It is the position of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) that effective animal training lays the foundation for an animal’s healthy socialization and training and helps prevent behavior problems. The general pet-owning public should be educated by organizations and associations to ensure pet animals live in nurturing and stable environments to better prevent behavior problems. Consistent with this effort, it is the position of the PPG that proper puppy socialization be addressed as vital to a dog’s development with an ideal socialization period starting at four weeks of age and continuing through four months of age. The PPG considers this to be the critical socialization period for dogs. PPG advocates for socialization to accompany puppy vaccinations rather than waiting to socialize a puppy until after the vaccinations are complete by which time the critical socialization period will have been missed. According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior – “puppies can start puppy socialization classes as early as 7-8 weeks of age. Puppies should receive a minimum of one set of vaccines at least 7 days prior to the first class and a first deworming. They should be kept up-to-date on vaccines throughout the class.”
Problems Associated With Improper or Absent Puppy Socialization
The Puppy Socialization Period (4 to 16 weeks) is the most critical period for influencing a dog’s temperament, character, behavior and avoiding problems. Preventing potential problems is far more effective than trying to correct issues when the dog is older. Problems and undesirable behaviors resulting from the lack of proper puppy socialization can be anything from inappropriate barking, chewing, separation anxiety and aggression to general reactivity. Improper or misguided efforts to socialize a puppy can result in a host of fears, predictable and unpredictable. Proper socialization will also greatly increase a dog’s reliability making it easier to handle, train and examine while greatly reducing the risk of a dog biting.
It is the position of the PPG that all puppy socialization be conducted comprehensively and in a manner which encourages the confidence of the puppy and that puppy classes focus on the use of behaviorism with an emphasis on positive reinforcement. Ideally the socialization process should start with early neurological stimulation and end with daily exposure to novel stimuli by raising puppies in homes that provide a busy and intermittently noisy environment with significant variety of interactions that stimulate all 5 senses. Socialization should include gently exposing a puppy to new people and other safe vaccinated healthy dogs on a daily basis with numerous sights, sounds smells and textures (pavement, grass, sand, gravel, etc.) including children of various ages. Puppy Socialization should always be a fun process that is always free of any force.
The PPG website page on Puppy Education, read more
The ASPCA article on Socializing Your Puppy, read more
AVSAB Position Statement on Puppy Socialization, read more
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