Socializing your puppy is one of the most important considerations for the new dog owner. Socialization lays the foundation for a happy and successful relationship with your pet, and is especially critical for the future protection dog. In this first part of a four part series, we will discuss some of the environmental situations your future guard dog or protection dog may encounter, and the ways to ensure that your dog is properly acclimated to them.
Countless studies have told us that the most important period for socialization begins at 8 weeks and continues to about six months. It is during this time period that the dog’s experiences will most impact their future behavior. Proper socialization starts with people. Expose your dog to as many people as you can. Take your puppy with you to the park, to your friends and relatives, and anywhere else they will be allowed. You should also allow your dog to interact with groups of people, and to a limited extent other dogs and animals. Constant companionship with other animals can impede your dog’s socialization to people.
Exposing your new dog to as many people and groups of people as you can is the best first step in proper socialization. But, by taking them to meet new people, you have also completed two other important steps. Firstly, exposing your dog to as many different environments as you can, and secondly acclimating your new dog to ride in a car. By placing your dog in new and unfamiliar surroundings, your dog learns to be accepting of new environmental conditions without fear or nervousness.
Should your dog show any problems in acclimating to a new location, be patient and soothe your dog. Let the dog explore and let him or her learn on their own that there is nothing to be afraid of. By neglecting this aspect of socialization you open the door to future problems that affect your dog’s working ability. Your dog may show nervousness or fear in unfamiliar environments and may not offer the protection that you need.
Exposing your new dog to riding in a car is also very important. Traveling with your dog can enrich family trips, as well as offer protection should the need arise. Certainly, you will be taking your new puppy to the vet’s office, but you definitely should not stop there. Your new dog should take a ride with you anytime it is possible. My experience has been that most dogs love to ride in a car, but sometimes it takes time for them to adjust. Be patient and calm with your dog. They will begin to lose any fear of the ride, unless of course you drive like my wife.