Want your adorable puppy to grow into a well-adjusted and confident adult dog? Focusing on early socialization is the most important thing you can do after you bring your new puppy home.
Here's what you need to know about socializing your new puppy.
1. Get started right away
In their first 12-16 weeks of life, your puppy’s brain is a little sponge, primed to be curious about all the new things they encounter. Thereafter, they start to develop a natural adult suspicion of novelty. If you don’t take advantage of this critical socialization window, it may never be as easy to help your dog feel comfortable in the world.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recommends socializing puppies before they are fully vaccinated.
Start right away at home. You can begin outside adventures 7 days after your puppy’s first set of vaccinations, but take precautions, like watching the world go by from the safety of a picnic blanket in the park, instead of on the grass.
2. Keep it positive
You want your puppy to learn that new friends, places and objects are safe – or even awesome! If your puppy feels worried or overwhelmed, they likely won’t just “get used to it”, and your socialization efforts could end up having the opposite effect.
Pair new experiences with something your puppy already loves, like food or play. This will allow them to transfer the positive feelings they have about food and play, to the new things they encounter. The sound of garbage trucks predicts something yummy! The vet’s office is a safe place for a fun game!
3. Be careful with meeting and greeting
Where possible, avoid holding your puppy in your arms when they meet new people and dogs. That way, you can observe whether your pup’s body language is saying “yay” or “nay” about their new friend, and your puppy has the choice to opt out. Advocate for your puppy and move away if they seem uncomfortable.
Practice not saying hi. We often hear from people with teenage dogs, asking, “How do I stop my dog trying to greet everyone!” Avoid the issue altogether by spending plenty of your puppy’s socialization time showing them that exciting stuff comes from their own human when other dogs and people are around.
4. Think beyond dogs and people
Don’t be fooled by the word “social”; it’s equally important for your puppy to have positive first encounters with the objects, places and sounds in their world. Dogs often have strong feelings about things like skateboards, thunder, alone time, or nail trims, but careful socialization can prevent many of these challenges before they develop.
There are plenty of great puppy socialization checklists – use them as inspiration, rather than a prescription. Prioritize the things that will be the most impactful for your life with your dog. What kinds of activities will you do together? In what kinds of environments will they need to feel comfortable?
5. Get nerdy with these great books
Learn more about dog body language. Your puppy is an individual, and being able to read their subtle stress signals will help you proceed with socialization at a pace that’s comfortable for them. We think that every pet parent should own a copy of Doggie Language.
We highly recommend Puppy Socialization by Marge Rogers and Eileen Anderson; the detailed How To instructions and excellent videos will set you and your puppy up for socialization success.
Team up with a professional
It’s a great idea to take a puppy class, but ensure the trainer is knowledgeable about positive reinforcement and committed to protecting your puppy from bad experiences during this critical time.
A force-free trainer can also coach you on how to ensure your puppy’s first experiences are happy ones, especially with things they might find a little scary. Some trainers (like us!) will even take your puppy on an enjoyable socialization outing while you are at work, to make the most of your puppy’s all-important first few months.
Come play with us!
Are you ready to take the next step towards a confident and well-behaved furry family member?
Fluff in the Forest is partnering with the Renfrew Park Community Centre this summer to host puppy socialization sessions with certified trainer, Kaeli Grotz. Find out more, or register now: July Puppy Play and Learn. August Puppy Play and Learn.
We also offer private training to help you survive potty-training, biting and other common puppy challenges. Email us at email@example.com!