It is common knowledge that effective socialization of puppies and kittens is essential to creating a happy, well-rounded pet, but there are a lot of unanswered questions and misconceptions about how to best socialize your new furry friend. Prior to introducing your new puppy or kitten to other animals, he or she should have a physical examination by your veterinarian. At this visit, it is essential to discuss vaccinations with your veterinarian and every effort should be taken to make certain that your fur kid is well-protected by the appropriate vaccines before he or she spends time with other animals. Once your puppy or kitten has received the ok from your veterinarian based on the vaccination schedule, it is ok to start introducing your puppy or kitten to other “known dogs or cats”. “Known animals” would include those owned by a friend, family member or colleague and should only include animals that are not showing any signs of clinical illness and are up to date on their vaccines. Taking young puppies to uncontrolled environments (such as dog parks or large boarding facilities) is not recommended until the vaccine series has been completed and until they are clearly comfortable in a variety of new situations to ensure that they won’t become overwhelmed.
Start introducing your new puppy or kitten to people as soon as he or she is settling in at home. Just be sure to remember that this is a very impressionable time period in a young animal’s life so it’s essential not to overwhelm or frighten your new fur baby. A puppy’s mind is most malleable between 8-18 weeks so this time frame is your chance to make the biggest difference in his or her future temperament. This is a very important time for training and socialization. The most important part of successful socialization is to remember that the quality of experiences is more important than the quantity of experiences. Try to ensure that each experience is as positive as possible.
Introductions to other dogs, cats, adults and children should all be done in a positive manner and every attempt should be made to arrange situations that will create successful outcomes. For puppies, look for ways to introduce them to other “known dogs” who are friendly and tolerant of puppies. Try to stay away from aggressive or overly excitable dogs in order to help your puppy avoid becoming fearful of other dogs. Similarly, avoid overwhelming your puppy or kitten by exposure to a large group of loud and unpredictable young children to prevent a future fear of kids. By carefully introducing your puppy or kitten to one or two quiet, well-mannered children at a time, he or she is more likely to interact well with kids for life. This same methodology of positive socialization at a young age also applies to introductions to any other new environments, including car rides, trips to other homes or hotels, water and bath experiences, and visits to the veterinarian and groomer. If you intend to travel with your adult cat or dog, start doing so early. The most important thing to remember is to make sure that every experience is fun and positive for your new puppy or kitten!
Taking your new puppy to puppy class or puppy play time is also a great way to socialize your puppy, while training basic commands. At ViaGen Pets, we strongly encourage all dog owners to take their new puppy to a round of puppy classes and think this is an essential building block for social, well-mannered dogs. Your veterinarian may have a list of good local trainers and puppy classes. If you’re looking for more advice or guidance, veterinarians and good trainers are extremely valuable resources to help create a friendly, well-adjusted and social four-legged friend.
By: Kerry Ryan, DVM