There is a lot to learn when a new puppy or kitten joins a family – for pet and humans both! The first few months of your puppy or kitten’s life are an important time of physical and mental development, in which socialization plays a key role in helping your new pet adapt to life in the family. Proper socialization will reduce the chance of an animal developing fearful or aggressive behavior towards unfamiliar people or objects. Remember, experiences your pet have during their socialization period will impact them for the rest of their lives.
What is Socialization?
Socialization is the process of exposing a puppy or kitten to a variety of people, places, objects, and environments that they will encounter throughout their life. This allows them to learn that new things are not to be feared or avoided, and instead encourages them to explore. Animals lacking this socialization are more prone to responding to new things with fear or aggression, which can lead to difficulty coping with different environments.
Puppies and kittens go through a critical socialization period, when they are most open to learning about and interacting with the world around them. This period is between 3 and 14 weeks of age in puppies and 3 and 9 weeks of age in kittens. During this time they should be exposed to as many new and positive experiences as possible, as this will help them to grow into a confident and relaxed member of the family.
The key to ensuring your pet gets the most out of socialization is to expose them to new environments and stimuli only when you can control the experience and ensure that it is a positive one. Do not allow them in situations where they may become hurt or frightened, as this will make them fearful and anxious in those situations later in life. Using treats, praise, and play can help make experience as enjoyable as possible, and will encourage them to explore new things in the future.
Make sure to only expose your pet to friendly people and animals, and keep a close eye on them to ensure there are no negative reactions to the experience. Puppy and kitten socialization classes are a great way for your pet to beintroduced to novel stimuli in a safe and controlled environment. Not only will they learn how to interact with a variety of people and animals, but it’s a fun experience for everyone!
Practice Makes Perfect
Socialization also includes getting your pet used to being handled by people, such as being picked up, brushed, and having their legs or paws touched. This is also a good time to get your pet used to being handled like they would be in a veterinary clinic – play with and hold onto their paws, move their lips, touch their gums, and look inside their ears, much like a vet would when examining them. You can also teach them to accept being placed in a variety of positions (such as on their side or back) by gently rolling them over when they are lying down. Practicing these things in your own home will make the experience less stressful for your pet when they have to go for check-ups or vaccinations. Do not scold your puppy or kitten if they struggle or resist, simply take more time to allow them to relax in these situations, and ensure you give them lots of praise and rewards for being calm. This will go a long way to make your vet visits an enjoyable experience for you and your pet.
Cats need socialization too! Many cats lack exposure to environments outside of their home, which can cause them to be fearful when put in new situations. This is one of the main reasons why cats are so anxious when traveling in a car or visiting the vet clinic. Allowing your cat to explore new places while they are young will help them be more relaxed in these environments as adults.
Teach your kitten to be comfortable in a carrier by putting treats and toys inside the carrier and closing the cat in it for short periods of time. Leave the carrier out at all times so that they can use it for sleeping/resting, that way it is familiar to them. You can gradually lengthen the amount of time your cat is in the carrier as they get used to being inside it. Take them on short car trips as well so they can get used to the feeling of being in a moving car, which will make the task of transporting them in the future a lot less stressful. Bring them to vet clinics so they can get used to the sights, sounds, and smells so they will not be as fearful of them later in life.
Socialization plays a vital role in your puppy or kitten’s development. Ensuring your pet gets lots of exposure to a wide variety of experiences when they are young will go a long way in helping them grow into a happy, calm adult.
For more great tips about puppy and kitten socialization, visit the following links: