How to Socialize Your Puppy

Socializing your puppy at an early age is the best way to prepare them for a long, happy life as an adult.

Socializing is more than just taking your puppy to the local dog park to mingle with other dogs. It’s about introducing your puppy to new places, new smells, and even new human friends. Experts encourage pet owners to socialize your pup early, or it can lead to problems like aggression, biting, and shyness. According to WebMD, “Poorly socialized dogs are much more likely to react with fear or aggression to unfamiliar people, dogs and experiences.”

Today, we’re giving you some tips on when, and how, to properly socialize your new dog.

Socializing your puppy

PC: @heyhamlet

What is the best age to socialize your puppy?

Most experts recommended you start as soon as you get the puppy. Puppies generally leave their mothers around eight weeks, and the Dog Owner’s Guide puts the critical socialization time period between 8 and 16 weeks. Also, if your puppy hasn’t yet been vaccinated, be cautious of the environment and other dogs to which they are exposed. Once their shots are up-to-date, you can do a lot more exploring outside and with other dogs. Also, be sure to show your puppy good and positive experiences with children, other adults, smells, and sounds during this early age. If your family is adopting a puppy from a shelter who is older than 16 weeks, socialization is still important. It may take longer and require more patience, but with the right set of motivations (treats, praising, and love), your dog will learn to accept new experiences.

How do you socialize a puppy?

When socializing, think about the everyday experiences that you or your family engages in, such as going to baseball games, running errands, playing at the park, or walking around the block. These sights, smells, and human interactions (outside of the family) will broaden your dog’s view of the world. Socialization can be as simple as assisting them up a flight of stairs, or taking them around the block to experience cars or a bicycle going by. It’s important to expose them to unconventional interactions as well, like the smell of farm animals, a group of young children (supervised, of course), or your neighbor’s cat. If not socialized, dogs may act aggressively in order to drive away what is frightening or threatening them.

What experiences do you expose them to and why?

Socialize your Puppy at a coffee shop

PC: @weirdwiener

Do you live near train tracks? Will you be traveling to visit relatives in another state and would like to bring your dog along? Do you have an active family involved in sports or dance? All of these questions will lead to the right experiences to show your puppy.

Here are a few places that you can take your puppy to show her what your environment is all about:

  • Sit at the entrance of a shopping mall. Strangers will most likely greet your puppy, teaching him that strangers are okay. You can even let them give your dog treats!
  • Take your dog for short car rides. There will be times when you have to take your dog to the vet or travel, and exposing them to a car early will help with anxiety.
  • Expose your dog to an elevator and stairs, especially if you live in an apartment.
  • Operate household items like a lawn mower, weed eater, or vacuum cleaner, duster, or hair dryer when they are with you, to teach them to be safe and help with noise fears.
  • Walk them by a construction site. Think of all the noises and machinery that they will be exposed to.
  • Introduce them to friends and people of different ethnicities.
  • Have them greet a policeman or other people in uniform.
  • Take them around babies, toddlers, young children, and teenagers.
  • If you usually walk them during the day, take them for a walk in the dark at night.
  • When dogs are allowed, bring them with you to sporting events, fireworks shows, or a concert. Let your puppy get familiar with crowds, cheering, and other loud noises. Note: always keep them on a leash in crowds and around loud noises like fireworks.
  • Expose them to other animals, including cats. Consider taking your dog to a farm where he can smell a variety of animals.

Be creative! There are many ways to socialize your puppy other than the places listed above. Get your friends or family involved in the process. The goal is to help your dog assume the best when he or she meets new people, new dogs, and new places. So get out there and start exploring!

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