“So what’s all this about puppy socialization?” said the lady on the telephone. She was looking into training classes for her new puppy. It seemed everyone she called was promoting puppy play time.
“Oh, sure” she replied.
“Well those are the dogs that didn’t learn how to play with others when they were little” I told her.
There are many reasons why young dogs don’t learn proper canine communication skills. A pup may be separated from its litter too soon, perhaps due to accident or illness. Puppies from commercial breeders are taken from their litters at an early age for shipping to pet stores. The breeders sacrifice weeks of play time and brain development so the puppies still look cute and cuddly for the shoppers.
Sadly, some veterinarians are still telling people to keep their puppy away from other dogs until the complete vaccination cycle is complete. This is in spite of the AVSAB (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior) position paper on the importance of socialization (You can find it here).
Some people choose to keep their puppy isolated from other dogs “So he bonds with me instead of other dogs.” Or they think that their senior dog at home is all their puppy needs. Like hanging out with grandpa prepares your toddler for kindergarten. They assume that once a dog comes to live with his human family, the dog doesn’t need to know canine communication.
This is not some frivolous pet indulgence. Playing with other puppies helps young dogs learn impulse control and bite inhibition. A good puppy play session is supervised by an experienced trainer. Play is periodically interrupted so they learn how to settle. Go to a puppy playtime without your dog so you can watch the interactions. Does the trainer seem knowledgeable? Are all the puppies safe? Are time-outs called appropriately? Does the trainer offer any instruction? You might set up additional playtimes with other puppy owners you meet there.
Get your new puppy off to the best start possible. You will have a confident and calm canine companion.