Save Your Puppies Life: the importance of early socialization
The importance of early puppy socialization should not be underestimated. It is so important that socializing them properly might just save their life. Don't believe me? Well stick around as I go through the 5 main reasons why early puppy socialization is vital for the health and well-being of your dog.
Socialization is so important that I've produced a free socialization checklist that you can download to help you make sure you socialize your puppy to the best of your ability. Download it here!
Let’s get into the reasons why puppy socialization is so important:
Behavioural problems are the biggest cause of death in dogs under 3 years of age.
Behavioural problems in young dogs include aggression, destructive behaviour, separation anxiety and phobias. These can be really challenging problems to live with and will often result in dogs being given up for rehoming and placed in shelters. The reality is that around half of all shelter dogs are euthanized. Some of these will be due to illness and disease but a significant proportion of dogs with behavioural issues will never be rehomed and instead be euthanized.
Socialization at an early age helps to significantly reduce the incidence of problem behaviours like aggression and destructive behaviours. Both of these behaviours can be a result of the fear and anxiety that comes from not being exposed to enough different situations as a puppy. If from an early age your puppy gets used to being left for periods of time then separation anxiety is less likely to develop. If you expose them to loud noises then firework phobias are unlikely to develop.
This is why socialization may just save your dogs life!
Early socialization results in a better quality of life
Fear is no way to live. A dog who was never properly socialised as a puppy is much more likely to become scared of new situations or even everyday situations that become more common as they get older.
If instead they are well socialised as a puppy, then your dog is more likely to develop into a happy, well rounded and safe member of your family.
Fear and stress doesn't just affect mental health, it also impacts physical health. A body that is under constant stress can, for example, result in the immune system not working properly.
Failure to socialize your puppy properly can mean they end up not getting the exercise and stimulation they need.
If your dog is scared of situations you encounter when you take them out (like other dogs, people or traffic) then they might try and run away, become aggressive or simply cower behind your legs rather than be out there enjoying themselves.
The result is that you may be forced to simply stop taking them out. This can make problem behaviours worse as a lack of exercise and stimulation quickly results in boredom. This frequently results in our problem behaviours like destruction and constant barking.
Even if they don’t develop any problem behaviours,, your dogs quality of life will not be as good as it would have been had they gone through a proper socialization program as a puppy.
Poor socialization can mean difficult vet exams (+ compromised health care)
The vet clinic can be a very stressful place for a dog at the best of times. For a dog who has been poorly socialized this stress can result in complete panic. They may not allow a complete examination to be performed. They may even become too aggressive to safely handle and treat as well as possible. It may be that sedatives need to be given but this will increase the cost of your dogs care and may even put them in danger as sedation is not completely without risk.
I’ve had dogs I’ve never met before trying to launch themselves at me and bite as soon as they enter the consult room. How well do you think I could examine them and address their health needs? Others will be OK until anyone tries to go near them, at which point they struggle excessively or become aggressive.
If we are unable to examine our patients or give them the treatment they need then this can have serious consequences should they become unwell and need some form of investigation or treatment at the vet clinic. While as vets there are many steps we can take to reduce fear and stress in our patients, socialization at a young age will help prevent this problem developing in the first place.
Impossible grooming and other care procedures
Socialization not only involves experiencing different situations, it also involved getting your dog used to handling. If your dog is not used to having their ears lifted, eyes looked at, feet handled or being touched over their whole body then you might find that nail clipping and general grooming becomes impossible.
In the same way, if your dog needs ear or eye medication you may really struggle to administer these at home. Again compromising how well we are able to look after them and address their needs.
Socialization helps you train your young dog to handle new experiences and challenges with acceptable, appropriate behavior. This exposure will desensitize and condition your pup so that they develop a comfort level with different and new situations.
An unsocialized dog is unlikely to cope well with changes in his environment or situation, making him difficult to handle for his owner, veterinarian, groomer, pet sitter, and any visitors to the dog’s home.
Check out my article on exactly how to socialize your puppy, when to train them and how to keep them safe at the same time.
Let me know how you get on and if you have any comments or questions please let me know in the comments below.
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