Most dogs, when properly and continually socialized, will be tolerant of other dogs, other pets and respectful to people. However, this does not come naturally, therefore, it will be very important to expose the dogs to different people, animals, places and unfamiliar sights and sounds when they are puppies.
Much of how any dog behaves will depend entirely upon you, how extensively they were socialized as a puppy and how much they are continually being socialized throughout their life. Because, without proper socialization, even the most naturally friendly dog can become neurotic, unsociable and learn to act out aggressively towards unknown dogs or people.
Never make the mistake of thinking that you only need to socialize a young puppy and then they will be fine for the rest of their life, as all dogs require constant socializing and once they reach adolescence, their personality can really begin to assert itself.
It is important to keep in mind that all dogs need to be exposed to different people, dogs, places and unusual sights and sounds when they are puppies and throughout their adult life. Any dog that does not socialize regularly can become shy or suspect unknown or unusual people or circumstances, which could lead to nervous or fearful behavior, which can then lead to aggression.
Socializing With Other Dogs
In general terms, most of the habits and behavioral traits of an adult dog will be formed between the ages of birth and one year of age. That is why it will be very important to introduce your puppy to a wide variety of places, sights, sounds, smells and situations during the most formative period of its young life, which are usually the first 16 weeks.
Your puppy will learn to behave in all these circumstances following your lead, feeling your energy and observing how you react in each situation.
For example, never accidentally reward your puppy or dog for showing nervousness, fear or growling at another dog or person when picking it up. Pick up a puppy or a dog at a time when they show unbalanced energy it actually turns out to be a reward for them, and it will teach them to continue with this kind of behavior.
Picking up a puppy places them in a higher position of the dog, where they have the highest ground and, literally (because they are higher up) they become more dominant than the person or dog they may have growled at.
The correct action to take in such a situation is to gently correct your puppy with a firm but calm energy by distracting him with a “NO” command, or a quick sideways snap of the leash to get its attention back on you, so that the dog learns to allow you to deal with the situation on its behalf.
If you allow a fearful, nervous or shy puppy to deal with situations that make him nervous without your direction, they can learn to react with fear or aggression to unknown circumstances and you will have created a problem that could become something more serious as they grow up.
The same goes for situations in which a young puppy may feel the need to protect itself from a dog larger or older dog that may come charging for a sniff. It is the guardian’s responsibility to protect the puppy so that they do not feel they must react with fear or aggression to protect themselves.
Once your puppy has received all of its vaccinations, you can take him to public dog parks and to several places where many dogs and people are found.
Before allowing them to interact with other dogs or puppies, take them on a disciplined leash walk so they are a little tired and less likely to jump enthusiastically to all other dogs immediately.
Keep your puppy on a leash and close to you, because most young puppies are a lot of energy out of control, and you need to protect them while teaching them how far they can go before they can get into trouble with adult dogs that might not appreciate their playful joy.
Remember that they may not have experienced the company of other dogs since you brought them home, and now that they have completed their vaccination cycle, it is understandable that they are excited and perhaps a little hesitant about seeing dogs again.
Keep a close eye on your puppy to ensure that they are not overwhelmed by many other dogs, or that they are too excited, stressed or nervous because it is your job to protect your puppy.
If your puppy shows signs of aggression or domination towards another puppy, dog or person, you should intervene immediately and discipline him calmly, otherwise, by doing nothing, you will agree with his behavior and allow him to get into situations that could become in serious behavior problems as they grow in age and size.
No matter the age or size of your puppy, allowing him to show aggression or domination over another dog or person is never a matter of laughter and this type of behavior should be reduced immediately.
Socializing With Other People
Take your puppy everywhere and introduce him to many different people of all ages, sizes, and ethnicities to learn what is normal. This will be easy to do because most people will be automatically attracted when they see you have a puppy.
Most people will want to interact with your puppy and if they ask you to hug or hold your puppy, this is a good opportunity to socialize your puppy and show them that humans are friendly.
