How to socialize a puppy

When owners bring home a new puppy, they usually start training right away. The basics like sit, stay and come are very important for a well mannered pup to learn. But did you know that there are equally important aspects to training that many owners often overlook?

Socialization to people, other dogs and the world around them is key for a puppy’s mental development. When puppies are properly socialized, it helps to build confidence and eliminate fears. Socialization works to build a bond with your puppy, as well as reduce stress and anxiety from stimuli your dog may encounter as they explore their environment.

The main goal is to create positive associations and to show your puppy that these new, unfamiliar experiences are a good thing. It is important to start socialization as soon as possible and expose them to as many new things as possible. The first 14 weeks of a dog’s life are a crucial time for socialization. Proper socialization during this time will set your puppy up for success and make training easier as they grow.

Safety during socialization

Before jumping right into socialization, first consider how to do it safely. This is particularly true when beginning socialization with other dogs. Puppies are not fully vaccinated until 16 weeks of age, putting them at risk for catching deadly illnesses like parvo, distemper and rabies before that time. As a result, veterinary experts recommend waiting to socialize your puppy with unknown dogs until after they are fully vaccinated.

Since socialization is so important, it does not mean that you should keep your puppy away from ALL other dogs. Start by introducing them to dogs that you know are fully vaccinated. This can be dogs owned by trusted friends or family or seeking out puppy training classes that require proof of vaccination.

It is also important to be mindful of socializing your puppy too fast. If you see signs of growing stress and anxiety, your pup may be feeling a little overwhelmed and it may be time to bring them back to their safe space.

Where to start

The best place to begin socialization is at home. Once your pup gains confidence at home, you can build out from there. Start by introducing them to general household objects and noises. Once they’re comfortable with inanimate objects and sounds, you can start inviting people and other dogs over. Try introducing them to as many new people, dogs, noises and objects as you possibly can. This is usually not that challenging to do because who doesn’t love visiting puppies?

To create a positive association with the new stimuli, always reward your puppy after each new introduction. A reward can be anything that makes your puppy happy. This can be praise, pets, treats, or toys.

Progress outside of the home

Once your pup builds confidence in the house, it is time to move out into the world. Try taking your pup to as many places as possible. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Walking down a busy street to get them used to moving traffic and vehicle noise. Pro tip: sit at the bus stop and just watch the traffic go by, rewarding them with treats periodically. 
  2. Take them to a playground so that they can get used to interacting with children.
  3. Take them on a field trip to pet friendly stores. 
  4. Puppy kindergarten is a great place to meet other puppies the same age 
  5. Pet friendly bars and restaurants
  6. Local farmers markets 
  7. Local sports games or concerts in the park

Just ensure that every experience is a safe and positive one. Utilizing these tips will help your puppy become a well mannered and well rounded adult dog!