Quest’s Roadmap to Success: Socialization vs Training

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In the dog and puppy world, when we talk about socialization, we are talking about exposing your puppy to different experiences, not playing with other pups (although that can be a part of it).

Puppies go through a few developmental periods when they are very open to new experiences. One of the most important one of these is the Critical Socialization Period During these brief periods of time, you can have a lasting impact on your dog’s confidence by exposing them to things in a positive way so they are familiar with them and not fearful when around them for the rest of its life

Because these developmental periods only happen for short periods of time, my goal is to take advantage of them and spend as much time exposing the puppy to things in a positive way.

Now what about puppy training? Its important and can be a lot of fun. But it does take time. Im my opinion as a dog behavior expert, this time is best spent on socialization, especially for puppies under 4 months.

You will have ten or more years to teach your puppy all kinds of tricks and commands. But for now, put most of your time and effort into building up your puppy’s confidence by exposing them to things in a positive way.

Its up to you if you want to focus on training earlier. Its much easier and effective if you only use positive dog training (focus and punishment toward puppies often shatters their confidence and self esteem). But since the Critical Socialization Period is a once in a lifetime opportunity, Im focusing most of my efforts on it and will transition to training at 15 weeks.

One final topic I neglected to mention in the video; immunization.

Your puppy has a temporary immunity to things like Parvo if his or her mother had an immunity herself. But sometime between eight and 16 weeks, this immunity wears off. That is why we inoculate our puppies at 8, 11 and 14 weeks.

Keep in mind, it takes up to 7 days for the immunization shot to become effective. So wait until the seven days have passed before you take your dog to places where other dogs have been.

Now some people will tell you that you shouldn’t take your pup out until after it gets its last shot. While this is technically correct, it means you will forgo the Critical Socialization Period and that will result in a timid dog who is fearful of many things. I covered how to socialize your puppy in this post.

My recommendation is you socialize your pup responsibly; going to places other dogs don’t go to and instead focus on the many socialization experiences that don’t involve other unknown dogs unless its in a Puppy Socialization class.

But meeting new dogs is EXTREMELY important during the Critical Socialization Period, so look for play opportunities with balanced dogs who you know are up to date on shots.

Limit your puppy’s access to places where other dogs have been until they hit 15 weeks. If you do go to one of these places (pet stores, vet office, dog parks, etc) be sure to thoroughly wipe off the bottom of your pup’s paws with purely or a baby wipe IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOU LEAVE. They may have stepped on something with Parvo, etc and if they lick their feet later, they can become infected.

It is a risk, but after reading many articles, talking to vets, rescue groups breeders, etc, the risk is pretty small. Just carry around some individually wrapped baby wipes and if in doubt, wipe off the bottom of the paws.

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