Do not allow others (especially young children) to play sharply with your puppy or scream with loud voices because this can be very scary for a young puppy. You don’t want to teach your puppy that humans are a crazy and exciting source of energy.
Take special care when introducing your puppy too young children who may accidentally hurt your puppy, because you do not want your dog to be afraid of children, as this could lead to aggression problems later in life.
Explain to the children that your puppy is very small and that they should be calm and kind when they play or interact in some way.
Socializing Within Different Environments
It can be a big mistake not to take the time to introduce your puppy to a wide variety of different environments because when they are not comfortable with different sights and sounds, this could cause them possible trauma later in their adult life.
Be creative and take your puppy to any place you can imagine when he is young so that, no matter where you travel with your dog, whether walking along the noisy sidewalk of the city or next to a peaceful coast, they will be equally comfortable.
Do not make the mistake of taking your puppy only to the areas where you live and will always travel, as they should also feel comfortable visiting frequently visited areas, such as noisy construction sites, airports or a shopping area in the city.
Your puppy needs to see all kinds of sights, sounds, and situations so he doesn’t panic if he needs to travel with you to any of these areas.
Your puppy will take his signals from you, which means that when you are calm and in control of each situation, he will learn to be the same because your puppy will trust your leadership.
For example, take them to the airport where they can watch people and hear the planes land and take off or take them to a local park where they can see a baseball game, or to take a walk next to the school playground at recess when noisy children are playing, or take them to the local zoo or farm and let them look closely at horses, pigs, and ducks.
Again, never think that socialization is something that only takes place when your dog is a young puppy since proper socialization continues throughout the life of your dog.
Many dogs can show extreme fear of loud noises, such as fireworks or thunderstorms.
When you take the time to desensitize your dog to this type of noise when they are very young, it will be much easier for them during stormy weather or holidays, such as Halloween or New Year, when fireworks are often part of festivities
You can buy CDs that are a collection of unusual sounds, such as vacuums or hoovers, airplanes, sirens, smoke alarms, fireworks, people clapping, screaming children and more (or you can easily make your own), which you can play while working in your kitchen or relaxing in your living room or lounge.
When you mimic these sounds and pretend that everything is normal, the next time your puppy or dog hears these kinds of sounds elsewhere, they will not be disturbed or agitated because they have learned to ignore them.
TIP: Bubble wrap is also another simple way to desensitize a dog that is fearful of popping sounds. Show them the bubble wrap, pop some of the cells and, if they don’t escape, give them a treat.
You can start with the bubble wrap that has smaller and quieter cells, and then graduate him to the bubble wrap with larger (stronger) cells.
Also make sure your puppy gets used to the sounds of thunder and fireworks at an early age because this type of shrieks, crashes, blows, and popping of fireworks or thunder, as well as the high-pitched beeping of household smoke and fire alarms, can be so traumatic and disturbing for many dogs, that sometimes, no matter how much you try to calm your dog or pretend everything is fine, there is little you can do.
Some dogs literally lose their minds when they hear the loud noises of fireworks and alarms and begin to shake, run or try to hide and cannot communicate with them.
Make sure that your dog cannot get hurt trying to escape this type of noise, and if possible, hold them until they begin to relax.
If your dog loses his mind when he hears such noises, simply avoid taking them anywhere near fireworks and if sometimes when they can hear these noises outdoors, play your inside music or your TV louder than normal, to help disguise the outside noise of fireworks or thunder.
Some dogs will respond well to wearing a “ThunderShirt,” which is specifically designed to relieve anxiety or trauma associated with loud noises, popping or banging noises.
The idea behind the ‘ThunderShirt’ design is that the gentle pressure it creates is similar to a hug that, for some dogs, has a calming effect.
Do not underestimate the importance of taking time to socialize (not only when they are puppies) on a continuous basis and desensitize your puppy to all manner of sights, sounds, people, and places because doing so will teach them to be a calm and well-balanced member of your family who will follow you silently in every situation.