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  • Writer's pictureCaryl Wolff

Why Puppy Socialization, Habituation and Enrichment are Important

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

Why Puppy Socialization, Habituation and Enrichment are Important

When a puppy is born, he does not know that he is a dog. It must be learned through the process we call pri­mary social­iza­tion. He must also learn how to inter­act with humans and other ani­mals and also to be com­fort­able in his environment. That’s why puppy socialization, habituation, and enrichment are important while he is a puppy.

Puppy social­iza­tion (interacting with canines and other species) and habit­u­a­tion (by environmental enrichment and expos­ing pup­pies to new sit­u­a­tions and their adapt­ing to it before puberty) are impor­tant because pup­pies who are not well social­ized and habit­u­ated before 16 weeks old will not reach their full poten­tial as adult dogs, the ulti­mate result being that pup­pies will not grow up to be a behav­iorally fit dogs.

I work with a lot of rescued and adopted dogs. Many times their owners say that their dog has been abused since it acts so fearful or aggressive in novel situations. That may be true, but another possibility is that their dog did not go through proper socialization when it was a puppy.

There are cer­tain peri­ods in a dog’s life which are sen­si­tive peri­ods, dur­ing which a lit­tle learn­ing goes a long way, and that learn­ing influ­ences his future behav­ior with both ben­e­fi­cial and dam­ag­ing effects. We are con­cen­trat­ing on that learn­ing here.

A dog’s ulti­mate tem­pera­ment is deter­mined by his genes and how he is raised. Breed­ers can con­trol whether they want to tem­pera­ment to be a part of their breed­ing pro­gram. How both breed­ers and own­ers raise the pup­pies for the first 16 weeks of their lives has a tremen­dous influ­ence on whether the pup­pies will become well-adjusted and behav­iorally fit adult dogs because pup­pies are, essen­tially, a clean slate. The small amounts of time in giv­ing pup­pies pos­i­tive early learn­ing expe­ri­ences will influ­ence and will have a dra­matic impact later on.

How pup­pies act as adults is determined by

  • The tem­pera­ment of the dam/mother

  • How the dam acts towards peo­ple, events, and other dogs

  • How peo­ple inter­act with the puppy

  • The age at which the puppy is sep­a­rated from its mother and litter

  • How many peo­ple, places, events, sounds, sights, and loca­tions thepuppy has been intro­duced to before 16 weeks.

If a puppy is not does not have proper social­iza­tion and habit­u­a­tion, it will never reach its poten­tial and will likely be

  • Shy or timid

  • Fear­ful of any­thing new, both peo­ple and events

  • Aggres­sive

  • Unable to relate or com­mu­ni­cate with other dogs

  • Med­ically unsound (Since he is in a state of stress and anx­i­ety, his body will not have the energy to fight off illnesses)

This was an excerpt from my book Puppy Socialization – An Insider’s Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness. There are hundreds of suggestions on puppy socialization both for the breeder and the pet parent.

Thanks for visiting Why Puppy Socialization, Habituation and Enrichment are Important. I make a small commission on any products or books I recommend.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It does not replace a consultation with a dog trainer, dog behavior consultant, or veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog.

If you need help with puppy or dog training, we do both private in-person and virtual lessons via Zoom. Please contact us by calling or texting (310) 804-2392 or sending an email to . We look forward to working with you.


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