Canine Puppy: Sociability with Humans
You might be reading this because you just got a new puppy, or you have found your puppy has a problem being around new people.
Generally, when people bring home a new puppy it is about eight to ten weeks old. I prefer bringing one home around twelve weeks old. Those first twelve weeks in a puppy's life is critical and they learn a lot. Like playing and interacting with the littermates and the mother correcting when she needs too.
Sociability is the desire to be around other individuals. At approximately seven to twelve weeks of age this is a good time to start letting them interact with new people in a safe environment. Flooding a puppy with too many people could be overwhelming. Take time with a friend and put the puppy down on the floor and observe if the puppy wants to interact with the person. The puppy needs to have the agency to make a choice if they want to interact with the person. By putting the puppy on the floor gives the puppy an opportunity to approach or walk away from the person. A puppy should feel safe and have good experiences around new people. Some people will pet, and others may offer a treat.
You might observe the puppy walked away from a person and now is the time to think about the interaction. What caused this? Don't overlook anything, it is up to you to slowly help your puppy with their fears. Does the person have a rough voice? What about something like a cane or wheelchair? What about the environment? This is your time to help your puppy. Don't force them on the person for a start. Because the puppy is letting you know they are scared of this person.
Think about your plan to meeting new people. Set up a positive experience for the interaction. You may be going to a friend's home and there will be about three new people there don't force the puppy to interact with anyone. Take your time and ask a person to sit down with you and do some one-on-one interactions. Do this individually with each person. If all goes well then allow your puppy to interact on their own with the new people.
Don't think your puppy is naturally aggressive just because they have shown fear to a new person. There is a difference between reactivity and aggression. Reactivity is an overreaction to a stimulus such as a person, object or another animal. Aggression is the intent to cause harm.
If you find yourself stuck in training now is the time to contact a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant or Certified Dog Trainer. Consulting with one could really help you on your journey with your new puppy.
Mecca Curtice, CDBC, CCDT, CTDI
© 2023 Mecca Curtice