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People and dogs are similar in many ways. And just like humans, every dog has a unique personality. So some dogs are naturally going to be shy, timid and less outgoing. And their personalities, just like ours, can be influenced by experiences, surroundings and situations.
This means that a dog’s social behavior can be improved with proper socialization and training. Think about how easy it is to run into other dogs and people: on walks, in your apartment complex, even at the vet. And think about all the things your dog would miss out on by not being able to be around others: dog parks, doggy day care, hikes, city adventures, and beyond. This is why socialization is so important for your dog.
Socialization is important for developing positive behaviors and promoting healthy habits. Puppies have socialization periods when they absorb lots of information about their environment. This period can start as early as three weeks of age. During this time, it’s important to expose your puppy to plenty of people, animals, noises and social interactions. Without this socialization, your dog may be more prone to anxiety or aggression later in life.
Puppies learn some etiquette by interacting with other dogs and following their lead. They’ll be able to learn to understand when a dog wants to socialize and when they want space. For example, they can learn when and how to play, how to use their mouth appropriately and what other dogs like and don’t like. A dog's energy and body language are ways that dogs speak to each other. It's a type of language that we can’t speak in the same way. Good ways to socialize your pup include puppy school, dog parks and social time with neighborhood dogs.
With socialization training, it’s important to make sure you reward good behavior like when your dog calm, relaxed or in a submissive state. You can reward them with treats, kibble and even affection! It’s important to remember that dogs like being trained. They don’t feel bad or resentful when you properly and positively correct their behavior, but are happy to learn.
Even if your dog was properly socialized, things can change over time. Just like with humans, a dog’s personality can modify over time. Because of this, socialization is an ongoing learning opportunity that you and your pup will have to work on over the years. If your previously-socialized dog becomes less fond of others, try giving them treats as other dogs approach. This will help your dog associate these interactions with a positive experience and shift their perception of meeting others.