One of the best things you can do with your new puppy or kitten is socialize it with other people and animals. Not only is it fun and good for your new pet but it will make your life and your animal’s life easier in the long run.
In this post, we are going to discuss the benefits of socializing your new pet and our best practices for making sure socialization goes smoothly. We’re going to focus on socializing young animals but if you are the owner of an older animal it’s not too late to socialize them, although it is a bit more complicated process and takes more time.
If you are the owner of an older animal that you believe could benefit from socialization give Dahl Mobile Vet a call and we can explore some different ideas one on one.
The Benefits to Socializing Your Pet Early
Let’s start by establishing why introducing your puppy or kitten to new people and animals is such an important part of their early life. Like humans, baby animals are curious and open to new experiences. Those experiences have a big influence on how your new pet will grow and develop, so it’s important they be healthy and positive ones.
A properly socialized cat or dog is easier to travel with allowing both of you to enjoy outings together without constant worry or fear about what might happen.
It is easier for vets to work with socialized animals. A dog or cat that is unsocialized will experience greater stress when being handled by strangers and is more likely to act out.
Generally, a socialized animal is happier. It is able to engage with people and other animals while remaining calm making their lives more enjoyable. Remember, in nature, cats and especially dogs form social networks that allow for daily companionship.
How to Socialize Puppies
Puppy is a pretty subjective term. Heck, we’ve met senior dogs whose owners still call them a puppy. For the purposes of this post, puppy will refer to a dog less than four months old.
Socializing a dog this young could seem like a mistake since they are not yet fully vaccinated and vulnerable to illness, but there are ways to do it safely. We don’t recommend pet stores or dog parks as these places are breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria.
Following these best practices, your dog’s socialization can start as early as 8 weeks old when they are still very impressionable.
Start by training your puppy. Don’t have high expectations for him or her, after all, it is only a puppy. Keep the sessions short, most puppies can’t pay attention for that long and always end on a positive note.
Handle puppies in a way similar to what they might experience during a vet checkup. This includes touching around their ears, mouth, and eyes. Touch their toes and lift their tail. Your vet will be able to tell that you spent time handling your dog and they will appreciate that.
Arrange play dates for your pup. Find dogs of all ages and sizes and arrange for them to come to your house or you can go to theirs. But always make sure the other animal is friendly and healthy.
Mealtime can be a delicate time for dogs, that bowl of kibble will stir their competitive instincts. To help eliminate your dog’s stress when it comes to food, give them a friendly pat while they are eating or try taking their bowl away and then returning it to them. Do the same with toys so that your dog doesn’t become possessive of objects.
Allow your pup to meet any new people they might be curious about. During walks is a great time to do this. Travel with a bag of kibble to use as treats. If your pet seems interested in someone, give the new person some kibble and ask them to give it to your pet. Pretty soon your dog will associate new people with treats and become very social.
Hit the road with your new co-pilot! The vast majority of dogs are absolutely thrilled by car rides and it’s a great way to encourage them not to be afraid, but some do experience the animal equivalent of car sickness. For those dogs, car rides are never going to be a treat but there are measures that can be taken when they need to be transported. Speak to a vet to learn more about helping your dog deal with motion sickness.
Kittens and puppies are very different animals. Dogs are governed by a pack mentality, while cats, although they do enjoy companionship have a stronger independence to them.
However, when it comes to socialization kittens are fairly similar to puppies. Let them be around other people and animals that they are safe to be around.
Kittens are more difficult to train than a puppy but it’s not unusual for a cat that has been properly handled to learn its name, how to sit and even enjoy playing fetch with you. Of course, treats are great motivators for cats.
Very young kittens should be handled just as a vet would handle them during a checkup. While you’re cuddling with your new pet make a point of touching around their ears, eyes, mouths, and toes.
In our experience, these are the best practices when it comes to socializing young kittens and puppies but all animals are different, with their own likes, dislikes, and personalities. If your new pet ever shows strong signs of aggression contact a vet to discuss what might be done to ensure a persistent problem doesn’t develop.
If you have any more questions about socializing your new pet or any other topic contact Dahl Mobile Veterinary Services to speak with an expert.