Getting a new puppy is an incredible time for you and your family. There are also a long list of things to consider such as house training, exercise, crate training, obedience and much more! Maybe the most important thing you can do for your pup is socialization…and LOTS of it.
What is socialization
The period from 2-to-12 weeks is critical. If puppies have not been exposed to a good variety of people, experiences, and noises during this time, then they will have a harder time adjusting to new experiences later on. Lack of socialization can result in behaviors that are the major causes that dogs end up in shelters.
For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recommends that puppies be socialized before the vaccine series is complete. Its guidelines state that puppies can start socialization classes as early as 7-to-8 weeks of age. As a rule, they should receive a minimum of one set of vaccines at least 7 days prior to the first class, as well as a first deworming. The training school should ensure that all the puppies in the class are up-to-date on vaccines and that the facility is clean, so the risk of catching anything is very small.
Socialization involves more than meeting lots of people and other dogs. It includes exposure to sights, sounds, and textures that your dog will encounter throughout his life. Help your puppy learn to take new things in stride. Here are a few things he should be exposed to before he’s 16 weeks old:
- People running, biking, or skating past him
- People in wheelchairs, with walkers or with crutches
- Different surfaces: shiny floors, gravel, wobbly footing
- Plastic bags
- Banging pots and pans
- Vacuum cleaners and brooms
- Lawn mowers
- Umbrellas, tents
- Heights (such as being on a grooming table)
- The wind blowing
- Rain, sprinklers, garden hoses
- Cars and trucks going by
- Riding in the car
- Other dogs and animals
Find some retail stores that allow dogs to come inside. A great place for puppies to meet men is in a home improvement store, especially on weekdays. There will be contractors and tradesmen who will welcome a puppy-petting break. A shopping mall is another good place to see different people and maybe even a crazy toy demonstration at a kiosk.
Going to the vet can be stressful, so make it fun. Call to see if you can stop in for a quick visit to the waiting area when your puppy doesn’t need any shots. Take treats to give your pup, and ask the staff to give the puppy some treats, too.
You probably have things around the house that can be useful in socializing your puppy. Get out your Halloween costumes, funny hats, and winter clothing. Dole out extra special treats while wearing them. Talk in a cheerful voice and don’t force an interaction. Your puppy may not be fazed at all, but if she is, put the scary item on the floor with treats scattered around it. She’ll figure out that it’s nothing to worry about.
Balancing exposure and safety
This is the tricky part because your pups immune system hasn’t full developed so they’re not ready to be set free to meet every dog quite yet. Dog parks for example are a BAD idea with a new puppy, diseases like Canine Parvovirus are extremely contagious and transmitted easily between dogs.
Exposure to other dogs is extremely important so if you know a dog who’s fully vaccinated and well behaved, you can setup some supervised playtime with them. Check with your vet to ensure it’s ok beforehand, they will know if cases of parvovirus are common in your area and give you some guidance.
Since there’s no rules here, you might have to think outside the box for socializing your pup. Echo, our new puppy has been with us for a week now and we’ve been bringing him to one retail store a day. Check ahead with the store if a young puppy is allowed, place them on a towel or blanket and let them sit in the shopping cart. Everyone loves a puppy, so there’s usually not a lack of people wanting to stop and pet your new best friend.
Here’s a list of some ideas to try and remember, your priority is keeping your pup safe so don’t let them run on the floor. It’s important to remember to allow them to retreat if they get overwhelmed. Work with your puppy to make sure they’re comfortable in any situation and watch them closely to see if they’re struggling. If they are, remove them from the situation and try again with some high value treats. You should be able to spot some weaknesses and use those as things to work on.
The earlier and more often you can socialize your new puppy, the more confident they’ll be in different situations and easier their life will be later on.
- Retail stores
- Pet stores
- Play date with healthy and well known, well behaved dogs
- Human visitors
- Coffee Shops