Socializing Your Puppy 

Puppies are such a blessing...and such a responsibility.  What you do with your puppy now, and what you expose him to, will help determine how he approaches life and all its adventures in the future!  The first step to socializing your pup is simply to grab him and go:  get out of the house, go for walks, visit friends, take your puppy everywhere he is allowed to go with you!  Don't forget to reward him for positive behaviors while out and about, like staying calm yet curious around new people, pets, and in new situations.  

Here are some ideas to help you and your pup be successful in your socializing journey:

*  Enroll your puppy in a puppy training class!   Life is busy and many people find that enrolling in a class (and paying for it!) helps them to make certain they get out of the house with their puppy at least once a week.  {Though, ideally, getting outside every day should be the goal during your puppy's early life!}

*  Make a list of all the things you imagine your puppy might be see and experience during his life and attempt to get him exposed to all those things!  This doesn't need to be exhaustive by any means, but keep in mind even mundane tasks and experiences, like baths, nail trims, and vet visits.  Make sure you include all ages and sizes of people too, basically all the diversity of people that you can access in your community!  A simple walk in a popular park can often cover many bases in just one shot.

*  Do your best to ensure puppy's early experiences are positive ones!  If your puppy is food-motivated, make sure to keep treats handy for when visitors come over or when out for a walk or to the store or vet.  Watch for any behaviors you find acceptable and reward them!  If you find your puppy tends to ignore treats, especially in new or exciting situations, work to encourage play with toys and make a special toy part of your outings, so your pup can still be rewarded even if he doesn't always want a treat.

*  Pay attention to your puppy and work to build a relationship!  Notice what your dog seems to really enjoy, but also take note of the things you dog seems to dislike too.  Become a student of your dog's body language, especially when interacting with other dogs.  Learn what excites your dog, as well as his favorite ways to settle down.  

*  If you see behaviors that are worrisome, such as excessive and ongoing fear or aggression, seek the help of a professional dog trainer immediately!  Do NOT simply hope he "outgrows" any such challenges, they will need to be addressed at a young age for the best chance at a happy, well-adjusted adult dog.

Common concerns...

"But it's freezing outside, can't we just stay in???"

Winter can be rough, no doubt about it!  Keeping your dog cooped up for the winter, especially when young and during his critical time for socialization, just isn't an option though.  Seek opportunities to get your dog out of the house, yet remain indoors--go to pet supply stores, homes of friends and family that welcome your four-footed family member, look for well-managed doggie play groups with similarly minded, responsible pet owners like yourself.  Or get you pup some cold weather gear and continue with your walks and outside activities, just watch for signs that your puppy is too cold or uncomfortable to continue.  Come Spring, you will be rewarded with a happy, curious dog just as eager to get out and enjoy the sunshine as you!

"Can't I just take him to the dog park???"

Many believe dog parks are simply the wrong environment for pit bulls, of any age.  The case can be made that positive socialization experiences can happen at a dog park, but proceeding with extreme caution is recommended when it comes to dog parks and pit bulls.  Too often, fellow dog owners do not properly supervise their dogs, yet are quick to blame other dogs and their owners for perceived short-comings.  A better option might be to surround yourself with fellow dog-owners who you know are responsible and caring, as yourself, and set up play dates/play groups.  

"I'm tired after a long day, can't I just let him play in the yard for a bit???"

If your puppy is like most pit bulls, YOU are his greatest reward and he wants to spend time with you.  Yards are great to have, but they are no substitute for spending time with your dog and taking him places where he can experience all the fun things life has to offer.  

Bottom line...

Properly socializing your puppy takes a strong commitment and a good amount of effort.  Thankfully, it can also be a lot of fun!  Providing the right socialization will help ensure that your puppy grows into an adult dog who can handle new and strange stimuli with relative ease and will be a joy to be around in any situation.  Put simply, socializing your puppy is an investment in both you and your dog's future!