Imagine for a moment you have a four-year-old she wanted to go into a playground nearby. In that playground are 13 and 14-year-old kids and they’re playing with no supervision. Are you going to send her in? Throughout many years of asking this question I have yet to hear anyone say, “Yes.”
This is the problem, because unsupervised playgrounds are dangerous for small children and puppies and young dogs. I steer clear of them with our Jumpstart puppies and do not recommend exposing your yours to one because the lessons and experiences he will have are the opposite of those you want for him.
There are much better ways to socialize puppies than dog parks. You can learn more about Socializing Puppies Safely here. You’ll also find videos on how to introduce puppies here.
The Power of Play Dates
I do, however, recommend play dates with other puppies that are roughly the same size and have equivalent energy to your puppy. At our Jumpstart program, lots of puppy owners exchange phone numbers and meet up over the weekend with their puppies for play dates. You may find other puppy parents in your area in our Online Community and this is advantageous because both of you will have the same understanding as to what you want your puppy to learn and how far to let him go in play (see my blog post on Roughhousing in Puppies).
Early Encounters are Pivotal
It is important to manage your puppy’s early experiences, especially his social encounters as these are pivotal. If you have a young puppy or an adolescent that hasn’t been socialized well, you will notice an awkwardness in his interactions with peers. Whether or not there is anxiety or outright fear, this immaturity is due to a lack of social skills. This makes him a bit of a wild card for other puppies or dogs who cannot, “read,” him because he seems unpredictable. He appears this way because, despite his intentions otherwise, he simply doesn’t know how to engage them in socially acceptable ways.
Socializing Older Puppies – Learning to Talk Dog
The good news is that socializing older puppies is not only doable, but vitally important. Dogs can be unforgiving with each other when one doesn’t follow the, “rules of the road,” when it comes to dog-dog interactions. The sooner your puppy learns how to, “talk dog,” the better – and safer and more confident he will be in life.
To learn more about socializing your puppy safely we invite you to sign up for weekly Training Guides, and to join our Online Community where you’ll find videos and Live Q&A’s where you can get answers to your questions.