So, I’m just going to say it: “puppy socialization” is a horrible term. Either you know what dog trainers actually mean when they say this or you THINK you know what they mean but you really don’t. If you’re in that second group, I can’t blame you. I propose we instead call this process PUPPY ADAPTATION. Hear me out.
The first definition of socialization that Google give me is “the activity of mixing socially with others.” This is not what dog trainers mean when we advise you to socialize your puppy. What we mean is more along the lines of the second definition that Google gives me: “the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.” But, really, even that doesn’t fully encompass what we mean.
So, what do we mean? I can’t speak for every dog trainer or canine behavior specialist, but I feel confident saying this: we want puppies to know how to FEEL and how to BEHAVE in this crazy human world.
How do we want puppies to feel? Safe, secure, confident. Not fearful or defensive. We want them to recover quickly to changes in their environments. Our goal is to help puppies develop emotional resilience.
How do we want puppies to behave? Rather than spontaneous reactions, we want them to process changes in their environments and adjust their actions accordingly. In a nutshell, we want them to have the ability to make good choices. That is, our goal is to help puppies develop behavioral flexibility.
In developmental psychology, ADAPTATION is the ability to adjust to new information and new experiences. It is through adaptation that we acquire new behaviors to enable us to endure and accept change. Isn’t that what we want for our puppies also?
So from now on, I’ll be calling this process of teaching our puppies how to feel safe and how to make good choices as PUPPY ADAPTATION. If you need some coaching on how puppy adapation should be done, I can help!