Your new puppy started their canine education weeks before adoption day. The process of introducing a pup to the world to new people, animals, and places is called Socialization Training. Now, you are the trainer who is responsible for slowly exposing your puppy to sights, sounds, surfaces, foods, people, animals, and places.
Do not delay the socialization of your new puppy. It’s essential to begin immediately. The critical time period (the first 12 weeks) can be affected by prior experiences, breed, and their own unique personality. After this period, it’s more difficult to change a dog’s social behavior, how they act within their environment, with other animals, and people.
Socialization with Other Dogs
By playing with other dogs, your puppy learns hierarchy and other instinctive canine behaviors like bite inhibition, competition, and sharing. Waiting to socialize with dogs may permanently affect your puppy’s social behavioral development. That’s why the first eight weeks with their own litter is crucial. If your puppy did not live with a litter for at least eight weeks, this will affect their ability to quickly house train and learn appropriate play.
Appropriate play between puppies and adult dogs will teach how hard and long to bite. Puppies can only learn this from other dogs—first from their mother and siblings and then, from older dog friends. At first, limit the length of the visits with other dogs. Always end on a good note with friendly words and a treat.
Competition and sharing milk and toys teach your puppy that they won’t always get everything they want. It’s an important lesson to show your dog that there are times they need to wait, share, and how to appropriately ask for food, toys, and attention. As an added bonus, spending time with other dogs can help puppies understand beginner potty rules.
Most veterinarians recommend keeping your puppy away from exposure to public parks and potential disease until after completing a full series of vaccination shots (approximately three months old). Dangers your puppy can be exposed regularly include animal feces, urine, lawn fertilizer, and litter. However, attending socialization classes with other puppies after partially completing initial vaccinations does not put your dog at higher risk of disease.
Do not wait until your puppy has completed the full series of vaccinations before introducing them to new dogs. Instead, arrange weekly play dates with an older, calmer dog who is up-to-date on their vaccinations. Make sure the introduction is gentle and not overwhelming for your pup.
Go outside, in your own yard and create fun for both dogs. During dog play, your puppy will learn appropriate biting, like how long and hard is okay. An older dog will correct your puppy with a gentle verbal or physical warning when it crosses the line.
Supervise the playtime, ready to stop play before it gets out of hand. Watch your puppy’s body language and make sure they always have space to back up or run away if needed. However, don’t intervene unnecessarily. Your puppy is learning how to interact and communicate with other dogs through body language and signals.
Socialization Classes and Puppy Parties
Some research has shown a positive impact of puppy socialization classes on future adult behavior. Puppy socialization classes aren’t focused on obedience. This playtime is a practice ground for puppies to learn from each other with gentle direction from trainers.
Ultimately, attending puppy socialization classes improves the chances of good pup behavior, and people are less likely to rehome.
Socialization with People
Along with dogs, it’s important for your puppy to socialize with humans. This is critical to the formation of emotional attachment (bond) to people. Without gentle handling and a comforting voice, your puppy will lose the ability to bond with any human by 14 weeks of age.
Playing is an important component in the development of dogs. You’ll notice play barking, biting, a raised paw, and tail wagging. As your puppy grows, play becomes more elaborate and complex. All of their natural inclination toward play should be incorporated into your puppy’s training.
Take it slowly and gently when meeting new people. Expose them to people of all ages, sizes, personalities, clothing, facial hair and gear (like glasses). Dogs who meet children during socialization (3-12 weeks) do not show aggressive behavior and, in fact, have lower heart rates around kids than dogs with no exposure during this important time.
Regular visitors to your home will also need an introduction. Remember, you are not just showing off your new puppy, you are teaching the pup how to meet new people and preparing them to be confident around people for a lifetime. Mail and delivery carriers, neighbors, dog sitters, and friends will be some of the new people you should introduce to your pup.
Socialization to Places
Gradually expose your puppy to the common activities and sounds in your home. First introduce sounds from a distance, like an adjacent room. Startling sounds include hair dryer, doorbell, vacuum cleaner, and the neighborhood garbage collection. Unusual surfaces in their world may include shiny floors, concrete, staircases, and gravel.
Walk around the neighborhood with your puppy and allow them to view their new environment from a safe distance. Take a ride in your car and stop at places you frequently visit, like the post office or an outdoor café.
Age-Appropriate Socialization (0–4 Months)
- Touch, play and speak with your dog in a soothing voice.
- Introduce new people in your home and at the veterinarian clinic. Communicate your rules when meeting new people. Don’t allow anyone to scare, intimidate, or overwhelm your puppy.
- Schedule weekly play dated with healthy, vaccinated, patient dogs.
- Carry the puppy on walks using a stroller or sling. Take car rides and public transportation. Visit an outdoor café or restaurant.
- Encourage exploration by hiding treats to find and allowing them to approach people.
It’s possible that your puppy has never spent time alone before moving into your home. Warming them up to periods of time that you will be away from the home is a part of socialization training. Your puppy needs both time by themselves and time alone with you.
Without anyone at home, your puppy will eventually become comfortable alone and it will decrease the possibility of separation anxiety. If you use crate training, do not place two dogs in the same crate. Your new puppy needs to learn that it’s okay to be alone because, after a period of time, you return.
Spending one-on-one time with your puppy will build a bond and develop the language you share together. The more time spent alone with you increases the bond. If you have more than one dog in the home, build trust and a unique relationship with each pup by spending time alone daily.
Try Your Best
Try these socialization techniques to the best of your ability to best prepare your new pup to his surroundings. If you don’t have the time, classes are an excellent option. After all, if you don’t properly socialize your puppy they may become anxious, or even afraid, in novel situations for the rest of their life. Puppies want to be happy, and to make you happy, and when they’re socialized they’ll have the tools they need to do so.