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How to Socialize Your Puppy or Kitten

When we say socialization, we mean all of the steps you must take to get your pet used to everything they're going to experience in their day-to-day life as they grow up. It's something I stress in the exam rooms, and especially when it's a young puppy because so many times with a young dog you are teaching them how to act, how to respond, how to behave—not only as a puppy, but hopefully set a guideline for the rest of their life.

How and When Do You Introduce Your Puppy to Other Pets and People?

First off, my thinking is to always expose them to as many things as you can as early as you can. The only exception to that is that you shouldn't take them to high-population areas, crowded areas - things like that until they've had all their vaccinations. I'm talking about the high-traffic areas, crowded with animal no boarding facilities, grooming, dog parks, things like PetSmart, Petco—no offense, guys! Any place where there are going to be a lot of dogs, we want to get them there, but not until they've had all sets of their puppy vaccinations. .

Are There Things You Can Do to Get Your Puppy Ready For an Exam?

We want to get them used to being handled. Get in the habit - hold their head - you can open their eyes. With these young pups we need to look in their ears. Pick them up, put your finger in the ear, wiggle it around a little bit. Small things like this will help them tremendously with with simple exams and so on in the future. Just picking up a puppy's lip just to look around helps with our dental exam. If the dog will let you, just open the mouth. Nothing rough, but just go through the motions. As a veterinarian, it helps me immensely if I have a dog that's been well socialized by the owner. Why? Because they let me do things their yearly exam without them being stressed! You'd be shocked to see the difference in a dog that's been well socialized vs. not.

One other thing that makes a big difference- this may seem silly but roll them on their back! Most of the time the answer I get from people is, "Oh, they like being on their back." I understand that. Do it when they don't want to be on their back though. Do it when they're playing. Do it when they're all riled up. Roll them on their backs and just hold them there. Not being mean, not being rough, but the average dog is going to squirm and try to get up. It's a natural thing. It's not natural to be on their back like that. And all I simply do is hold them. Once they stay and they don't struggle, let them up. That's it. You won.

In that instant, what it's teaching them is that every now and then it's okay to do something maybe I'm not comfortable doing, but it kind of makes Mom and Dad happy and I get rewarded for it afterward. That's a win all the way around. It doesn't hurt them. You're not being loud with them. And guys, what a lot of people don't realize is that this spills over into everything...and I mean everything.

How Do You Establish Control When Putting on a Puppy's Leash?

So when you put on a leash and a harness and you're trying to ask them to heel, if the dog thinks they're the alpha dog and they're pulling you all over the place, no—that's not what you're after. They just simply have to understand that you are the alpha. They have to do what you're asking them to do and it's not a bad thing. You're not being loud, violent, hurting them, nothing physical at all. It's just about body language and asserting your place until they submit to you. Once they do, let them up, give them praise, give them a treat, and I promise you that's a win-win all the way around.

That's about it in a nutshell, guys! Work on it. If you have any questions, reach out to us at the office. I can answer any questions you may have! Thanks for tuning in, and have a great day.

-Dr. Scott

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Dr. Scott Broussard Waggin Train Vet

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