Introduction to Puppy Socialization Checklist
Puppy socialization is one of the most important and underestimated parts of raising a dog, getting your puppy’s socialization right or wrong, can make or break so many important behaviors for the rest of their life.
Socializing your puppy is the key to ensuring you’ll have a happy, confident, and well-adjusted dog and a well-socialized puppy create a behaved, relaxed, safer dog.
If your puppy is comfortable in a wider variety of situations, they’re less likely to use aggression in moments of fear, not socializing your puppy can lead to dangerous situations in the future.
Teaching them to be well-behaved around other animals and humans.
Socialization helps your puppy be comfortable in new environments and keeps them confident in new situations.
The first three months of your puppy’s life are important for their development your puppy needs to be exposed to new sights, sounds, and textures.
Letting children play with your puppy, in a controlled setting, and getting a variety of people to play with your puppy helps as well.
Socializing your puppy means teaching them to be well-behaved around other animals and humans.
It helps your puppy be comfortable in new environments and keeps them confident in new situations.
It is also the process of introducing a puppy to the world in a way that will help him be confident and unafraid of people, places, and things that he will encounter throughout his life.
The most critical socialization window occurs before the age of 12 weeks, and that window is considered to be closing by 5 months.
Generally, the younger the puppy is when he is socialized, the more quickly and easily he gains confidence.
Waiting too long can result in a need for the more difficult process of rehabilitation instead of socialization.
Most aggression issues are simply a result of inefficient socialization.
There are different methods of puppy socialization: at home, in classes, or in puppy playdates and socializing your new puppy also requires more than meeting new people and dogs.
When to Socialize Your Puppy
During your puppy’s first three months of life, he will experience a socialization period that will permanently shape his future personality and how he will react to his environment as an adult dog.
Gently exposing him to a wide variety of people, places, and situations now makes a huge, permanent difference in his temperament.
When you buy a puppy from a responsible breeder, the socialization process should start before you even bring your puppy home.
Gentle handling by the breeder in the first several weeks of your puppy’s life is helpful in the development of a friendly, confident dog.
As early as 3 weeks of age, puppies may begin to approach a person who is passively observing them, so having a knowledgeable breeder who encourages a positive experience with people adults and children will help shape the puppy’s adult behavior.
As their puppies develop, good breeders allow them to experience safe inside and outside environments, car rides, crates, sounds, smells, and gentle handling.
Why Socialize Your Puppy
The idea behind socialization is that you want to help your puppy become acclimated to all types of sights, sounds, and smells in a positive manner.
Proper socialization can prevent a dog from being fearful of children, for example, or of riding in a car, and it will help him develop into a well-mannered, happy companion.
Having a dog who is well adjusted and confident can even go as far as to save his life one day. Improper socialization can lead to behavior problems later in life.
The organization’s position statement on socialization reads: behavioral issues/behavioral problems, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.”
Start taking your dog out to public places once your veterinarian says it is safe, and he’ll learn to behave in a variety of situations and to enjoy interacting with different people.
Rules Socializing your puppy
When socializing your puppy make sure to take it slow and be aware of your puppy’s limits, make the interactions positive and give plenty of treats and praise.
Everything is new to your puppy, so every encounter is an opportunity to make a positive association.
Every socialization exposure must be fun
If he is forced to confront fears he’s not ready to handle, the process can backfire and create a fearful/aggressive response.
Go at his pace, and at a distance, he feels safe and your puppy should be the one to initiate each approach to something new and be allowed to retreat when needed to feel safe.
Though your puppy may be fine with the toddlers or dogs in your home, that does not mean he is fine with all children and dogs even if he is in a class, he will need to meet new and different dogs and people, and in different places, after his classmates and their owners become familiar to him.
You need to continue to expose him to new things, places, and contexts to best generalize his confidence with new things.
