While a balanced diet, mental stimulation, proper medical care, and frequent exercise are all required for a dog’s health, proper socialization to other dogs and people is just as important –socialization is the key to overall health, wellness, and happiness of dogs. 

Dogs that aren’t properly socialized pose a risk to not only themselves, but to everyone (and their dogs) around them. If your dog isn’t comfortable with other people, they won’t be able to be given the proper medical care in an emergency situation. If your dog attacks other dogs or people at the park, legal repercussions may occur. 

Poorly socialized dogs are often simply afraid of the unknown. If they’ve never met other people or pets before –they aren’t sure what to expect, and may fear the worst. Dogs that are afraid and have the natural “fight or flight” temperance, often experience a high heart rate and blood pressure when in new situations, which can ultimately lead to poor blood flow to the kidneys and intestines, promote muscle breakdown, and suppress overall immune system function. Of course, these symptoms can be controlled if dogs are socialized and trained into knowing that meeting new people and pets is safe and fun, and not meant to be a highly stressful situation. 

Frequent veterinarian visits are super important to making sure a dog’s overall health is well. Fearful dogs that respond aggressively may need to be muzzled, but this isn’t the best solution, as being muzzled will add to the stress of the situation, and may not produce the best/true results for any health tests being performed. 

It can be hard for vets to properly examine a dog’s heart and lungs if it’s in a fit of rage, so it may be hard to diagnose any larger rooted problems at a well visit if the dog isn’t socialized. Fear poses a greater risk to the heart, as stress and being scared can cause heart attacks. If sedation is needed, proper testing cannot be administered to check heart rates and function. 

Oftentimes, owners of un-socialized dogs are afraid to take the dogs on as many walks as they need to, for fear of running into other people and dogs, and their dog freaking out or even worse, attacking them. Not only is the dog at a greater risk from obesity due to lack of exercise, but the owner may face high medical bills if their dog attacks someone else’s. 

The best age window for socializing a dog is anywhere from three to 12 weeks old. It is vital that puppies be exposed to people and other dogs at very young ages, so that they know not to be afraid. Introducing them early to car rides and social situations such as walks and public parks, is recommended too. 

Veterinarian studies have shown that introducing a puppy to seven new social situations a week will be a great move toward a fully, properly socialized adult dog. If puppy or obedience training classes are of interest, they should be done right away. 

Needing to wait until a puppy has all of its vaccinations to start socializing it is a myth –as puppies don’t finish their vaccines until 16 weeks old, which is way too late for proper socialization. Studies have shown that puppies with at least one round of their shots, aren’t at any more of a risk than puppies with all of their shots, in a simple obedience class. 

As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local pet store if you have questions on this or any pet related topic.