Do I have to socialize my puppy?
The transition from a puppy into a well behaved adult dog with a great temperament that all owners want is a long and complex process. It does constitute both genetic predisposition for a large number of temperamental factors and the environmental factors that affect the puppy as it matures into an adult dog. It is the classic nature vs. nurture debate that will polarize most dog owners as well as just about every dog breeder also. It has been shown that genetics play a key role in setting the fundamentals of the type of behaviours a dog will display such as a high food drive in the Beagle for example, but providing all puppies with appropriate social and behavioural developmental care through training, socialization, nutrition and healthcare of the puppy is essential in the process.
Why do different breeds require different amounts of socialization?
All dogs need socialization to teach them to fit in to the world they live in but how much socialization a dog will need depends on a number of factors. What the dog has been traditionally bred to do plays a significant role in determining the amount and type of socialization needed. Since the beginning of the domestication of the wolf into the domestic dog, breeders have selected dogs that were better suited to the roles that they were required to fullfill. Some of the traditional working or protective breeds such as the German Shepherd Dog and Rottweiler were required to be dominant and headstrong to get their particular job done. This is fine while the dog is “working” but in a modern social setting these attributes require the dog to receive more socialization so that their innate desire to dominate other dogs and often people can be modified to make them better canine citizens.
Why are Designer Breeds easier to socialize and live with?
The popularity of the designer dog breeds can be attributed (in a large part at least) to the fact that these breeds have been developed to simply be family companions, so dogs that do not display these characteristics have not been chosen to be bred from. Many of the Designer breeds have been developed to keep the temperament of the breed that makes for a better family pet while combining the physical attributes of another breed to improve the health of the dog such as the Cavoodle. The selection of dogs that have been bred as companion dogs gives these dogs an advantage over many traditional breeds that have been bred to work, such as the Kelpie or Husky, which have been selected to have an enormous amount of energy for their traditional roles but can be unsuitable in the modern urban backyard. Most of the Designer breeds originate from very social dogs such as Beagles, Poodles and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
When is socialization most important?
Socialization is an ongoing process throughout your dog’s life but there are several stages during their lives when learning and socializing is maximized. The most important of these is between 5 to 20 weeks as well as the adolescent period between 6-14 months as the puppy matures.
Tips to Socialise your dog for new owners
- Take your new puppy to puppy preschool for initial socialization (absolutely essential)
- Take your puppy to obedience classes and try to stick with the classes for at least the first year
- It’s important to socialize your puppy with all kinds of different people (young, old, male, female, loud, with hat, beards, quiet, children and babies) as well as and all kinds of dogs (pups, adults, black, brown, hairy, smooth coated, coloured, small and tall).
- Take the dog out for regular neighbourhood walks and games in the park (after they have had their second set of vaccinations) to extend their social contact.
This will lead to a much happier and balanced adult dog who fits in with your family, and never ends up at the pound or shelter.