Early socialization is incredibly important. We know that puppies exposed to stimuli they will meet as an adult are almost without exception more confident outgoing adult dogs, they suffer from less anxiety based behavioural issues and have far fewer cases of aggression.
But how do we "socialize" a puppy?
Socialization is the gentle and pleasurable exposure to things your dog will see, hear and smell as an adult dog. The experience must be enjoyable for the puppy as the puppy will remember unpleasant experiences with the same permanence. Here is an example list of things and people which you will ideally socialize your puppy with several times at least before they are 16 weeks old.
- Children (including toddlers & babies if possible)
- Teenagers and young adults
- Handicapped (people using wheelchairs, canes and walkers too)
- Tall people
- Short people
- Men with beards/moustache/facial hair
- People wearing hats
- People with different colour skin/complexion
- Men with deep voices
- Women & children with high voices
- Women/girls with flowing skirts
- Dogs of all types, Breeds and Ages
- The Park - Try a daily walk to your local park, or your nearest dog park if your pup has a reliable recall (i.e. 'comes' when called). You can even 'kill two birds with one stone', by sitting on the ground or on a bench near where children are playing. Feed Fido tasty treats while he watches the kids run and play, and hears their shouts and squeals. This will help him build positive feelings about being around children.
- The Beach - If you have a dog-friendly beach near you, it can be a great addition to your list of outings. The feel of the water and sand (be careful when it's really hot though, as little Fido can easily burn the pads of his feet on hot sand) and the sound of the waves and seagulls, are all new and interesting to him.
Try a short hike through your local woodlands, nature park or nature reserve. The sounds of the birds, twigs snapping and all the fascinating scents will keep Fido enthralled.
- Local Sports Event - You probably don't want to try a big football game, but a trip to the local youth soccer fields or baseball diamond is a great way to socialize your puppy. The talking, cheering, shouting and all the action on the field, provide a great opportunity for puppy socialization.
- Vet's office
- Local farm or stables
- Street fair
- Outdoor cafe or coffee shop
- Supermarket car park
- Doggy Day Care
- Dog Obedience School
- Pet supply store
- Skateboard park
Puppy Socialization - Things
- Noisy or moving appliances (e.g. vacuum, washing machine, blender etc.)
- Stairs and steps
- Television & radio
- Cars, trucks & amp; buses
- Riding IN a car, truck or bus!
- Police/Ambulance/Fire-engine sirens
- Skateboards and/or roller skates
- Long grass
- Gravel paths
- Letter Boxes
- Phone Boxes
- Bin Bags all piled up
- Large outdoor umbrellas
- Balloons (singular and big groups of them)
- Wheelchairs, canes & walkers
- Wind & rain
- Rivers, Streams and the ocean
Have fun thinking of all the exciting things you can do with your puppy, and be sure to give her plenty of treats and praise whenever she reacts with confidence in a new situation, or when faced with new people or objects.