Socialization

Jun 1, 2020   Tracey Aston   Training

Few things are more exciting than adding a new furry family member to your household! You read the blogs about Preparing Your Home for a New Pet and allowing them to decompress and you're ready to go! Now that your new pet is home, and has decompressed and integrated into the family, it's time for another important milestone – socialization.

Socialization is teaching your new pet to be comfortable in different situations, around other animals and people, places and objects.   Socialization should begin around 10-14 weeks of age, but with patience a pet of any age can be taught socialization.  Many believe indoor cats don't need socialization as they don't interact with as much of the world as a dog would, but that's simply not true. Cats can benefit from socialization just as much as dogs and it can even make them calmer and more relaxed.

Pets should be exposed to:

·         New and different types of people, as well as people wearing glasses, jackets, hats and men with beards. In the time of COVID-19, masks should also be added.

·         Stairs, vacuums, brooms, opening and closet cabinets and closets, and household items.

·         Household noise such as telephones, alarms, doorbells, dishes and pots and pans clanking

·         Different types of flooring such as carpet and hardwood floors and ground surfaces such as asphalt, dirt, sand and gravel.

·         Cars, motorcycles, bikes, skateboards

·         Public places such as veterinarian's offices, groomers and pet stores

·         Other dogs or pets they may encounter while out on walk

While socializing your pet, the experience should always be a fun and positive. Provide praise, reassurance and encouragement as your pet is exploring new things and experiences. Pets are very aware of the emotions of those with whom they are bonded and if a pet parent acts fearful, stressed or nervous, the pet will pick up on that and equate the experience to something negative. Breaking a negative association is much more difficult than creating a positive one.

When socializing your pet work with their personality and know their cues. An outgoing golden retriever many happily bound into a new situation, eager to meet every new friend they can find, while a more nervous Chihuahua may quickly become overwhelmed and need reassurance.  If you notice your pet is becoming overwhelmed, anxious or stressed, remove them from the situation, object or person. If the pet is becoming overwhelmed in a store or park, try starting out with a less busy place.  A very important point to remember is to let the dog explore and make their own decisions. Never force your pet to socialize with other dogs, people or objects. Allow them approach situations, objects or places on their own and go at their own pace.

For many reasons, pets need to be made to feel safe in the car. Visits to the veterinarian and groomer, spending time at the park or with extended family all require a pet to be calm and relaxed in a moving vehicle. A hyper or lose pet in a moving vehicle is dangerous to them, their owner and others on the road. Pets should never be allowed to hang their heads out the window or ride in the back of a pickup truck.

Walks are a great way to expose pets to many new people, even if those people are walking by and not directly interacting with your pet, new objects, new smells and different sounds and sights.  While walking, it's easy to come upon many things, but as they pass quickly, it doesn't give the pet a chance to become overly stressed and gives the pet parent a chance to reward good behavior.  Pet sitters and dog walkers are also great ways to help socialize your pet. One, they will allow your pet to interact with a new person and get the benefits of a great walk.

Dog classes are great ways to expose your dog to other dogs but in a controlled environment with others around. A pet should have basic commands and etiquette before being allowed to jump into the fray. Pets should be leash trained and not trying to pulling or bite at the leash and definitely should not be showing signs of aggression such as growling or nipping.  

Many pet parents believe dog parks are a good way to socialize your dog but we don't recommend them. Dog parks can be rife with disease and parasites. In addition, most pet parents aren't keeping an watchful eye on their pets and don't know canine body language well enough to know when a fight is about to break out.  For the health and safety of your pet, dog parks are better avoided.

Socializing your pet leads to a more well-mannered, confident pet who can enjoy the many experiences life has to offer without feeling anxious or risking injury.

 
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