Introducing your puppy to new experiences and situations - socialisation - is as important for him as his physical health. A dog who has not had proper socialisation can develop temperament and behavioural problems. Properly socialised dogs are not fearful. They are less likely to run away from people, bark at them or bite them to make them move away. Poorly socialised dogs lack confidence.
Introducing your puppy in a calm and confident manner to as many things as possible that he will experience in your life together is vital. Socialisation teaches your dog how he is expected to behave in all manner of situations. A puppy's learning capacity is huge and he will accept new experiences with interest while an older dog can be apprehensive and fearful. You must give your puppy every opportunity to experience his world. This familiarisation is vital for his social development.
The important period for socialisation is from seven to sixteen weeks of age. During this time, puppies are eager to explore new environments and meet new people and dogs. Research demonstrates clearly that the socialisation "window" starts to close around sixteen to twenty weeks. After that, puppies are often wary of new things. If they haven't had plenty of pleasant exposure to new people, dogs, and situations before that age, they can acquire fears and anxieties, as well as attachment and aggression problems.
During the important period of socialisation your puppy's vaccinations are not complete and there is a risk of him contracting disease. But socialisation is essential for his development and keeping him isolated is detrimental to his future well being. As a new puppy owner, you must weigh up the risks of contracting disease versus the risk of developing behaviour problems due to isolation and limited socialisation, and then make an educated decision about socialising your puppy.
Introduce your puppy safely to different sights and sounds in a controlled situation. He needs to form neutral or positive associations with many different sights, sounds, environments and people. It is important to control the interactions. Don't let children tease him, frighten him or hurt him. Everyone must be gentle and patient. An unpleasant experience during this time can stay with the puppy for life. Don't force or stress your puppy. Let him set the pace. If you are relaxed and calm he will be more confident.
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