How to Socialize a Puppy | Guide to Socializing Your Puppy

February 10, 2021
How to socialize a puppy

Socialize a puppy properly at an early age, and they'll grow up to be a happy, confident dog that gets along with everyone around them – people and other dogs as well. This guide will give you everything you need to know about socializing your puppy.

Socialize a Puppy as Early as Possible – First Three Months are Key

The earlier you begin to socialize a puppy, the better. The first three months are vital to permanently shaping your pup's personality and how he will behave with others as an adult dog. Safely and gently expose your puppy to new people, other pets, and different environments. However, it's important that you don't overwhelm your pup, which can backfire and result in fear, withdrawal and avoidance behavior. All in moderation.

The AVSAB recommends socializing your puppy even before they are vaccinated in order to take advantage of this early three-month window.

Benefits of Socializing Your Pup

The main goal of socializing your puppy is to help them become a well-adjusted adult dog who can calmly be around all types of sights, sounds, environmental changes, as well as get along with people and other dogs, especially strangers and dogs they do not know..

On the other hand, having a puppy who is not well socialized can actually put your dog in danger. Improper socialization can lead to behavioral problems later in life, including fear, avoidance and aggression. These behavior problems often lead to issues between the dog and owner, and are the number one cause of relinquishment to shelters. Each year, approximately 670,000 dogs are euthanized in shelters. So more than just a convenience, properly socializing your puppy may actually save their life.

How to Socialize A Puppy The Right Way

Socializing Your Puppy

Find ways to integrate the following activities into your daily life with your pup, and they will become a well-adjusted, well-socialized pup. It's nothing to be worried about. Dogs are social by nature, you just need to promote the activity early, and in the right way.

Introduce Your Puppy to New Sights, Sounds, People, Animals and Activities

Just like a human baby, to a puppy, the whole world is new, strange, and unusual (but exciting!), so think of everything he encounters as an opportunity to make a new, positive association. So make sure to regularly take him out of the house, and introduce him not only to new people and other dogs and animals, but to new activities. Some ideas:

  • Bring them around new people – family, friends and strangers
  • Unfamiliar clothing and accessories (jackets, sunglasses, hats)
  • Petting / body handling (ears, paws, tail, etc.)
  • Other pets, cats, dogs
  • Populated city areas with lots of sights and sounds (in moderation!)
  • Parks, lakes, woods, and beaches (should your dog be able to handle the temperature)
  • Take your pup on a car ride
  • Different types of flooring and ground surfaces

Of course, use common sense here, to always protect your pup. Not all people handle dogs correctly, and not all other animals have been well-socialized. Keep an eye that interaction is always friendly, and that your puppy looks okay / happy.

Make These New Interactions Something Your Puppy Looks Forward to

Bring treats along and make sure to give your puppy a treat and plenty of praise after a positive interaction / experience. This will encourage positive social behavior, and help your puppy look forward to new experiences.

Always Make Sure Your Puppy Feels Comfortable

Avoid doing too much at once. If they appear afraid or nervous at first with a new interaction, stay calm and relaxed, and talk to your puppy calmly and relaxed, as they can feed off your mood. If your puppy was doing well at first, but now seems a bit agitated, they may be overwhelmed or perhaps sleepy. Bring them back to where they are comfortable and feel safe, or try again another day, but make sure not to push it.

Take Them on Daily Walks

Besides your puppy's basic need for exercise and to burn some energy, daily walks give you many opportunities to socialize a puppy and help them become more comfortable with the world around them. From your neighbor walking their own puppy along the sidewalk, to the mailman delivering mail, to watching cars driving down the street, taking your dog on a daily walk is one of the easiest and most natural ways of socializing your puppy. Don't forget the treats!

Best Opportunity to Socialize Your Puppy = The Dog Park

While you should begin socializing your puppy as early as possible, most dog parks require that your dog have all their early vaccinations before you can visit. It's to your pup's benefit, and your own.

However, once everything is in place, there's no better way to socialize a puppy than visit the dog park. Keep them on a leash at first until they feel comfortable, and make sure they are playing nicely with other dogs. Many dog parks have a larger dog and smaller dog section. Visit the smaller dog section first, if available. Otherwise, just make sure that your puppy is playing nicely with others and vice versa.

Once you and your pup feel comfortable, you can try removing the leash and see how they play. In most cases, everything will be fine, and your puppy will have a ball (perhaps literally). However, always keep an eye on where your puppy is, and be close enough to separate your pup should things get too feisty with any other dog at the park. And remember, don't overwhelm your pup. Keep the time short and sweet at first, make sure your pup stays hydrated, and plan for your time to leave so your puppy can get it's rest and without a doubt take a much needed nap.

Note: other dog socialization can occur at the pet supply store and with arranged dog play dates.

Puppy Classes and Training

While I believe you can handle most puppy socialization yourself, if you'd like some extra help and really put your dog on the fast track to excellent behavior, you can sign them up for dog training / puppy classes.

These classes will not only help your puppy begin to understand basic commands, but give them an opportunity to interact with other email people and puppies in a monitored manner, watched over by skilled dog trainers. You can find puppy / dog training classes through local AKC training clubs and dog training facilities.

Can You Socialize An Older Dog?

If you've recently adopted an older dog from a shelter or by any other means, you're doing a good thing. However, you most likely have some concerns as to their upbringing. 

While you've missed the key socialization months, you can still help your dog associate new or fearful situations and interactions with a positive experience, it may just take longer and requires close supervision.

Dog training / obedience classes may be more important than ever in this case, should you have an older dog exhibiting some unwanted behaviors that you cannot change.

Looking For Your Own Puppy to Socialize and Make Part of Your Family?

If in the South Florida area and looking for your own puppy to socialize and bring into the family, we have puppies for sale in Miami, Aventura, Pembroke Pines and Kendall! To see all of our available puppies at Forever Love Puppies, see here! Available Puppies