Socializing your puppy will help it become comfortable in new and different situations, teach it how to act in public settings (known as petiquette), and help ward off future behavior issues.
Bringing a new addition into your home is an exciting and busy time, especially when that addition is a fluffy, four-legged puppy. In between potty-training your pup and acclimating it to its new surroundings, you also need to prioritize socialization. Socializing your puppy will help it become comfortable in new and different situations, teach it how to act in public settings (known as petiquette), and help ward off future behavior issues.
What Is Socializing and When Should You Start?
Socializing your new puppy is the process of introducing it to new environments and new scenarios—and teaching it how to act in each circumstance. A well-socialized dog will not be nervous or anxious in public settings, nor will it act aggressively toward other dogs. Ideally, you should begin socializing your puppy between 7 weeks and 4 months of age. Make sure your pet is vaccinated to help protect the health and safety of your puppy when you are out and about.
Top Tips for Socializing Your Puppy
- Take your dog on daily walks. Not only are they good exercise for your puppy, it’s a wonderful way to introduce your pet to its community. While on a walk, your dog is going to hear new sounds, see different sights, experience a range of scents and meet people, dogs and other animals. Choose a short, consistent route for your puppy and make it part of your routine. Soon, both you and your puppy will be looking forward to these outings.
- Enroll in training classes. Training/obedience classes are often available at a variety of places, from breeders to veterinarian offices to local pet supply stores. Puppy training classes will teach you and your new pet basic commands that are necessary for good behavior. It also gives your puppy a chance to interact with other dogs. This real-life experience will teach your pooch how to behave properly, while providing an opportunity to experience dogs of different breeds and sizes.
- Play social games and reward your dog for good behavior. You can focus on socializing even when relaxing at home. There are social games that will feel like playtime for your pet, as you realize it’s contributing to behavioral improvement. For example, pick up your pet to show that being handled can be a positive experience. Touch or gently pet its paws and/or ears, then reward it with a treat immediately to reinforce acceptance of the act(s). Do this repeatedly until your puppy becomes comfortable with human contact.
- Invite family and friends to meet the puppy. Dogs need to be introduced to different people in order to understand that humans can be their friends, and help to alleviate nervousness or anxiety. Consider having a “Meet the Puppy Night” at your home once a month, inviting three to five new friends to play with your new dog. Invite people of different ages, sizes, ethnicities, and backgrounds so that your pup learns to be comfortable with diversity.
- Visit a dog park. Once your pup has received its vaccinations and has begun the process of being socialized, you can venture to your neighborhood dog park. This is a great place for your dog to experience new situations and interact with other dogs. Be mindful of where your puppy is and always be ready to correct poor behavior as well as reward positive interactions.
Remember that your new puppy will not be fully socialized overnight. You need to take baby steps when socializing your new dog; avoid overstimulating your pet. Choose one or two socializing activities each day, and soon you’ll find that your puppy knows how to interact with other dogs and humans wherever you go.
Author bio: Stephanie N. Blahut is Director of Digital Marketing and Technology for Figo Pet Insurance. Figo is committed to helping pets and their families enjoy their lives together by fusing innovative technology — the first-of-its-kind Figo Pet Cloud — and the industry’s best pet insurance plans.