Every dog owner wants their puppy to live a happy and comfortable life, and properly socializing it at the appropriate age is a great way to make this happen.
In general, socializing a puppy is crucial for maintaining its mental health, and the ideal time to do so is during the “Critical Socialization Period” which is from the age of 6 weeks to 16 weeks. This is the time when puppies are most curious. They will approach new things with interest rather than wariness. Use this to your advantage and your puppy will learn to socialize with humans, dogs, places, and situations!
This article is for you if you are a new puppy owner or are unaware of the significance of socializing puppies. As a dog trainer, I'll explain why it's important to socialize your pup and the potential mental health problems that can arise from improper socialization, so read on.
How To Properly Socialize A Puppy?
As a dog owner or puppy parent, you should begin the socialization process of your puppy as soon as it is home with you (ideally not before 8 weeks old). Even before that, your breeder should engage with the puppy by simply petting and touching it a few times per day. I've listed a few strategies for socializing your puppy down below:
Puppy socialization classes/ hiring a puppy trainer (me!)
This is one of the best and easiest ways to socialize a puppy. Take the pup to a puppy socialization class so that it can interact with other puppies, and people, and experience a variety of new things. These classes are specifically designed to provide the puppy with the confidence and awareness that it requires in life. These classes are managed by professional dog trainers and have a neat and clean environment so there is little risk of disease.
Allow them to explore
Puppies have a natural curiosity to explore their surroundings, so allow them to move freely around the house under your supervision, this will help them become accustomed to various odors, sounds, and objects in the house, as well as enable them to develop better social skills.
Handle them since birth
If you want your puppy to be extremely sociable, hold it in your hands regularly (or make sure your breeder has a socialization program instilled) starting at birth. As a result, its body will become familiar with the human touch, and as it grows, it won't be afraid of being petted or touched by others. Always wash your hands before interacting with your puppy, especially if you own multiple dogs. It doesn't hurt to request that other's do the same before they play with your puppy!
Allow them to play with more than just a couple toys
Give your puppy a lot of toys, particularly ones that can be filled with treats. Playing with toys will help your puppy develop self-soothing skills and prevent it from becoming overly attached to its owners. You can be creative with this! Place paper bags on the floor, or pots and pans to expose your puppy to new textures and noises! Fill their puppy pen or area with many things they can interact with!
What Do You Socialize A Puppy To?
You should socialize your puppy with the following:
People of all kinds
Other pets in the house including dogs, cats, birds, etc
Different sounds like a doorbell, TV sounds, fireworks and thunderstorms, etc
Different places and locations
Give them a brief ride in your car to adapt them to the vehicles and sounds on the road frequently
Dog crates (to make it easy for them for future travel)
Click here for my puppy socialization e-book checklist:
Exposure While Still Unvaccinated Or No Exposure At All Until Fully Vaccinated?
Generally, puppies that are not exposed or socialized despite being fully vaccinated have a higher chance of developing mental health issues and being rehomed or relinquished. As a dog trainer, I will recommend properly socializing your puppy even if it is not fully vaccinated because the chances of contracting an illness are far less than developing a mental health problem due to lack of exposure in puppies. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has weighed the cost of sheltering a puppy against illness to the cost of not socializing, and have determined the greater risk comes from not socializing.
To some degree, puppies are protected against certain diseases by maternal antibodies that are present in their blood at birth and are acquired from their mothers. However, to ensure that your puppy is completely safe, avoid exposing it to unvaccinated animals or puppies that have not yet received their initial round of vaccinations. Deworm and vaccinate your pup according to it's schedule, and ensure that the environment is clean and hygienic while it attends puppy socialization classes.
Need more puppy help? Join my Terror to Treasure Puppy Training Program! You'll learn a proven process and receive a customized plan for new puppy owners to reduce overwhelm, improve your puppy's behavior, and regain tranquility in your home. Imagine your WHOLE family being on the same page regarding your puppy, allowing immediate relief from nipping, chewing, and potty accidents! You'll gain confidence in what you're doing and learn how to handle your puppy by setting up your household to properly manage your new dog. You'll even learn how to take care of your dog's basic grooming needs like nail trims (saving money on vet and groomer visits).
AVSAB position statement on Puppy Socialization American veterinary ... (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2022, from https://www.avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Puppy-Socialization-Position-Statement-FINAL.pdf
jsummerfield8. (2018, July 3). Socializing your puppy: Why "later" Is too late. Dr. Jen's Dog Blog. Retrieved September 10, 2022, from https://www.drjensdogblog.com/socializing-your-puppy-why-later-is-too-late/#:~:text=Scientifically%2C%20here's%20the%20reason%20why,it%20away%20for%20the%20future.
Support, M. (n.d.). West Suburban Humane Society. WSHS. Retrieved September 10, 2022, from https://www.wshs-dg.org/resource-center/ask-the-trainer/131-ask-the-trainer/453-social-puppy#:~:text=If%20you%20follow%20this%20advice,to%20sixteen%20weeks%20of%20age.