Socializing your pup is a huge part in shaping your dog’s behavior for the rest of their life. The idea is to get your dog used to as many sights, smells, and sounds as possible in order for them to build positive impressions of their surroundings.
This way you’ll have a well-adjusted, confident pup who isn’t plagued with anxiety and fear – the more fearful the dog, usually the more aggressive and hard to handle.
The optimal time to socialize your pup is between 7 weeks to 4 months, but the time varies between the personality of your pooch. Some dogs will need to wait a little bit longer because of shy tendencies, whereas some are rearing and roaring to go at just 7 weeks old.
Give your new pup some space when he arrives. A new home can be extremely overwhelming, which means he could be anxious and stressed for the first few days.
The last thing you want to do is have a giant welcome home party the day your new pup arrives. The people, noises, smells, and sights can be extremely overwhelming to a puppy who doesn’t quite know how to control their senses yet.
And if your puppy has a negative first experience with that kind of intense socialization, it could be bad news for other social interactions.
First, get your pup acclimated to its new home. Let it get used to the common day-to-day interactions with family members, the smells of the new home, and the general layout.
Once your pup is acclimated, you can invite over a new family member, friend, or another vaccinated dog you trust.
This way his new interaction is in a familiar place, giving him more comfort and stability in the new communication.
You’ll also have more control over the interactions if it’s in your own home.
Make New Experiences Positive
If your pup is extremely shy and uncomfortable around a new experience, don’t force your dog to continue on. It could lead to even more anxiety, but don’t coddle your pup either if it’s having trouble.
Your pup can’t understand what you’re saying, it can only hear your tone. So if you coddle him while he’s feeling anxious, it could actually encourage the anxiety.
Instead, pay attention to their bodily cues to know when to gently pull back and move on to something else.
Signs your dog is stressed:
- Excessive yawning, drooling, or licking
- Tucked tail
- Showing gums
- Ears are rigid or flattened
- Barking and retreating
- Whale eyes
- Excessive shedding
If you notice any of the above signs, it’s a good indicator to try again another time when he’s ready.
A shaky dog with a tucked tail could mean your dog is a little too anxious in his environment. Remove him from the situation and try again later.
If your pup hasn’t been vaccinated yet, it can be very dangerous for him to wander into places where other dogs have pooped and peed.
Even so, it’s still important to socialize your dog as much as you can. Just do it in a safe way!
List of places to go for unvaccinated pups:
- Go for car rides: This way your pup will get used to riding in the car at a young age. When my dogs were pups we rode in the car with them all the time. Now, they absolutely love it! “Want to go for a ride?!” is there favorite saying next to eat time.
- Take your puppy to a trusted friend’s home: Your dog will be able to get out of the house and visit a new home, as well as meet a new human friend.
- Go on a walk in a wagon: Walks are amazing, but if your dog isn’t fully immunized it’s a good way for your pup to get sick. Put her in a wagon and let her enjoy the sights, smells, and noises from above.
- Visit dog-friendly businesses: Carry your pup into a dog-friendly cafe, Home Depot, or any other business that will allow a cute puppy. It’s a good way to get him acclimated without being dangerous to his health.
- Invite other vaccinated dogs over: If you have a trusted friend with a fully vaccinated dog, it’s a good time to invite them over to socialize your dog with another pup. Dog on dog interaction is super important.
We tried to create an as positive experience with the car as possible when my dog, Levi, was a puppy. Now he loves the car so much he hops in my front seat all the time!
List of places for fully immunized pups:
- Dog Park: This is a great place for dogs to interact with all different types of other dogs. If it’s your pup’s first time, stay close, as you’ll want to have as much control over its interactions as possible, especially since you’re around dogs you don’t know.
- Pet Store: Next time you’re on a dog food run, take your puppy with you. It’s another great place for your dog to interact with all different types of dogs, cats, and other animals.
