Jump start behavioral health in your puppy with socialization!

The days of keeping your puppy confined to the house until 16 weeks of age are over!Puppy, behavioral health and socialization

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, a well respected group of veterinarians who share an interest in understanding behavior in animals, believe it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive socialization as early as 7-8 weeks of age after a minimum of one set of vaccines and deworming at least 7 days prior to the first class, with other healthy dogs in an environment that is clean, not in places such as dog parks.

Socialization is the process by which pets develop a relationship with animals of their own species, other species, and humans. With adequate socialization starting as a young puppy, pets are often able to maintain these relationships for life, helping to prevent behavior problems. Although socialization should be continued throughout life, pets are more likely to be defensive, fearful, and possibly aggressive later in life if not properly socialized during their sensitive socialization period, between 3 and 16 weeks of age.

Here is a checklist of some, but not all, experiences your puppy should have before 16 weeks of age. Always associate the experiences with high value rewards such as treats or a tennis ball. Every puppy is different so make sure to go slow if your puppy shows signs of fear or anxiety. If your puppy shows aggression or extreme fear contact your veterinarian immediately.Jump start behavioral health in your puppy with socialization!

  • Veterinarian/ Veterinary technicians
  • Person wearing hat
  • Other animals (including non-dog)
  • You with vacuum
  • Person (child & adult) on bike & roller blades
  • Jogger
  • Stranger on street
  • You mowing grass
  • Person with umbrella, open and close umbrella
  • Toddler (supervised)
  • Person with coat, take coat on and off
  • Man with beard
  • Drive – thru window or toll booth
  • Children playing ball
  • Walk on different surfaces (soft, hard, unsteady)
  • Mailman
  • Person with wheelchair, walker, stroller
  • Pet store employees
  • Person in uniform (police, etc)
  • You with hair dryer
  •  Handle your puppy on a daily basis (ears, mouth, paws, belly, tail, etc

Remember: Avoid socializing your puppy in areas frequented by dogs of unknown vaccination status such as dog parks.

Here is a list of recommended books to use as a guide in raising your puppy:

  • The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey
  • An Owner’s Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet: Dog Behavior by Ian Dunbar, Ph.D., MRCVS
  • Raising a Behaviorally Healthy Puppy by Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D. and Daniel Estep, Ph.D.

Published with permission by Meredith Stepita, DVM, DACVB

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Angela Linvill

Angela has been the Hospital Administrator of a multi-specialty/ emergency/ and general practice veterinary hospital since 2005. She is also the Chair of the Contra Costa County Employer Advisory Council. Angela has a Masters of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Troy University. She is committed to helping pet owners make good decisions about the health care of their pets regardless of their financial situation.

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