Socializing Your Pet: The Basics for Puppies and Kittens
Why are some dogs and cats eager to meet new people and do new things while others hide, run away, or even become aggressive? Some of it’s due to breed, but socialization also plays a role.
At Bayside Animal Hospital, we believe in the positive effects of actively socializing your pet. In addition to making your pet happier, socialization also prevents many unwanted behaviors. Let’s take a moment to review other reasons why socializing your pet is a wonderful investment of time and energy.
What is Puppy and Kitten Socialization?
Socializing your pet means actively exposing them to other animals, people, and new experiences in a positive manner. Done at the proper time and in the proper manner, socialization can build confidence in your puppy or kitten, strengthen your bond, and reduce the likelihood of certain problem behaviors.
When Should Socialization Begin?
Due to the unique developmental stages of puppies and kittens, the window of socialization can vary. The following are general guidelines:
- Begin puppy socialization in the first 3 months of life, but make sure not to separate a puppy from its mother or littermates too early.
- Begin kitten socialization in the first 3-4 months of life.
- Both puppies and kittens should be fully vaccinated before venturing out and about; you can (and should) do much of your beginning socialization at home.
Socializing Your Pet
Here are some other helpful tips for socializing your pet:
- Introduce new things gradually. Never push your pet to the point they become scared. Fear is hard to unlearn.
- Begin by helping your pet get used to your touch. Run your hands over their body, handle the ears, gently open the mouth, and touch their paws and nails. These positive experiences will make it easier to trim nails, clean ears, and brush teeth later on.
- Try to control each aspect of a new experience for your pet by starting at home.
- Invite one friend over at a time to greet your new pet in a friendly way.
- Use treats, toys, play, and positive words to reinforce a positive association with a new experience.
- Do the same with children and properly vaccinated pets.
- Attend a puppy or kitten kindergarten class to help gradually expose your pet to a variety of new things in a controlled environment.
- Once your pet is comfortable meeting people at home or in class, start venturing out.
- Your can help socialize your pet to the car, vet, groomer, or other places that allow pets.
- Beginning socialization should take place over the course of a few weeks. Be sure to introduce your pet to men, women, and children of all ages, sizes, and races. Don’t forget people who use wheelchairs, walkers, or canes, as well.
- The great outdoors. Because dogs tend to accompany us outside more often, spend extra time acclimating your puppy to things like stairs, different walking surfaces, and topographical features like fountains and foot bridges.
- Dog park don’ts. Don’t take your puppy to the dog park before they’ve been fully vaccinated. Ask us when might be a good time. You don’t want to expose your puppy to stray or sick dogs, and some contagious diseases can live in the soil for months or even years.
- Keep it going. Don’t stop socializing your puppy at the 12-month milestone. New experiences are important throughout puppyhood and their entire adult life.
- Kitten kindergarten. Many people take their puppies to puppy class, but kitten kindergarten is just starting to grow. In these classes, kittens learn to be comfortable around other animals and are introduced to a variety of people, places, and sounds.
- The carrier. One barrier that prevents many owners from bringing their cat in regularly is that dreaded ride in the car. However, by making the carrier a warm, safe, and inviting place from the beginning, this problem goes away. Keep your kitten’s carrier out at all times, and invite them to rest inside it regularly. Add a warm blanket, treats, and a favorite toy.
We hope these tips for socializing your pet are helpful. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We look forward to meeting your new puppy or kitten soon!
We Our Clients
Dr. Given, Tami, Joy, and the rest of the staff were amazingly helpful when I called and needed to bring my dog in the same day because he was bitten by another dog. They were extremely accommodating, fast, informative, and so sweet to my dog. They made things as easy as possible for us. — Erin Moeller
The Bayside staff and vets always take such good care of our dogs. We appreciate how friendly and thorough everyone is in ensuring the best care for our pets. — Scott Warner
Dr. Shepherd & his staff are awesome!!! He is always there when my animals need him no matter what & they just love him! We wouldn't go anywhere else! :) — Mindy Taylor
Friendly staff, great service and Dr. Thornburg is excellent at what she does. A+ Rating — Maria Franklin