VCA Animal Hospitals

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.


General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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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.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.