Preparing Puppies for Adulthood: Socialization and Leadership

Benji Gibson

Pet Care client Benji Gibson

Socialization is the process in which puppies develop positive relationships with humans and other animals. A puppy’s prime socialization time generally occurs within the first 3 to 4 months of life. During this time any experiences the puppy has help develop his/her personality. Unfortunately, puppies that are not positively socialized may become fearful, timid, or aggressive; therefore, it is very important to expose the puppy to a variety of positive experiences.

Because this period is before the puppy’s vaccine series is complete, owners must remember to keep the puppy in his/her own yard until all of his/her vaccines are completed.

Of course owners can invite friends of all ages over to help socialize the puppy during this time! Each person who greets the puppy should ask the puppy to sit and then give him/her a treat. This process helps the puppy in several ways:

  1.  he/she learns that meeting people is positive (because it is associated  with treats)
  2.  he/she learns that the hand is a friend (because the hand held treats) 
  3.  he/she begins to learn how to sit

Please note that it is very important to expose the puppy to children. If the pup is not exposed to children when he/she is young, he/she may never feel comfortable around them.

Always avoid physical punishment and any situations which may make the puppy anxious. The puppy is very impressionable and these interactions may lead to fear biting and anxiety in the future.

In order to provide leadership, it is important for everyone in the household to be consistent with the raising of the puppy. The pup should learn that “nothing in life is free” and that he/she must perform a task (example: sit, stay) before he/she receives anything (food, petting, going outside, etc.). By learning to work for everything, the pup learns that he/she is not the “top dog” in the house. Many behavior problems can be avoided by using this method with the pup.

Other tips to provide leadership to the puppy include:

  • Be consistent with rewards and corrections. Set rules that everyone observes.
  • Don’t take good behaviors for granted; be generous with praise
  • Give much more praise than scolding
  • Never hit the puppy or use any type of physical punishment
  • Feed the puppy on a schedule at specific times (this will also help with housebreaking too!)
  • Puppy obedience classes are strongly encouraged to help provide appropriate socialization and leadership skills for the pup.

Puppyhood can be a wonderful, exciting period, but it can also be tiring and exasperating. At Pet Care Veterinary Hospital, we understand and are available to answer any questions you may have. We want you and your pup to enjoy a long, happy life together.