One of the most common dog training topics Performance K9 Training hears from new pet owners is about socializing puppies. People want to take the right steps from the very beginning on what to do when venturing out.
What Is Puppy Socialization?
The term, “socializing a puppy” can be confusing. People automatically think that means socializing them with other humans and dogs.
And that’s incredibly misleading.
In the dog training world, puppy socialization means having a puppy experience the outside world. The goal is zero reaction to the distractions around them.
Rather than focusing on other people and dogs, the puppy must focus their attention on the handler. This type of socialization branches into future obedience training.
Should Puppies Interact With Others?
When a pet owner is out and about with their puppy, it’s natural for people to approach the animal. Even though it’s hard to say “no,” tell people they cannot pet the puppy because they are in training.
Remember, the goal in socialization is to have the animal focus on their handler – and nothing else. The puppy must look to their pet owner for the rewards and positive praise. This attention and praise should not come from others.
One day this puppy is going to grow into a dog. The last thing any pet owner wants is for their adult dog to drag them to other people on a walk for attention or treats. Stay diligent and don’t let the puppy receive attention from others when out and about.
Socialization With Treats
Pet owners need to figure out what type of treats their puppy likes for positive reinforcement. Are they food driven or toy driven?
If the puppy has a high food drive, kibble will work. If they have a lower food drive, small pieces of cooked steak will work better. If cooking steak isn’t an option, test those top-rated treats out on the market.
What To Do If The Puppy Shows Signs Of Stress
If by chance a puppy shows any signs of stress or overstimulation during their outdoor socialization, retreat to a quieter place. Get the puppy’s attention back to the handler.
During the next round of socialization, slowly bring the puppy back to that scenario once again with the goal of having them focus on their handler.
The puppy training mission of socialization is to at some point get them close to people and other dogs without any signs of distraction.
As always, check with a veterinarian on when a puppy can begin their outdoor socialization to protect their health and wellness.