After a small debate, photo searches and some soul searching for lost time, I've realized that it has been two years since we launched our Puppy Socialization Program. It's been rebranded once or twice with a little bit of pandemic pivoting but the structure has survived.
Three days a week, we have puppy days for pups to work on their social skills, learning to play appropriately.
What makes us different? We run mini training sessions during the days for basics, do a little leash work so walking can be enjoyable, handling work so your puppy can be ready for the vet or grooming and spent a lot of time cuddling and taking pictures. We keep our groups small and we don't usually give out toys for the focus to be on. We monitor and help them learn to play appropriately.
What if your puppy doesn't enjoy socializing? This is the best part. Because we don't expect every dog to enjoy other dogs company. Just like people, they can be introverts or be dog selective. And that is okay. Which brings us to the bigger question...
But is socialization really important?
It's a widely debated topic, like almost everything in the dog world. Most owners have a vision of being able to take their dogs out to the dog park and allowing them to run and play without incident. Or dream of being able to let their dog into their yard without having to worry about their pup losing their mind over the neighbors dogs. Or being able to take your dog out for an enjoyable walk where your dog isn't trying to dislocate your arm while screaming at another pup passing by.
Puppies have a very small window of exposure- though the timeline varies depending on your sources- but the general consensus is from 6 weeks to 16 weeks. This is the time you want to socialize your pup, get them out and expose them to as much as you safely can. It is going to help you reduce your puppies anxiety and grow their confidence as they grow older.
What if I socialized my puppy within the window and they still don't like other dogs?
There is a huge difference in being Dog social and dog tolerant. It isn't realistic to expect your dog to like everyone. Not being dog social is not a flaw. If they don't like other dogs, we aren't going to force it.
What we work on at Least the Muttro pups is making it possible for your dog to function at the sight of another dog. Maybe ignoring them while on leash or just allowing the neighbors dogs to be outside at the same time in quiet.
So while your dog may not play in the daycare, they will learn to settle and handle the stress of sharing space with other dogs in safe environment.