Dog Socialization: Pup Meets World
It’s said that puppies ultimately grow into their paws, but
the same can be said about their brains. Brush up on your doggy
development with Groupon’s study of dog socialization.
A puppy’s development can be limited by the length of its leash.
Veterinarians urge owners to introduce canines to as many new
experiences—people, places, fellow dogs, and even inanimate
objects—as possible in controlled, nonthreatening environments in a
process called dog socialization.
This is particularly critical in the window between 4 and 14
weeks of age, when a puppy’s brain is actively codifying proper and
improper behaviors and working to distinguish safe stimuli from
threatening situations. Like all other animals, dogs are most
likely to misbehave or react aggressively when afraid. Whether
their fear stems from the noise of a passing vehicle or the beard
of a next-door neighbor, owners can help put them at ease by
exposing their four-pawed friends to potentially uncomfortable
situations and making them feel at ease. The more experiences, the
But simply taking the pup out of its comfort zone is not enough.
Spending time off the leash at a dog park can be great for canine
socialization, but owners must be sure to monitor their dog’s
behavior. Veterinarians insist that dogs be allowed to enter into
new environments voluntarily, and advise owners to reinforce model
behavior with treats and praise. If they respond fearfully or
aggressively from any stimuli, owners should withdraw them from the
situation and not return until their pup has calmed down. If the
source of the fear happens to be human, owners should ask the
person to step back, as this teaches the dog that it is
not responsible for protecting the pack from undercover
If this sounds like a lot to manage, most cities abound with
ready-made, controlled socialization environments: obedience
classes. Along with strengthening the bond between pup and owner,
group classes are great venues for socialization. There, puppies
can take their behavioral cues both from their owners’ instructions
and through modeling, as the human praise bestowed upon their
well-behaved classmates encourages them to follow suit.