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Dog Socialization: Pup Meets World

It's said that puppies ultimately grow into their paws, but the same can be said about their brains. Brush up on your doggie development with Groupon's study of dog socialization.

A puppy's development can be limited by the length of its leash. Veterinarians urge owners to introduce canines to as many new experiences?people, places, fellow dogs, and even inanimate objects?as possible in controlled, nonthreatening environments in a process called dog socialization.

This is particularly critical in the window between 4 and 14 weeks of age, when a puppy's brain is actively codifying proper and improper behaviors and working to distinguish safe stimuli from threatening situations. Like all other animals, dogs are most likely to misbehave or react aggressively when afraid. Whether their fear stems from the noise of a passing vehicle or the beard of a next-door neighbor, owners can help put them at ease by exposing their four-pawed friends to potentially uncomfortable situations and making them feel at ease. The more experiences, the better.

But simply taking the pup out of its comfort zone is not enough. Spending time off the leash at a dog park can be great for canine socialization, but owners must be sure to monitor their dog's behavior. Veterinarians insist that dogs be allowed to enter into new environments voluntarily, and advise owners to reinforce model behavior with treats and praise. If they respond fearfully or aggressively from any stimuli, owners should withdraw them from the situation and not return until their pup has calmed down. If the source of the fear happens to be human, owners should ask the person to step back, as this teaches the dog that it is not responsible for protecting the pack from undercover mailmen.

If this sounds like a lot to manage, most cities abound with ready-made, controlled socialization environments: obedience classes. Along with strengthening the bond between pup and owner, group classes are great venues for socialization. There, puppies can take their behavioral cues both from their owners' instructions and through modeling, as the human praise bestowed upon their well-behaved classmates encourages them to follow suit.

927 Durham Rd (suite 105)
Wake Forest,
NC
US

At Headstrong Dog Training, certified trainer Charles draws on his experience at the Animal Behavioral College to teach even the most unruly pooches to behave. Owner of four hounds himself, as well as having been the foster home for more than 30 pups in four years, Charles understands what dogs need. In his sessions, he uses positive-reinforcement techniques inside the dog's home environment, applying his knowledge of canine motivation to get dogs to change their ways.

Unknown
Wake Forest,
NC
US

At Healthy Paws Animal Hospital, licensed veterinarians and their well-trained medical staff care for pets of all stripes, including dogs, cats, rabbits, reptiles, and birds. Both of the animal hospital's locations are equipped with digital x-ray technology, onsite laboratories, and surgical facilities to handle anything from emergency care to routine medical and dental procedures and checkups.

3112 Heritage Trade Dr
Wake Forest,
NC
US

Founded in 1978, North Wake Animal Hospital is a full-service veterinary hospital in the heart of Wake Forest. Their team of five doctors and their support staff perform comprehensive annual checkups, clean teeth, or conduct surgeries to heal soft-tissue and injuries. Treatments and preventative care are tailored to each patient's specific needs, keeping pets happy and healthy.

2160 S Main St.
Wake Forest,
NC
US

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Wake County was originally founded in 1969 to transform the region into a humane area where every animal could find a home. Today, it works toward this goal by sheltering and securing the adoption of more than 3,000 animals every year and providing lost-and-found services for missing pets. The organization also supports pet owners with classes to help them care for their animals and addresses the problem of overpopulation through catch-and-release spay or neuter programs.

200 Petfinder Ln
Raleigh,
NC
US

Paws At Play supports pet owners with a variety of services from doggie daycare and cat boarding to pet grooming. During doggie daycare, pets get access to an indoor play gym, multiple outdoor play yards, and a dog pool. Overnight boarders can take advantage of these amenities before hunkering down in one of 38 private suites, which feature a window, adjustable feeding bowls, and raised bedding. The facility also boasts 18 private cat suites where felines can bask in natural sunlight and sway to the sounds of classical music. Separate ventilation systems prevent the smell of canine boarders from stressing out visiting cats.

9108 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh,
NC
US