I recently read a piece on puppy socialization that I thought made a lot of sense. It’s the Rule of Sevens. It says that by the time your puppy is 7 weeks old it should be exposed to the following situations:
- Been in 7 different, safe locations
- Eaten from 7 different containers
- Met at least 7 different people
- Ridden at least 7 miles in a car
- Been in a crate at least 7 times (more is better)
- Played with 7 different kinds of toys
- Been exposed to 7 different contexts
- Been played with or taken somewhere alone, without mom or litter mates, 7 different times
I found the Rule of 7s in Brenda Aloff’s book, Aggression in Dogs: Practical Management, Prevention & Behaviour Modification. Her point was that the majority of aggression cases she sees in dogs can be traced to a lack of adequate socialization in puppies.
Good breeders actively socialize their puppies
Most puppies are 8-10 weeks old before they are removed from the litter. At this point, the crucial puppy socialization period is well under way. It’s very important for breeders to be proactive in socializing their litters to ensure that the pups will be confident, relaxed and good with other dogs, people and children. Ask a lot of questions before choosing a puppy from a breeder. What have they done to socialize the puppies? Is the mother of the pups good with other people and dogs?
The critical socialization period continues for several weeks. During this time be very careful to expose your puppy to new situations. Take it slow and make sure it is a positive experience. Offer your puppy treats and monitor its reaction when exposing it to new situations. A well socialized pup will be a better behaved adult dog that will be easier and safer to handle.