What is good socialization with other dogs?
Everyone knows that you’re supposed to “socialize” your puppy. But what does that mean?
It’s not simply about exposing your puppy to experiences, people, places and things. The key to good socialization is to ensure that your puppy is forming positive associations and learning that the world is safe and fun, not scary or unpredictable.
For example, if your puppy is constantly getting rolled or chased between your legs by other dogs or puppies, what is your puppy learning about other dogs? Probably that they’re scary! This can lead to a puppy that grows up fearful of other dogs, and fear can lead to aggression if your puppy learns that the only way to feel safe is to growl or lunge or bite to keep other dogs away.
It takes a lot of skill and expertise to run puppy socialization groups well. Puppies should not just be tossed in a pen or left in a field or living room to play with no guidance, any more than you’d leave a group of elementary school children unsupervised on the playground to “work it out” themselves. Play sessions should be guided by a skilled trainer who will intervene and adjust the play group as necessary so that all puppies are having a good time, and learning good manners.
Our safe and critical socialization/play sessions (Saturday mornings at 10:00am for puppies aged 9 weeks to 18 weeks) take place on non-slip matting in appropriate groups. We actively shape dog play so your shy puppy will learn to be braver, or your rambunctious puppy will learn to tone it down and behave with manners around other puppies — while still having fun!
Please note that is very rarely appropriate to mix adolescent dogs with young puppies in group socialization classes.