Helpful Tips on How and When to Socialize a Puppy

BeverlyHills_iStock_000021173698_Large (2)Puppies are often some of the friendliest, most curious animals around, so it is understandable why you might want to show your new puppy to the world. And, indeed it is essential to show puppies the world, too. Exposing puppies to new people, pets, and places, so that they grow into confident, well-adjusted adult dogs, is one of the most important things you can do as pet parent.

However, there are some risks associated with early socialization. Thankfully, these can be avoided if you understand the right time and approach.

Timing is Everything: When to Socialize a Puppy

As soon as your puppy gets his cute nose twitching over a smell or begins to explore the home and yard with interest, you may wonder if it is time to begin socialization.

One of the most important stages of your puppy’s development occurs between the ages of 8-12 weeks. This is when fears are imprinted and critical learning takes place that will later serve to guide behavior and determine emotional wellbeing.

It is, however, important that socialization which includes exposing the puppy to other animals happens only after he or she has been fully vaccinated. The good news is that you can start introducing new objects and handling by members of the family as early as 4 weeks, gradually adding more adventures in the socialization process.

Socialization Principles and Tips

To help you begin socializing your new puppy, here are some recommended ways to do so that are safe and effective.

  • As soon as you get your puppy, find a place in the home where most activities occur and set up his bed and crate there (rather than an area that is seldom used).
  • Encourage as much interaction as possible, inviting family members, including kids, to gently pet and hold the puppy.
  • Introduce items in the home that are typically associated with noise fears, such as the vacuum, doorbell, loud laughter on a favorite comedy, and so forth.
  • Slowly introduce other healthy, vaccinated pets in the home through supervised sniffing visits, increasing time together as your puppy grows.
  • Start introducing basic commands during these play times, such as “sit”, “stay”, and “drop it” – and be sure to positively reinforce his successful response with a training treat or verbal praise.
  • Begin to expose your dog to healthy, strange puppies or smaller adult dogs.
  • You may also wish to sign your sweet pup up for some professional training classes, which are great places for controlled socialization.
  • If roughhousing or bullying occurs, intervene. Some rowdy playtime is healthy and actually helps your pet learn important canine cues – just make sure neither dog becomes fearful or overly aggressive.
  • Continue to use positive reinforcement with your puppy when he follows cues and plays well with other pets.
  • As you begin to loose-leash train your dog, keep in mind safety and ask if other dog owners are OK with a greeting (some dogs are too aggressive for an introduction).
  • Work on those important cues while out at the park or on walk, since you will often encounter the occasional chase-worthy squirrel. It will also help him remember not to jump up or become too excitable around others.
  • Stay calm and maintain consistency in the leash pressure and your verbal commands. Whenever your puppy “forgets” to walk at the correct pace and begins to pull, stop, use the “sit” command, and resume when you have his attention again.

There are many ways to begin the important socialization process with your puppy. As any puppy guardian knows, to a puppy the world is exploding with wonderful sights, sounds, and smells.

During your puppy’s important wellness examination, your friends at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates are more than happen to provide more information and tips on training, socialization, and puppy health.