How Do You Socialize a Puppy?


What is puppy socialization? If you ask people what they think puppy socialization is all about, the majority will tell you it’s about getting out and meeting as many people and other dogs as possible. Surprisingly, this is only a small piece to puppy socialization and even this thought isn’t completely accurate.

So, what is puppy socialization? I’m glad you asked. This topic is a passion of mine. When I used to do a lot of behavior work, I found that about 90% of my behavior client’s dogs were experiencing behavior problems due to the lack of socialization and/or improper socialization. I want to set you and your puppy up for success so you can work towards having a confident, resilient dog and avoid heartache later.

Your puppy’s critical socialization period is up to 16 weeks and even that isn’t a drop-dead number. Your puppy’s critical socialization period may even start to close as early as 13 weeks. Are you panicking? I don’t want you to panic. My goal is for you to be informed and to provide accurate advice so you can make the most of your puppy’s socialization window (Note: even when your puppy’s critical socialization period is over, you’re still not done socializing. I have information on that in an upcoming issue… stay tuned! See, I told you not to panic).

Back to what socialization is

Socialization is about POSTIVELY introducing your puppy to places, textures, sounds, different “things”, and yes, people and other dogs. However, socialization does not mean running up to every person and dog you meet (there is behavior fallout associated with this and we will talk about it in and upcoming issue).

Here is an outline of my suggested puppy socialization plan:

  • Aim for 5 new places to take your puppy each week
  • Associate good things with new stimulus (treats and play)
  • Let your puppy observe theworld from afar (watching and taking things in from a distance is a key part of socialization)
  • Do NOT let you puppy run up to every dog and person they see
  • Only let your puppy interact with healthy, dog-friendly dogs
  • Never force your puppy to interact with anything/anyone they are unsure of
  • Go at your puppy’s pace
  • Take note of anything your puppy is unsure of so you know the areas you need to work on building more confidence

It’s about quality, not quantity- your puppy will have a better socialization outing if they go to a park and only see some people vs going to a little league baseball game where there is a big crowd.

Dose socializing your puppy mean you won’t have any behavior problems? No, there are no guarantees. Despite everything right and your puppy could still develop behavior challenges. Genetics play a huge roll in who our puppy will be. The goal is to stack the deck in our puppy’s favor.

As you can see from the information I provided and with the hints of information in upcoming issues of The Doggie Dish, there are many layers to puppy socialization.

Have fun with your puppy and I will see you next week for another edition of The Doggie Dish.

And now, a final tip on puppy socialization:

You can add to your socialization plan by doing things in your own home.

Change things around in a room so they aren’t always the same- move an ottoman to the middle of the room, put a delivery box in the hallway, put the vacuum in the kitchen, put some garden spinners in parts of your backyard. Switching up the environment helps your puppy acclimate to new things and helps you build towards creating a confident canine.

Looking for guidance to navigate through puppyhood? Book your free Discovery Session to share your puppy predicaments and learn how we can help you achieve your goals. Yes, I want to get my puppy started off on the right paw.