Socialization is one of the most important things you can do for your Jack Russell puppy. Introducing him to the world in a controlled environment is key to raising a well-behaved, happy and friendly dog. Socializing is familiarization of your JRT puppy with different people, children, other dogs, animals and getting them used to all kinds of environments, sounds, smells and situations.
But be aware that bad socialization is worse than no socialization at all, because it leads a puppy to become fearful, shy or aggressive, or maybe all of these. Bad socialization also includes non-intended bad socialization, or, in other words, good intention isn’t a guarantee of good socialization. For socialization to be successful it needs to be done in a proper way.
I suppose you have read something about your little Jack Russell or you are experienced owner and you are aware that raising this small dog is a big challenge. They require a lot of socializing, regular training, patience and consistency, maybe even more so than some other breeds because of their endless amount of energy.
How to socialize a JRT puppy?
If you follow the tips and reminders below there is a great chance for you to succeed and enjoy positive consequences for the rest of your dog’s life.
• Ensure that all encounters are positive—negative encounters at this period can have life long consequences
• Start as soon as possible, from 3rd to 12th week, your puppy is very curious and keen to approach the new and unknown
• After that period, your puppy will become more cautious when facing new experiences so try even more to ensure he encounters only positive situations as this helps to strengthen learned behaviors
• Start gradually. In the beginning, start with few encounters a day; go to calmer places; meet a few people at the time. When you are sure that your puppy is feeling comfortable in these environments add more people, more dogs and busier places
• Never push your dog to meet somebody new, don’t pull him toward a stranger and don’t lift him and hand him over to a stranger. Leave some space for the dog and the necessary time for him to approach by himself
• Calmly and without reaction, leave any negative situation. Do the same if you see signs of fear and nervousness in your puppy
• If your puppy still isn’t fully vaccinated, focus on meeting people and dogs that you are sure are healthy and fully vaccinated
• Find a good socializing class – it can help you learn how to handle a puppy and to teach a puppy to pay attention to you, not only to the things he wants to do. However, have in mind that socializing class isn’t enough. Training in your free time what you learned in socializing class is the fastest way to have a well socialized dog
• Have in mind that your puppy needs a lot of rest and it can be overwhelmed easily, so always monitor your puppy’s behavior and body posture
• Start training your puppy with effective positive methods to teach your dog how to behave and to trust you
• Don’t let your puppy misbehave in any way because you think at that time it is cute. If you would think your adult dog shouldn’t behave in the same way, don’t let your puppy behave that way
• Use short commands and always use same command for same behavior. Encourage others to use same the commands so as not to confuse the puppy
• Meet toddlers, children, teenagers, adult men and women of various ages, elderly people
• Meet calm people, energetic people, loud people, but all positive toward dogs!
• Meet people from different ethnic groups
• Meet disabled people
• Meet different working people, like the mail man delivery men
• Meet different dogs—puppies and adults, small and big dogs, hairy and short-haired dogs, but all puppy-friendly dogs!
• Introduce your little Jack Russell to other animals—cats, hamsters, rabbits, birds, horses… –Have in mind that you have a hunting dog with strong instincts, so don’t let your puppy chase other animals
• Introduce your Jack Russell puppy to all kind of surfaces—wet grass, dried grass, tarmac, ground, gravel, sand…
• Take your puppy to the city center and to the countryside
• Take your puppy for a walk in all kinds of weather – sunny, rainy, warm, cold…
• Introduce your JRT puppy to all kind of floor textures—wooden floors, tiles, carpets, stone, shiny floors, slippery floors, stairs
• Introduce your puppy to home appliances—vacuum cleaner, washing machine, phone, hair drier and anything with a strange noise
• Introduce your puppy to different kind of smells and noises
• Introduce your puppy to all kind of vehicles—cars (driving in the car and calmly passing by), mopeds and motorbikes, buses and trucks, trams and subway (if dogs are allowed to enter) bicycles, skateboards, people on roller blades
• Introduce your puppy to grooming, bathing and nail clipping
• Examine your puppy like a veterinarian would—checking his teeth and ears, paws and belly…
• Always supervise puppy’s encounters and play; don’t let play get too rough
• Take your dog to shops that allow dogs to enter. If you can take your puppy to the office, teach him how to behave there
Maybe at this time this list seems long, but these are all just everyday life situations with the accent on positive, and always be mindful that you are doing this for the dog’s good and for your own good.
As you probably took your puppy from its litter when it was 6 to 8 weeks old, you have less time to socialize and you have to put more effort into it. This is even more important if your puppy wasn’t socialized or was poorly socialized in the litter.
In this period you’ll build foundations for your dog’s personality so be sure that all situations and experiences are positive. If your puppy faces only positive encounters it is more likely that he will grow into a fearless and friendly dog. Of course you have to ensure that your puppy has as many positive encounters as possible even after this period because his personality is developing all the time until he is about one year old.
Without proper socialization a puppy is more likely to grow into a shy, anxious, fearful and possibly aggressive dog which doesn’t have happy and positive life. Anxious, fearful and aggressive dogs are more unpredictable than well socialized and trained dogs, so they are more likely to be abandoned.
When my little JRT puppy arrived home, I was more than happy, she instantly became the center of my world. I took her everywhere where dogs were allowed to go. She went with me (and still goes) to the office, when meeting with my friends, and to visit family. I knew that, this way, she would be introduced to adults of different ages, older people, children, both toddlers and older children, teenagers, to calm people and some loud people.
One thing they all had in common was that all of them love dogs and most of them have their own dogs which are all good and friendly dogs. That was a great way to start introducing her to the other dogs before she was fully vaccinated. I always had at least one eye on her, monitoring that she was behaving well and to be sure that she was happy and relaxed. On signs of her being tired I either put her in my lap so she could have a nap or we went home.
After she had been fully vaccinated we started exploring the outside world and meeting other people and dogs that seemed friendly and also we signed up for a socialization class. As we did everything stated above, she grew into a well-behaved, trusted and friendly dog that I could take anywhere. That was exactly what I imagined from the moment Kala entered my life.
Which of these tips do you like best, and what other tips could you add to my list? Or perhaps you could share your experience on raising a well behaved JRT, let me know in the comments…
If you’r interested you can read more about potty training for Jack Russell puppies in my article.