Socialization needs to start early. By the time your puppy is fully vaccinated at 16 weeks, it’s too late to start socializing your pup. The goal with puppy socialization is to introduce your pup to experiences they will encounter throughout their lives, and help them remain calm and have a happy, positive association with those experiences.
We recommend making a list of activities and experiences you want to socialize your pup to, and then be proactive about safely getting your pup those experiences. Try 1-2 of these each week from the time you get your pup.
Humans in your home: It’s important for your pup to be comfortable with other humans coming over. They should be able to remain calm and not be overly excited throughout the whole day. Start with a single person coming over several times and work up to several people. You don’t want your pup to get nervous having crowds over as that will make it really hard to host anything later on.
New homes: Take your pup over to your friends’ homes. This will not only help them if they need to board somewhere, but you’ll be able to take them more places with you and ensure they are not overwhelmed and nervous the entire time.
Other healthy, vaccinated dogs (of all sizes): This is tricky since your pup is not fully vaccinated yet, but if you know other dogs that are fully vaccinated and are healthy, consider scheduling a playdate with them. Introducing your dog to different dog breeds, sizes and ages will help your dog socialize better at the park and when they see other dogs on walks.
Household activities: Dogs that are not introduced to household activities will struggle quite a bit as they will be nervous regularly. Things like the vacuum cleaner, washer/dryer, blowdryer, TV, stereo, and dishwasher are commonly used and can really scare your pup.
Car rides: Even if you don’t own a car, take your dog on regular car rides (even if in an uber!).
Plane rides: You might not be planning to ever take your pup on a plane, but they’ll likely fly at least once in their lifetime. If you have a large breed dog, they’ll need to fly in cargo once they are more than 20lbs so we recommend taking a plane right before they are 20lbs so they can feel the plane once or twice with you. If you have a small dog that can fly in the cabin with you, you can help your pup get used to being in their airline carrier (most airlines don’t let you take the pup out during their flight) so it’s important to start with a short flight.
Vet: Going to the vet can be a nerve wracking experience for your pup. If they get a shot or another procedure done every time they go, they’ll begin to associate it with that. Take your dog in between appointments just to get weighed and make it a fun experience full of treats and cuddles. This will teach your pup that the vet is not a scary place to be!
Stores: While not all stores are dog friendly, being able to take your dog inside a store is a must have socialization experience. The racks of clothing, shelves and carts can throw your dog off later in life, so make sure to introduce them to stores (never put your dog in a shopping cart!).
Cafes and restaurants: There are two teachable moments here: 1) ensuring your dog is not begging for food and 2) that your dog is able to sit or lay calmly near you while you eat. The trick is to work up to longer time periods so start off at a cafe sipping a coffee and give them a valuable treat, such as a stuffed Kong or bully stick. It will keep your dog calmly on the ground and will distract them from the food.
Water: Whether at a beach or a lake, get your pup used to the water slowly. Some dogs love the water and will dive right in, while others are scared so make sure you start slow and to never force your dog into the water.