Is your pet shy or a social butterfly? Many experts say that they key to having a well-behaved dog or cat is socialization — here's how to get started.
Veterinarians can tell if an animal has been socialized the moment they walk into an exam room.
“Some animals come bounding up and are happy to see me and everyone in the waiting room,” says Bonnie V. Beaver, DVM, professor in the department of small animal clinical sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, and past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “Others hide behind their owner and don’t want to come out. Life is stressful for them.”
And socialization helps make the difference. When puppies and kittens are introduced to a variety of people, other animals, and environments during the first several weeks of life, they tend to do better, and have less stress and fewer problems later on.
Think about everything your pet will be exposed to during life: different people, animals, places, situations, cars, noises, and smells. When they’re puppies or kittens, they take new experiences with stride. But as they get older they quickly start to become nervous and scared when confronted with something or someone new.
Why Socialize Your Pet?
Animals are preprogrammed to become fearful of people and things that aren’t part of their everyday life so they react appropriately when they are in danger. But you can introduce a new dog or new cat to a variety of situations when it’s very young so it doesn’t live its life afraid of straying from its neighborhood or meeting new people.
When you do, your pet will be more laid back and can enjoy life. Pets are also safer once they’re socialized because they’re less likely to react in a fearful or aggressive way when they’re faced with something new.
How To Socialize Your Pet
The key to socializing dogs and cats is to start very young and to introduce your new dog or new cat to as many different things as you can. Here’s what to do:
Check out this checklist of things to expose your dog to.
Kittens can also be socialized by having people come to your house or by bringing your kitten to other people’s houses, although it’s better to visit someone who doesn’t already have a cat.
When you’re ready to begin socializing your dog or cat, keep in mind these tips for success:
Socializing dogs and cats this way ensures that they’re better adjusted as adults and may be easier to train because they’re less distracted by fear, Beaver says.
Source: Everyday Health / Marie Suszynski
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