Pair treats with exposures
If your puppy is worried about those children he sees running across the street, it can help if the sight of the children makes cheese suddenly appear or if he doesn’t like her paws touched, a brief touch followed by a lick of peanut butter from a spoon can make paw touches easier to handle.
If he will not take food, that is a good indication that you need to back up and lower the intensity of the exposure with more distance or less pressure.
How To Socialize Your Puppy
Socializing your puppy by introducing your puppy to different people, social dogs, other social animals, different sounds, different environments, trips, and different locations
Handling your pup, handle your pup so he gets used to having his toes, ears and other body parts touched.
Dogs aren’t born used to being handled and we need to teach them, give treats after handling.
Visit your vet’s office just for puppy treats, make special trips to your vet.
Ask your vet to give your puppy a treat when you visit.
Start puppy socializing classes, find a puppy socializing class and start classes right away, if your puppy is not well, speak with your vet before going to class.
Give puppy playtime by himself, give your pup some toys and let him play by himself and this may help with over-attachment to you.
Puppies need crate or confinement training, teach your pup he has a safe place to go sleep or just to get away from things he doesn’t like.
Give him choice, for example, if he doesn’t want to be in the room when the kids are playing or visitors are over, let him go to his crate.
Forcing him to stay may make him anxious or afraid of the people you’re trying to socialize him with.
Your goal is for your puppy to have many different experiences during his first three months.
Make sure he has good experiences and use rewards to help him build strong associations.
What if I don’t socialize with my pup?
Puppies who are not socialized during their “sensitive period” may be fearful and aggressive.
If they have no experience with different things or people, they can end up afraid of them.
Socializing older puppies, the window for socializing closes at about 12 weeks.
You can still help an older dog get used to new things, but they may never be completely comfortable.
Your breeder will start the socialization process as early as the puppy’s first few days of life, by gently handling him and allowing him to explore his surroundings.
But when the puppy comes home with you, the crucial socialization period continues, so your job is to keep the process going.
Introduce the puppy to new sights, sounds, and smells
To a puppy owner, the whole world is new, strange, and unusual, so think of everything he encounters as an opportunity to make a new, positive association.
Try to come up with as many different types of people, places, noises, and textures as you can and expose your puppy to them.
That means, for instance, have him walk on carpet, hardwood, tile, and linoleum floors; have him meet a person in a wheelchair or using a cane, children, a person with a beard, wearing sunglasses, using an umbrella, or wearing a hood.
Think of it as a scavenger hunt.
Make it positive
Most importantly, when introducing all of these new experiences to your puppy, make sure he’s getting an appropriate amount of treats and praise so that he associates what he’s being exposed to and the feeling of seeing something new as a fun experience.
Don’t forget to break the treats into small pieces that will be easy for your puppy to digest.
Also, don’t be stressed yourself dogs can read our emotions, so if you’re nervous when introducing your puppy to an older dog, for example, your puppy will be nervous, too, and may become fearful of other dogs in the future.
Involve the family
By having different people take part in the socialization process, you’re continuously moving the puppy during his early puppy socialization out of his comfort zone, letting him know that he might experience something new no matter who he’s with.
Make it a fun game for the kids by having them write down a list of everything new the puppy experienced that day while with them, such as “someone in a baseball cap” or “a police siren.”
Take baby steps
Try to avoid doing too much too fast, if you want your puppy to get accustomed to being handled by multiple people he doesn’t know, start with a few family members and slowly integrate one stranger, then two, and so on.
Starting this process by taking your puppy to a huge party or a very busy public place can be overwhelming and result in a fearful response to groups of strangers in the future.
Take it public
Once your puppy is used to the small number of stimuli, move outside of his comfort zone to expand the number of new experiences he’ll have.
Take him to the pet store after he’s started his vaccination series, over to a friend’s house to check his animal behavior during his puppy training, on different streets in the neighborhood to know his socialization process is good, and so on.
At 7 to 10 days after he’s received his full series of puppy vaccination, it’s safe to take him to the dog park.