Position statements and handouts on puppy and kitten socialization are available to help owners ensure their pet is receiving adequate socialization (see Suggested Reading). Puppies can be enrolled in socialization classes, and kittens can be enrolled in kitten kindergarten. Puppies that go through socialization classes are more likely to be kept in the home as adult dogs.14 Well-designed classes provide positive exposure to new sights, sounds, and humans; a variety of surfaces; and social play. Classes can also provide pet owners with basic information on puppy or kitten ownership and address common behavior problems (eg, chewing, scratching, house training). The curriculum should include introductions to pet carriers and/or crates and information on how to safely transport pets in a vehicle.
Owners should also be encouraged to bring their pet to the clinic outside of the appointment time so the puppy or kitten can receive positive attention and treats, which can help create a positive lifetime association with the clinic. In addition, kittens and puppies should be exposed to a new human each day, with an effort made to introduce them to those in and out of uniform, with and without assistance devices, and of different sexes, races, and ages. Early, positive exposure to children is also needed because children look, sound, and move differently than adults.
Clinicians can also recommend supplements and/or pheromones that may provide behavioral support.15 In a study, puppies that wore dog-appeasing pheromone collars were rated by their owners as better socialized and faster to adapt to change.16 In addition, if abnormal behavior is observed, referral to a veterinary behaviorist may be needed for early intervention, which is more likely to result in a meaningful, positive change in long-term behavior.