Ah, socializing. One of my favorite things to do with my humans and their human friends. Oh, wait. You’re talking about socializing a puppy with other dogs?
Puppies smell funny and bite my tail. I’m going to have to defer to an outside source on this one.
When should you start socializing your puppy?
You should start socializing your puppy anywhere between 3 and 12 weeks. Exposing your new puppy to certain scenarios increases the success rate of developing confidence and friendliness in your pup.
Disclaimer: The Can My Dog articles contain information based on the individual research and opinions of the author of the site – who just so happens to be a dog. How you utilize the information given is completely up to you. Proceed at your own risk.
Puppy Socialization Starts Immediately (In Most Cases)
In a typical setting, a puppy is born into a litter. Here is the first touch of socialization – your puppy with his brothers and sisters.
People have a tendency to disregard this situation. But it counts. There’s even a possibility that your new puppy had the opportunity to interact with their dog parent’s humans and their kids. This is a huge benefit.
Whether you adopted your puppy baby from a breeder or a shelter, the chances that they have already initiated in some form of socialization is highly probable. So, worry not my pretty little humans. You’re more than likely off on the right foot without even knowing it.
Begin Socializing Your Puppy As Soon As You Bring Them Home
Aside from knowing and understanding the situation your new puppy just came from, socialization with you and your family begins now.
This is what you can control and monitor in terms of beginning to get to know your puppy, forming a bond, and starting to learn to communicate effectively with each other.
Senses are engaged and triggered as you start introducing sights, smells, and sounds of your home and surroundings to your puppy. This is his/her new home too, so beginning to familiarize them and increase comfort levels here is crucial.
It’s all new – for the both of you. I’ve written an entire guide for first time dog parents. If you’re at all curious, I’ll link it right here.
Anyway, limit expectations in the beginning. Let all of this transpire in a natural manner.
Supervise All Social Interactions Your Puppy Encounters
This could single handedly be one of the most, if not the most important sub-headers in this article.
I’m sure you’re aware that us dogs can be a bit picky. We get along great with some pups and seemingly despise others – for no apparent reason.
Don’t question us on this, just accept it for what it is. Some dogs smell weird and we don’t mesh. End of story.
Because of this little phenomenon though, supervision is critical. Especially when everything is new and you’re not exactly sure how your dog will react to certain other pups, smells, or situations.
Oftentimes, even if the adult dog or other puppies are getting along well with your new puppy, it can still be overwhelming to them. If the other dogs seem to be getting annoyed or are trying to play too aggressively, step in and give your puppy a break.
Again, ease your new puppy into this one little paw at a time. Throwing them in the deep end before they’ve even had a chance to touch the water is a recipe for disaster.
Which leads me to my next point…
Do NOT Force Socialization On Your Puppy
But, there’s a ‘but’.
There’s always a ‘but’.
If at any time during a socializing event, your pup seems scared, anxious, or distressed, save him – immediately. I’m not joking. Don’t try to make him/her ‘tough’ it out.
The last thing you want is to have your puppy associate other dogs with the fear they’re feeling now.
This will undoubtedly create negative associations. Not what we’re looking to accomplish here. You want your puppy baby to feel comfortable and enjoy this introductory process.
Be sure to exercise caution first in these instances and follow your pup’s cues. They will communicate their feelings to you. You’ll be able to pick up fairly quickly on their overall feeling and well being in any situation.
If you’re walking your puppy on a leash and come up on another dog, be sure to ask the other dog owner if it’s okay, and if their dog is friendly before allowing your pup to initiate a sniff party.
Slow and steady wins the race. Just ask the tortoise.
Things To Purposely Expose Your Puppy To
Overtime, your puppy should be exposed to:
- Different humans
- You in a costume (or just different types of clothing such as, hoodies, big jackets, hats, glasses, etc…)
- Grabbing their paws, touching their ears, and tails, etc…
- Other dogs
- Other animals
- Small Children
Your Puppy Counts On You For Everything
Like it or not, you are your puppy’s safe haven. It is up to you to introduce the world to your dog. Don’t take this job lightly.
Don’t forcefully push your dog into new situations. Cater to them with patience and lots of love. This world loves dogs, but show them this in a strategic manner.
Our humans make us feel safe and loved. We trust that you would never purposefully put us in dangerous or unhealthy situations. We also understand that you can’t always predict or stop these things from happening.
You may not always have the ability to control exterior circumstances and situations, but you can always be alert and prepared. Know your surroundings while your new puppy learns theirs.
I may prefer my humans to any other situation, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the occasional sprint in a circle at the park with some of my four legged acquaintances.
I may even go as far to say that wrestling my sister can be fun – only when it’s my idea. Otherwise, leave me alone, Callie. I love you, but enough is enough. 🙂
But as always, continue to Live, Love, Laugh, and Scratch our bellies often.
Love you guys,
P.S. If you’re new to this world, you may want to check out my Ultimate Guide for First Time Dog Parents. It’s a great reference to get you started on this journey.
How Do I Start Socializing My Puppy?
Since the “when” to socialize your puppy is practically immediately, now we need to look at the best methods to go about the socialization process in the best manner.
It’s important to not overcomplicate the puppy socialization process.
As a matter of fact, the steps to start socializing your puppy can be methodically broken down as follows:
- Take your puppy on daily walks (this is key).
- Expose your dog to as many people and experiences as possible – very early on.
- Try out a couple dog classes for your puppy.
- Frequent the dog park but use caution. (If your dog is uncomfortable, you may need to leave).
- Give your dog a treat every time they have a positive interaction with another dog or human.
It’s best to remember to be consistent and patient as your puppy begins their socialization journey.
Is It Too Late to Socialize My Puppy?
It is never too late to socialize your dog.
While the most opportune time and “sweet spot” is between 3 weeks and 4 months old, a senior dog can absolutely be socialized.
It’s important to pay attention to older dog’s cues in a social situation and to introduce experiences, people, and other dogs just as slow as you would a puppy.
Consistent and slow work will yield positive social results in a dog at any age.
Pro tip: Keep lots of treats on you at all times during adult or adolescent socialization. Positive reinforcement goes a long way in communicating desirable behavior to your dog!