is essential for helping your puppy develop into a happy, fun and safe companion. Most people find it easier and more enjoyable to live with a dog who’s relaxed with strangers, gets along well with dogs and adapts easily to new experiences. Socializing your puppy gives him the greatest chance possible to develop into a dog who’s comfortable in his environment and a joy to be with.
Source: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual- ... your-puppy