How to Socialize a Puppy
The first four months of a puppy's life are crucial for their learning and development, which is why proper socialization at an early age is so important. Puppy socialization consists of gradually introducing your pup to other dogs, people, and places so they can better acclimate to life around them. It's the key to a confident, well-behaved dog!
Not to mention, stressful experiences at a young age can negatively impact your dog's behavior, making them nervous, scared, or even aggressive—so take it one paw at a time! Read on to learn how to socialize a puppy.
Step #1: Ensure Your Pup is VaccinatedBefore your puppy can be around other dogs, they should be fully vaccinated to avoid illness. In fact, it's a good idea to find a veterinarian before your newest family member even arrives home! A typical puppy vaccination schedule begins at about six weeks of age and continues every three to four weeks until all shots are received. Vaccinations are then given annually, or as you and your veterinarian decide.
Core vaccines for dogs prevent canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies. Because they prepare the body to fight off possible contagious disease, these immunizations are considered vital. Non-core vaccines are given based on risk of exposure (such as where you live). Common non-core vaccines exist for Bordetella, canine influenza, leptospirosis, and Lyme disease. Your veterinarian can help determine which non-core vaccinations are necessary.
Step #2: Introduce Them to People
Although your puppy should not meet other dogs until they're fully vaccinated, they can be introduced to humans in the meantime!
The more friendly people your dog meets, the more comfortable they will be meeting new faces down the road. It is best for your puppy to socialize in a controlled environment, such as a familiar home or fenced-in yard. Also, make sure everyone who interacts with your pup knows how to do so in a positive manner. It is especially important to establish basic rules before introducing your new dog to children.
Step #3: Introduce Them to Other Dogs After Vaccinations
Finally! Puppies can be around other dogs once they've received their vaccinations. It is crucial for your pup to socialize with different dogs so they learn how to get along with others. Dogs who do not socialize as puppies sometimes have a tough time "speaking dog" due to fear or aggression problems. To keep the experience positive, only let your puppy interact with familiar, non-aggressive dogs.
You should be especially mindful when encountering unfamiliar dogs at the veterinary office. After all, some dogs may be visiting due to an illness. When visiting the vet, carry your puppy into the office and keep them in your lap or a crate.
Step #4: Play Puppy Socialization Games
Puppy socialization games are a great way to teach your furry friend how rewarding it can feel to approach new people and be handled. Giving treats as encouragement during puppy training helps foster progress; just remember to check feeding guidelines to ensure you don't over-treat!
If you're in a group, one socialization game option is "Pass the Puppy." Here's how to play:
- Give each person a small amount of training treats, such as Healthy Edibles® Chewy Bites (these bites can be easily broken in half for more treating occasions!).
- The first person picks up the puppy and properly holds them, supporting their rear end.
- Each time the puppy allows the person to touch a paw, an ear, or their tail, the pup gets a treat.
- The puppy is passed to the next person and the same routine is repeated.
Another game to play with your puppy involves everyone sitting in a circle. Place your furry friend in the middle, then:
- The first person calls the puppy to "come" while holding out a small training treat.
- Once the puppy comes toward them, the first person gives the puppy their treat plus plenty of praise and affection.
- Someone else in the circle goes next and repeats the process.
When it comes to puppy socialization, many pet parents don't know where to begin. Fur-tunately, by following our tips on how to socialize a puppy, your newest companion will be ready to take on the world in no time!