- Puppy Kindergarten Class: Now that your pup is vaccinated, you can purchase a puppy training class. It’s a great place for your pup to learn valuable behavior training, as well as socialize with different dogs.
- Go for lots of walks: Walking is an amazing way to let loads of energy out and expose your dog to different environments. Walk on a secluded path, walk in the city with loud noises(when your dog is ready), and walk in your neighborhood where you can run into neighbors and their dogs.
- Dog-friendly businesses: This time, you can let your puppy roam (on leash of course) around cafes, hardware stores, the vet’s office, and any other dog-friendly business. Let your dog come with you when you’re running your errands, but never leave your dog alone in a hot car.
- Public places: Places like beaches, pools, parks, crowded cities, etc. Public places have a wide variety of sounds, smells, and people, which is perfect for socializing your dog. These areas should only be allowed when your dog is a veteran socializer, because it can be extremely overwhelming.
My best friend’s dog, Willow, and I. Since Willow was a puppy, her owner has taken her everywhere! Now, she’s an incredibly adventurous dog and is always included in all of our hiking trips.
How to Socialize Your New Pup with People
At first, introduce your dog to new people in a calm, neutral environment without too much noise.
Ask the new person to hold treats, so your dog approaches. Reward good interactions with the treats, but be patient! Your pup could be super excited or very shy, so reward accordingly.
Once your dog has been acclimated to adults of all different races and ages, including people in wheelchairs, with cains, etc., it’s very important to introduce children to the mix.
Children will often approach dogs quickly and without permission, so your dog will need to get used to those kinds of interactions.
You can start the process by randomly touching their paws, their collars, their ears, their nose, or wherever could be a possible trigger.
This way when a child does it unexpectedly, they won’t be as fearful.
When your dog is ready, start exposing your dog to children of all ages, especially the little ones. It’s important to teach them to be gentle around small children and babies.
And be calm! Your dog will sense your energy and replicate it, so if you’re feeling anxious, your dog will know. Stay cool, calm, and collected, and your dog will follow your lead.
Introducing your dog to children early on is very important to your dog’s ability to mesh well with hyperactive, little humans. When first introducing your pup to a child, make sure the child knows to be a little more gentle than usual.
How to Socialize Your Pup with other Dogs
Always pay attention to your dogs’ body language when introducing another dog. The interaction should be a friendly, butt-sniffing affair, but if you notice your dog or the other is showing signs of aggression, it could get dangerous for your pup.
Know the dog you’re introducing your pup to. If it’s aggressive, that’s a no-go. You want to be teaching your dog friendly, outgoing behavior from other dogs, not dominant behavior. Ultimately your dog should be submissive enough to chill with any dog on the block, but it will depend on their personality, so act accordingly.
Stock up on treats to reward healthy, proactive behavior, and introduce dogs of all different shapes and sizes in all types of different environments.
Be cautious around aggressive dogs, because if it ends badly, your dog could be scared to enter more social situations. You want to create an as positive experiences as possible!
Dogs play hard! When my dogs are playing, it sounds like they’re killing each other. In reality, it’s just horseplay! You’ll know it’s gone south when their neck fur is up, they’re curling their lips to show their teeth, and they’re biting hard enough to chomp down.
How to Socialize Older Dogs
Unfortunately, not all dogs are lucky enough to be taken in as puppies, so what happens when you adopt an older dog? How do you socialize them even though you’ve passed the prime age window?
It’s still possible to fix a dog’s fearful behavior, but it will take patience and time.
Very slowly reintroduce new sights, smells, sounds, and people. And take your time, depending on the dog.
If you’re having trouble with your dog’s ability to acclimate, I would suggest seeing an animal behavior specialist or veterinarian. Sometimes dogs need a little mental therapy boost.
Don’t Stop Socializing
When you’ve passed the socialization window, it doesn’t mean to stop. Consistency is key.
The less you socialize your dog, the more fearful it will be, even after the socialization window. It goes for all ages!
So keep the dog adventures up! It will benefit their social skills forever.