puppy socialization: get out & experience the world!

One of the biggest challenges trainers face is helping dog owners understand the importance of socialization. Socializing your puppy is not hard – and is it incredibly important to developing a well-balanced, happy, stress-free dog and good companion.

Puppies have a very short window for effective socialization; generally between 4 and 16 weeks of age. Her brain is most receptive and the development of her personality is largely influenced by experiences that take place during this short period.

The socialization process starts while the puppy is still with her mother and her litter mates. Mom will get her started through body language, scents and sounds. Her brothers and sisters will aid in the process by teaching her how to communicate, play and be a part of the family.

Since puppies are with their moms and siblings for the first 8 weeks or so, breeders play a critical role in socialization. Breeders will introduce puppies they are raising by handling them, getting them familiar with human scents, and exposing young puppies the “people” sounds. Some great breeders take socialization a step further by beginning early obedience training and behaviors.

At 8 weeks old (ideally) your puppy comes to her new, permanent home. Continuing socialization is now up to you! And, when done properly, can be fun for you and your new puppy! Socialization is not just about introducing the puppy to people and other dogs. It’s about places, sounds, objects, other animals. The car, the vet’s office, the park… The vacuum! Good socialization provides the groundwork for a great dog! A dog that is sure of herself and is not fearful or anxious is easier to train, easier to live with and makes a great member of the family.

So, how do you do it? Below is a Basic Socialization Checklist of things and experiences that will help you socialize your puppy. As you enjoy these new experiences with your puppy please be sure to never put your puppy in harm’s way. Also, talk with your vet about safeguarding the puppy’s health to prevent injury or illness.

  • Touch: Be certain to touch your pup from head to toe daily. Gently place your fingertip inside the mouth and ears. Lift the tail and touch the hindquarters, too. Talk softly and gently stroke the pup. When the pup looks forward to your touch, let other family members, and then supervised friends – especially children, do the same thing.
  • Car rides: Hopefully, your breeder has already taken the pups for a car ride – – to the vet for a thorough check-up and for additional rides around the neighborhood. It is important to start with short rides and gradually increase the length of time your pup is in the car. This can make for a great traveling companion and eliminate carsickness.
  • Grooming: As soon as your pup arrives home, have practice grooming sessions. Gently comb and brush the coat and lift each foot. Have your vet, or his technician, demonstrate the proper way to cut your pup’s toenails and brush its teeth.Bath time need not be a struggle. Discuss frequency and choice of shampoos with your groomer or vet. Oftentimes, a clean rag dipped in warm water can freshen up a puppy. Be certain your pup doesn’t catch a chill and bathe it indoors unless it is a very warm, summer day.
  • The proper introduction to a grooming routine can eliminate lifelong fears and phobias for your pet. If your pet will be dried with a commercial blower, this is the time to introduce noise and the airflow. Be careful: the sensitive skin of a young puppy requires “air only” or “very low” temperatures from your own blow-dryer.
  • The Vet: Make an appointment for your first vet check as soon as possible after bringing the puppy home. Should any problems be evident, notify your breeder immediately. Unless you are giving immunizations at home, the pup will quickly learn a trip to the veterinarian is not pleasant. De-program your pup by making some of those car rides fun trips to the vet – – a quick hello to a friendly receptionist or technician and passing out favorite treats can soon have any pup happy to pull into “that” parking lot.
  • Noise: Do not isolate your pup from loud noises. Make certain to start softly and gradually increase noise levels. Having your pup in its crate or pen while watching television or listening to music is a great way to begin. Encourage your pet to accept the banging of pots and pans in the kitchen, etc.
  • Traffic: Start by walking your pup on a street with only a few, intermittent cars and gradually stair-step to where the pup is walking past loud motorcycles, 18-wheelers and honking car horns. NEVER ATTEMPT TO TEST THE PUP BY SEEING JUST HOW FAR YOU CAN PUSH EXPOSURE.
  • Crowds: Start by having one person approach the pup. The next outing, perhaps two people will approach – – one after another. Again, build gradually until your pup can sit outside a movie theater or an elementary school and watch the world go by and be accepting of repeated contacts, one after another, with strangers. Be certain to bring lots of treats and pass them out to strangers to ensure each encounter comes with a built-in reward.
  • People: We come in all shapes and sizes. Be sure to expose your pup to a variety of people. This means carefully planned introductions to people of all ages – male and female, a variety of races and ethnic backgrounds, short, tall, thin, obese, soprano voices and loud laughs. Get the picture? Your pup also needs to learn that people may wear hats, carry purses, open umbrellas, ride bikes, etc. Remember to give lots of positive encouragement and rewards for success.
  • Other Animals: Puppyhood is a great time to discover ducks, bunnies, horses, cows, chickens and whatever else your dog may encounter as an adult. Take your pup out and about, on leash, and walk by farms where these animals can be seen and smelled. Many scientists and dog trainers believe that the introduction to farm animals is important.Plan a short car trip to the country and be encouraging while walking the pup past FENCED farm animals. Make certain the pup and the livestock are safe. Keep the exposure short and praise and reward your pup for being curious and accepting.Socialization may sound like a lot of work; but really, it isn’t. It is a game plan for having fun with your pup and introducing her to the world she lives in. Being with your pup for training, exploring and bonding is FUN.

PS: Remember to carry lots of treats and share them with people your pup will be meeting on these journeys.

Bookmark and Share

Leave a Reply