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Socializing Your Puppy

Socializing your puppy is the key to ensuring you’ll have a happy, confident, and well-adjusted dog. Below, learn the best time to socialize your puppy, how to do it right, and why it’s important.

When to Socialize Your Puppy

During your puppy’s first three months of life, he will experience a socialization period that will permanently shape his future personality and how he will react to his environment as an adult dog. Gently exposing him to a wide variety of people, places, and situations now makes a huge, permanent difference in his temperament.

When you buy a puppy from a responsible breeder, the socialization process should start before you even bring your puppy home. Gentle handling by the breeder in the first several weeks of your puppy’s life is helpful in the development of a friendly, confident dog. As early as 3 weeks of age, puppies may begin to approach a person who is passively observing them, so having a knowledgeable breeder who encourages a positive experience with people – adults and children — will help shape the puppy’s adult behavior. As their puppies develop, good breeders allow them to experience safe inside and outside environments, car rides, crates, sounds, smells, and gentle handling.

Why Socialize Your Puppy

The idea behind socialization is that you want to help your puppy become acclimated to all types of sights, sounds, and smells in a positive manner. Proper socialization can prevent a dog from being fearful of children, for example, or of riding in a car, and it will help him develop into a well-mannered, happy companion.

Having a dog who is well adjusted and confident can even go as far as to save his life one day. According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, improper socialization can lead to behavior problems later in life. The organization’s position statement on socialization reads: “Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.” Start taking your dog out to public places once your veterinarian says it is safe, and he’ll learn to behave in a variety of situations and to enjoy interacting with different people.


How to Socialize Your Puppy

As mentioned earlier, your breeder will start the socialization process as early as the puppy’s first few days of life, by gently handling him and allowing him to explore his surroundings. But when the puppy comes home with you, the crucial socialization period continues, so your job is to keep the process going. Here are the basic steps to follow:

  • Introduce the puppy to new sights, sounds, and smells: To a puppy, the whole world is new, strange, and unusual, so think of everything he encounters as an opportunity to make a new, positive association. Try to come up with as many different types of people, places, noises, and textures as you can and expose your puppy to them. That means, for instance, have him walk on carpet, hardwood, tile, and linoleum floors; have him meet a person in a wheelchair or using a cane, children, a person with a beard, wearing sunglasses, using an umbrella, or wearing a hood. Think of it as a scavenger hunt. Here’s a comprehe