What Do We Mean When We Say “Socialize Your Puppy”?

Puppy socialization, socialize your puppy

What Do We Mean When Trainers Say “Socialize Your Puppy”?

If you’ve ever brought home a new puppy, you’ve probably heard that socialization is very important. Maybe you have a new puppy right now and are hearing this. But what do dog trainers mean when they say to “socialize your puppy’? Here’s the nitty gritty of it!

Puppies Need New Experiences by 6 Months OldPuppy socialization

New puppies need to experience everything you want them to be comfortable with in their lifetime by the time they reach 6 months, whenever possible! It’s a lot of work, but the time you spend socializing your puppy will pay huge dividends over the course of their life! Exposing your puppy to new experiences and helping them navigate them with confidence will build a confident puppy, which will build a confident dog. Confident dogs are predictable in new situations, less likely to become fearful or aggressive in their lifetimes, and more stable overall.

Puppy Socialization 101

When you hear socialize your puppy, you probably think they need to meet other dogs, meet other people and go new places. That’s absolutely true, but it’s just the start! From the time you first bring your puppy home you can start working on socializing him or her!

Socializing a Puppy Between 8 and 12-15 Weeks of Age

From 8 weeks to 12-15 weeks old, puppy socializing should concentrate on meeting new people and visiting new places. Your puppy should have 3 rounds of puppy vaccines before being exposed to areas where a number of dogs visit, or where they could come in contact with unvaccinated or potentially ill dogs. These vaccines usually take place at 6-8 weeks, 9-11 weeks, and 12-15 weeks.

Introduce your puppy to:

  • Kids of different ages
  • Older people
  • People with different skin tones
  • People that move, smell and sound differently than the people in your householdPuppy socialization, socializing your puppy
  • People that want to engage with your puppy and people that just walk by
  • People with hats, beards or hoods up

You also need to take your puppy new places, with an emphasis exposing your puppy to:

  • Sounds they don’t hear at home, or don’t hear at home often
  • New smells
  • New textures
  • New objects
  • Various types of flooring

Dog friendly stores, restaurants and parks are a great place to do this. Fleet supply stores and garden centers can offer a variety of new smells and sights, usually with few other dog interactions. Playgrounds are an amazing place to find lots of new objects and textures! Limit socialization with other dogs to dogs you know are healthy, fully vaccinated, and friendly so your puppy has positive experiences at this influential age.

NOTE: We do not recommend dog parks for dogs of any age, but especially puppies that aren’t fully vaccinated. Dog parks can be a hotbed for transmittable diseases for your dog, and dangerous when we don’t know the level of socialization or training for the other dogs visiting. One bad experience at a dog park could lead to a lifetime of behavioral consequences.

Socializing a Puppy 12 Weeks to 6 Months

Once your puppy is 12-15 weeks old, he or she should have all 3 rounds of the recommended puppy vaccinations. At this point, socialization with dogs outside your household should become more of a priority. We strongly, strongly recommend a puppy socialization class like the one you’ll find at Copper Pines Boarding & Training Center in Osakis. This is a class that allows puppies under 6 months to freely socialize with each other, and with other humans, under the supervision of the training team. The class should also start some basic obedience and manners training. The socialization in classes like this help puppies learn how to engage and communicate with others in a natural way – a skill they’ll need for all of their future interactions with dogs.

At this age you’ll want to expand your socialization goals to include: puppy socialization, socializing your puppy

  • Different Species of Animals
  • Different Types of Touching/Handling – for example, things your groomer and veterinarian may need to do
  • Meeting Friendly, Vaccinated and Healthy Dogs

0-6 Months, a Critical Socialization Period

Start socializing your puppy as soon as it’s safe to do so and continue to expose him or her to new things through the first 6 months of their life. This is the most formative period. If your puppy reaches 6 months old having only become familiar with your family and your dogs, the world is going to be a very scary place.

It’s Not Just About the Trip

When you’re taking your puppy new places to cross all these things off of your socialization checklist, it’s not just about showing up at the new place, taking a spin around, then loading back up. It’s about getting your puppy comfortable, getting their attention on you, and keeping their attention on you through the visit. Most visits to new places will need to be short – 10-15 minutes – because young puppies can’t concentrate longer than that at that age.

Bring your puppy’s favorite treats and make the visit a training session too! Practice any commands or tricks you’ve taught your puppy and practice the invaluable skill of having your puppy give more of their attention to YOU than what’s going on around them. Help your puppy navigate new and potentially scary things and places by being calm and encouraging, but not swooping in to “save” them. Encourage them to take just one step on the scary flooring, give a treat, then encourage them to take one more step. Every scary new thing or situation can be broken down into smaller baby steps that are easier for your puppy to tackle.

Need Help? We Can Guide You! puppy potty and crate training

At Off Leash K9 Training, Twin Cities and Central MN we offer a 90-minute Puppy Consultation where we get you and your puppy started on a lifelong relationship with the right paw forward! We also offer a Puppy Fundamentals socialization class at our sister company, Copper Pines Boarding & Training Center in Osakis, MN.

Having trouble with Potty or Crate training? Check out this book on Amazon, co-authored by our owner, Cassie!