The most common misconception about puppy socialization is that puppies need to meet as many dogs and as many people as possible. Now, it is important to acclimate puppies to people and other dogs in order to guard against a puppy becoming fearful of dogs and people.
Did that paragraph seem to make no sense? Did you have to read it twice because it sounded confusing? My puppy shouldn’t meet other dogs and people – my puppy should meet other dogs and people… well, which one is it???
Here me out- It’s imperative we acclimate our puppies to new people and other dogs, BUT we shouldn’t let them meet every person and dog they come across.
Still sound like a bunch of doubletalk? Let me explain.
Allowing your puppy to run up to every person or dog they see doesn’t count as socialization. We have to facilitate safe encounters in order to ensure good interactions to create positive experiences that will create a lasting impression on puppies. Aside from inadvertently creating a stressful or overwhelming interaction that could create a negative impression, there is another reason to avoid having your puppy run up to new people and dogs.
Read What Does ‘Puppy Socialization’ Really Mean? for more details on how to socialize your puppy.
By allowing your puppy to run up to new people and other dogs in the name of socialization you are actually teaching your puppy a few things that you will find problematic later:
- Your puppy is learning that the good stuff is coming from the environment
- Your puppy is learning that you are not as exciting as the environment
- Your puppy is learning to pull towards exciting things
- Your puppy’s attention and focus in on everything in the environment… except you
This is one of the reasons puppies grow up to be dogs who pull on leash. They have inadvertently learned that pulling on leash is fun because it allows them access to romping with other dogs and gets attention from strangers (which also leads to learning to jump up to greet people, another top behavior that puppy and dog guardians don’t want to happen).
Top things to do to stop pulling on leash
- Reward your puppy for watching people go by
- Reward your people for watching dogs from a distance
- Reward your puppy for being in close proximity to you
- Reward your puppy for checking in with you/making eye contact
Use high value treats each time you reward your puppy to help lock in the good behavior.
When you reward your puppy for doing these things you are:
- Creating a positive association between your puppy and people
- Creating a positive association between your puppy and other dogs
- Reinforcing your puppy for the good behavior of being near you
- Reinforcing your puppy for the good behavior of paying attention to you
You’re not only helping with socialization, but you are also setting the foundation for polite leash walking skills.
Does this mean your puppy can’t meet new people or other dogs? Of course not. Your puppy can still meet people and carefully selected dogs. You just need to facilitate appropriate greetings as part of your socialization plan while working on passive socialization from a distance to have the right balance.
It’s important to coordinate your socialization plan in order to set you and your puppy up for success so your puppy gets the best of everything and you avoid unintended consequences such as your puppy becoming stressed or overwhelmed when meeting people or dogs which could lead to your puppy being nervous or fearful of people or other dogs and the unwanted behavior of leash pulling.
Looking for help navigating through puppyhood? Book your free Discovery Session to find out how we can help you achieve your goals.Yes, I could use help.