Whether your new puppy is a pedigreed pooch or a loveable mutt, proper socialization is important to help ensure they become a well-behaved and well-adjusted adult dog. Our team at Heritage Veterinary Clinic wants to help by providing tips that will help you socialize your puppy appropriately.

#1: Start socializing your puppy as soon as you bring them home

Puppies are most able to process and accept new experiences between 3 and 14 weeks of age. Most puppies stay with their mother until they are 8 weeks old, and hopefully, the breeder or foster family has started their socialization. You should continue their socialization lessons as soon as possible once you bring them home, to ensure they develop the necessary coping skills for handling many different situations. The lessons can be as easy as letting your puppy explore your home to become familiar with their new environment. Ensure you puppy-proof your house before letting your new addition loose to investigate.

#2: Introduce your puppy to many new experiences

Take time every day to expose your puppy to new sights, smells, sounds, and experiences. Examples include:

  • People — Introduce your puppy to young children, tall people, short people, people of different races, genders, and sizes, people wearing different clothing and accessories, and people exhibiting different hairstyles and facial hair.
  • Animals — Introduce your puppy to other dogs, cats, any other pets in your home, and livestock, if possible. Also, show your puppy wildlife, such as birds and squirrels, but don’t allow chasing them.
  • Sounds — Expose your puppy to many different sounds, such as traffic noise, babies crying, crowds, vacuum cleaner noise, thunderstorms, and television sounds.
  • Environments — Take your puppy to different neighborhoods, such as urban areas, rural settings, and suburban neighborhoods, where you can expose them to objects such as street signs, bicycles, strollers, and benches, as well as bodies of water, wooded areas, and grassy areas.
  • Scents — Give your puppy plenty of time on walks to smell their environment.
  • Experiences — Take your puppy on car rides and inside pet-friendly stores.

#3: Handle your puppy

Handling your puppy will make grooming and veterinary care much easier and less stressful for you, your puppy, and your veterinarian. Examples include:

  • Ears — Handle your puppy’s ears to make ear cleaning sessions easier when they get older.
  • Mouth — Look in your puppy’s mouth and touch their teeth and tongue to prepare them for toothbrushing.
  • Feet — Touch and hold your puppy’s paws to get them used to having their nails trimmed.
  • Belly — Find their favorite itchy spot and rub their belly, so they learn to enjoy being touched.

#4: Keep outings with your puppy short

Keep your puppy’s socialization sessions to around 10 to 15 minutes. A 10-minute walk can expose your puppy to many different new sights, sounds, and scents, and they can easily become overwhelmed and exhausted. Watch your puppy’s body language during the short sessions for indications that they are stressed or tired, such as:

  • Droopy ears
  • Stopping frequently when walking or playing
  • Yawning
  • Panting

#5: Keep your puppy’s socialization sessions positive

You want your puppy’s experience to be positive from start to finish. Bring a healthy treat supply so you can offer your puppy treats and praise when they are exposed to a new situation. If your puppy exhibits fear or anxiety, immediately separate them from the situation, and try again another day. For example, if your puppy runs when you turn on the vacuum, stop, and put the vacuum away. The following day, let your puppy sniff and investigate the machine on their own terms. When they seem fully relaxed and comfortable, turn the vacuum on for a brief period, and then gradually increase the time over the next several days that you use the machine. Never force your puppy to endure an experience, because this could result in a phobic response.

#6: Ensure your puppy’s socialization sessions are safe

Puppies start their vaccinations around 6 to 8 weeks of age, but they aren’t fully protected until they are 16 to 18 weeks old. Ensure your puppy interacts only with dogs who are fully vaccinated, and stay away from dog parks or busy streets where they may encounter other dogs’ waste material. In addition, ensure your puppy does not interact with other dogs who will act aggressively, to prevent a confrontation. Scheduling puppy playdates is a great way to introduce your puppy to an appropriate playmate without endangering their health or encountering a potential altercation. 

#7: Sign up for a puppy class

Once your puppy has started their vaccinations, a puppy class is a great way to introduce them to other puppies and people, new environments, and new experiences. These classes help your puppy understand basic commands, and also help you learn how to train your puppy appropriately. 

Socialization is an important part of your puppy’s training, and following these tips will help ensure your puppy is socialized properly. If you need to schedule your puppy’s vaccinations, contact our team at Heritage Veterinary Clinic, so we can meet them, and ensure they are protected during their puppy class.