Many people think that socializing your puppy means giving him a social life. In actuality, socializing a puppy means teaching them how to behave properly when interacting with people and other animals in different situations.
What’s the difference? Allowing your dog or puppy to socialize with other people and animals freely is one thing. Teaching your dog or puppy how to behave while around other people and animals is another.
Because we love our dogs, we want to give them a social outlet where they can enjoy the company of other people and animals. So for the safety of ourselves and our animals, the definition of "socializing our dog" should become understood as safely introducing our dog to new situations and teaching them how to behave within those situations. This training helps them be brave, calm and obedient in the face of things like:
riding in the car
greeting new people
Without proper training, letting dogs be social butterflies could lead to a disaster, or even tragedy. This is why we are adamantly against dog parks.
While dog parks may seem like great fun for your dog, many experts agree that they are dangerous and unhealthy. Your dog trusts you to be his alpha and leader, but as soon as you let him off-leash in the company of other animals, you fail in that role. You are no longer in control. He is suddenly on his own, fending for himself, and he can’t trust you to keep him safe. Should a dog fight break out, you, your dog, and anyone who gets involved are susceptible to injuries. In addition, dog parks are also a sanitary concern as they are breeding grounds for various diseases.
Your puppy’s earliest experiences with new sights, sounds, creatures and people lay the groundwork for socialization. Introduced properly to a variety of experiences, puppies learn to remain calm and confident. We need to show our puppies that we make it safe for them to enter unfamiliar buildings full of strange sights and smells. We introduce them to large farm animals and those fascinating creatures called cats – so they learn these beasts are not a threat (and cats really shouldn’t be chased). We allow all kinds of people to handle and play with them so that they aren’t afraid of strangers.
This is socialization.
Once your dog has been trained or socialized, if you want him to have a social life, be sure you choose the best environments and playmates for him. You should remain in charge at all times. With a young German Shepherd, too much rough play can damage developing joints. Smaller pups should not be allowed to play too much with larger dogs. If things get intense, separate the dogs and let them have a time-out. Your dog or puppy should come to your side when called, no matter what’s happening or who he’s playing with. It takes a lot of training and socialization to achieve this level of obedience, so be patient and consistent.
Do you want to learn how to train your dog to remain calm, confident and obedient in social situations? Check out Leerburg's dog training articles!