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Puppy Training 101: How to Properly Socialize Your Dog

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Socializing a puppy is a lot like drumming up friends of your own: The more you mingle, the more progress you make. Introduce a puppy to all the new things you can (people, places and other animals). When a puppy isn't exposed to new things, social development may become stunted or, worse, regress. The goal of socializing is a confident, outgoing dog that isn't shy or aggressive.


Practice Safe Socialization

"But wait!" you say. "What about disease? My veterinarian told me to keep my puppy at home until his last puppy shot. And you're saying I should go out? Is that safe?"

Your veterinarian is right: Your puppy is at risk of contracting diseases from other dogs before his full immunity is in place. This is why you shouldn't go anywhere where dogs you do not know hang out — parks, dog events or pet stores — until your veterinarian gives the go-ahead. But that doesn't mean you should leave your puppy at home.

Use common sense. Plan safe outings. Take a puppy class: Good trainers know the risks and work to minimize them by keeping the training area sanitized.

Impart a Life-Saving Skill Set

Why take any chances at all? An unsocialized dog — whether fearful or aggressive — is at a higher risk of ending up in a shelter with little chance at being adopted again. Some experts argue that, in the long run, behavior problems kill more dogs than parvovirus does. Perhaps that puts the importance of proper and safe socialization into perspective.

Limit the Paw-Holding

Unlike wolves or coyotes, dogs are genetically predisposed to become part of human society, but it's not always easy. So socialize, and remember that the world is full of scary things, especially to a little puppy. At times, even the boldest of them may become paralyzed with uncertainty, especially when faced with something they have never seen before.

Your response to this fear is very important. Don't soothe your pup. Petting him and saying, "It's OK, baby" (or something similar) gives your puppy the idea that being scared is OK and that you're rewarding him for the behavior. Instead, be matter-of-fact and encouraging. Let him work it out, and when he takes that step forward, praise him for his courage. 


This article was written by a Veterinarian.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

As part of the VCA family, we have over 83 specialty hospitals across the US and Canada which provide referral specialty care, so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: behavior, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, integrative medicine, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology, rehabilitation, reproduction, and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency during normal business hours, please call us immediately. If you have an emergency outside of our normal business hours, please contact a local emergency animal hospital.

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