Becoming Top Dog: How To Successfully Socialize Your Puppy
A guide to puppy socialization, with a handy checklist
Let’s face it... for us it’s a dog’s world, and we're just living in it. But that doesn’t mean puppies don’t need a helping hand working out what the big wide world (and how they fit into it).
Socialization will help your fur-baby feel comfortable and at ease, supporting them to grow into a well adjusted and upstanding member of the doggo community. A real top dog! So to give you a helping paw, here’s our top tips for puppy socialization - with a handy checklist to cover too.
What is puppy socialization?
Puppy socialization involves exposing young dogs to a variety of people, places, situations and other furry pals. By engaging in these experiences, your pup can learn how it all works, overcome any initial fears, and discover how to behave around other dogs and humans. This means your little buddy can grow up secure in the world around them, ready to live a happy, waggy life.
Socialisation top tips:
Timing Matters - Between 3 and 12 weeks of age is the sweet spot for socializing a puppy. Your breeder (if you have one) should help with the first chunk, so do as much as you can in this timeframe when your puppy arrives.
Positivity Rules - Your aim with every experience is to have a positive association. So focus on lots of reassurance, praise, and letting your pup take things at their own pace.
Vaccinate - Until your puppy is fully protected by vaccination, don’t allow them to mix with dogs of unknown vaccination status. This means avoiding parks or walks where unknown dogs may have been. Carry your puppy when necessary; chances are, they’ll be happy travelling in style.
PlayDates - Scheduling play dates with dogs you know are vaccinated, friendly and laidback is a great first step. It helps to prepare your pup for when they encounter the wider dog community.
Walikes - Once they are vaccinated, just taking your dog out to a public place and walking around will help him become more comfortable with the world and people around him. From cars driving down the street to the postman, the world becomes a little bit less scary once you’ve been out and about a couple of times.
OtherAnimals -It’s a good idea to meet some other pals, not just those of the canine variety. Reward your puppy verbally and with treats if they are calm and relaxed in these situations, and try to interrupt any chasing or barking. If needed, create distance until they get used to chilling out in the presence of that squirrel or duck they just met.
OtherPeople -In the same way, it’s a good idea for your pup to meet a variety of hoomans too, including children. Just be sure to supervise any handling to ensure your puppy is comfortable and they aren’t overwhelming the small child!
TheVet -Being handled when you are hurting or sick can be rough.So it’s very wise to try and build a positive association with your vet straight away. Visit your clinic without an appointment and let your dog learn this is an ok place to be. Lots of treats and maybe a scratch behind the ear from a nice nurse can go a long way. Don’t leave vet socialization until the emergency!
Handling - It’s also wise to get your pup used to you handling them too. Ears, teeth, paws - all the places you will want to monitor and clean regularly. It will make both your lives a lot easier.
Environment - Encountering a variety of different environments and situations helps build a robust and adaptable dog. Think about where to take your puppy for socialization that has unusual scents, sights and sounds. By gradually becoming accustomed to car travel, types of traffic, the country and towns, you’ll be on the right track. Remember to make sure your puppy is enjoying the experience and not feeling overwhelmed, you can always take a step back if needed.
BackToClass - Socialization classes are a wonderful thing, combining exposure and training in one. It’s a good idea to break up any play that gets a little too rambunctious, to teach your puppy to ease up when needed.Look for a class that is run by a certified dog trainer to get the most bang for your buck.
Shy? - Every dog is different, and some are super shy. Let a shy puppy just watch the world go by from a distance at first. As they relax, you can build on their experiences to help them feel comfortable coming out of their shell.
The puppy socialisation checklist
Here’s a handy chart of top places to take your puppy and the new friends to meet along the way. Tick them off as you go!
Children (of different ages)
Adults (of different ages)
Men with beards/low voices
People wearing costumes
Dog friendly events
Thunder & Lightning
Fireworks (can use a CD)
Babies and children
The vacuum cleaner
Paper and plastic bag
Kittens and cats
Small pets such as guinea pigs and hamsters
Putting on a collar
Putting on a harness
Ears Mouth and gums
Paws and pads
Wiping the body with a towel
Being held in your arms
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