How to Help Your Puppy Love Everyone & Everything!

Socialization for Puppies

What is Socialization? 

Socialization is the process of exposing your puppy to a wide variety of people, places, sounds, tastes, smells and animals to help them become confident adults. The critical socialization period is between four and sixteen weeks of age, although socializing should continue through to adulthood and the rest of their life. Without socializing puppies are likely to develop permanent, and possibly debilitating, fears as an adult. 

Common Misunderstandings 

  • “We have two dogs so our puppy is socialized to dogs”

Puppies need to visit 5 new places, meet 25 new people and 8 new dogs every week for proper socialization according to Dr. Ian Dunbar. And that is just the minimum! Although your pup may love their sibling, they need to get out and meet other dogs and people. 

  • “You can socialize a dog at any age, so there is no rush.”

You can socialize a dog at any age, but it gets much harder as they get older and form opinions about what is safe and not safe. The best and most effective time is between 4-16 weeks of age because your dog is a fairly blank canvas, at this age their brain goes through the most growth and learning is at it’s easiest.

  • “Socializing my puppy will ensure they do not become reactive.”

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees when it comes to behaviour. “Meet Your Dog” is a wonderful book that created the acronym “LEGS” . It uses the acronym to explain the four pillars of animal behaviour; learning, a dog’s experiencegenetics and self. As you can see we are a part of the process but we do not control or have an affect on all of the pillars, some are already established when we first meet our furry friends. Although not a guarantee, socializing will drastically improve your dog’s chances of becoming a confident adult.

Safety First

Puppies are at greater risk for disease, so it is important to choose safer socializing activities until they are fully vaccinated. Here are some great options:

  • Attend puppy classes (sometimes called puppy kindergarten or socializing classes) for puppies under 16 weeks. 
  • Set up puppy parties at your home for friends, family and neighbours to visit your puppy. Ask them to remove their shoes and wash their hands before coming inside. Also ask them to stay away if they, or their own pets, are sick. 
  • Walk across the street from fenced dog parks to socialize without coming into contact with unknown dogs.

Socializing Basics

  • Make it Positive: Help your dog learn that all the things it meets are great by giving them food or praise each time they look at something. They see a dog? Awesome! Given them a piece of kibble.
  • Puppy Pace: Let your pup set the pace for socializing. Learn to read their body language and ensure they are happy as you work together. If your dog is showing stress or fear, connect with a certified dog trainer for extra help.
  • Stay Calm: Dogs have an amazing ability to pick up on our emotions. Do your best to stay calm and positive when socializing. If you are worried, they will be worried. 

Kristen’s Favourite Books on Puppy Socialization

  • Puppy Culture DVD series by Jane Killion
  • Puppy Start Right: Foundation training for the companion dog by Kenneth Martin
  • Blueprint to a Happy Dog by Norma Jeanne Laurette & Greg Ceci
  • Before and after you get your puppy Dr. Ian Dunbar

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