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Puppy Socialization - Why, When, and How

City life in Chicago can be exciting for both you and your pet. On a daily basis, you and your dog are likely to encounter a spectrum of people, animals, noises, and environments. Therefore, urban dog owners have an increased responsibility to ensure their dogs are properly socialized and develop the ability to cope with the potential stressors of city life. The first three months of your puppy's life is the critical time period for him/her to learn to adapt to new people, animals, and experiences. Incomplete socialization at this time can increase the risk of behavioral problems later in life including fear, avoidance, and aggression.

Important Tips

Observe your puppy's body language. Fearful body language can include having the tail tucked between the legs, lifting a paw, backing away, licking the lips, yawning, panting, ears pinned back, and wide eyes with dilated pupils. If your puppy looks worried or fearful when he/she encounters something, work on helping him/her to feel more positive about it.

If your puppy becomes frightened in a situation and does not quickly recover, remove him/her from a situation and engage his/her interest in something else. Do not get upset with him/her and do not make a fuss. Later, try to re-introduce the object, situation, or environment in a more appealing, relaxing way and reward your puppy for positive behaviors.

Additional American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Recommendations

After 12 weeks of age, it is still essential to continue socialization of our pets! Continuing to offer a wide variety of experiences during the first year of life helps prevent separation-related behaviors. Further exposure throughout their lifetimes helps maintain the outgoing and social behaviors necessary for our canine citizens to have full enjoyment of our Chicago lifestyles. However, owners of puppies displaying fear should seek veterinary guidance immediately.

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