OBJECTIVE: To habituate your puppy/dog to the many different types of people, places, dogs, animals and things in the world, so they are not afraid of these things.
We cannot stress enough the importance of socialization at this juncture in your puppy’s life. Dogs have a critical socialization period, which typically occurs between 8 and 16 weeks, allowing room for some individual variability. It is during this time that they will be most open to new and different experiences. What they are not exposed to during this time frame, they will be more likely to fear later in life. This does not mean that just because they were exposed to something they will never fear it, but it certainly decreases the chances of this occurring.
A Puppy Headstart class alone is not adequate socialization for your puppy. All puppies need to be safely exposed to as many different places, people, environments and situations as possible without over stimulating them. This is even more critical for the puppy that is unsure of himself, shy or fearful. It is essential if you hope to have your puppy work as a certified therapy dog or as any type of assistance dog.
Many are concerned about bringing their puppy out into public, as they have not completed their vaccination series. Since socialization is so essential to the behavioral wellbeing of a dog and since much of this period occurs before a puppy is fully vaccinated, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recommends “…it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.”1 In a letter to the veterinary community at-large, Dr. R.K Anderson, a Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and a Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists states; “Experience and epidemiologic data support the relative safety and lack of transmission of disease in these puppy socialization classes over the past 10 years in many parts of the United States. In fact; the risk of a dog dying because of infection with distemper or parvo disease is far less than the much higher risk of a dog dying (euthanasia) because of a behavior problem.”2