Socialization

Refine Your Socialization

Over time you and your puppy will become expert at meeting new people, seeing new sights, hearing strange sounds, and so on. Do not let up on this.

Young woman and her 12-week-old chocolate Lab puppy meet a mailman. They meet outdoors and the puppy is in a sit while the mailman leans over and rubs his ears. The woman gives the puppy a treat as this happens
Young woman and her 12-week-old chocolate Lab puppy meet a mailman. They meet outdoors and the puppy is in a sit while the mailman leans over and pats his head. The woman gives the puppy a treat as this happens

High on the list of dog bite victims, postal workers and people working in uniform that visit the home should be on the list of people you socialize your puppy with.

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Don’t wait for Halloween for your dog to meet young children in costume. Ask a friend to dress up, or dress up yourself so that your pup gets to meet someone with a mask or face make-up on.

Cover the common problem areas. Children are the number one victims of dog bites. Postal workers and the elderly come in at a close second. Make sure your dog is familiar and comfortable with babies, children of all ages, and the elderly. Ask your postal worker to stop and hand feed your puppy a treat when he or she drops off the deliveries.

Some Common Misconceptions

Have you ever known someone who said that his or her dog didn’t like people in wheelchairs or was afraid of the vacuum cleaner? These are perfect examples of things that a dog will react adversely to, not because he has a particular dislike for people in wheelchairs or because vacuums are so loud he can’t handle them. The dog never encountered or became comfortable with such things as a young puppy, during his Socialization Period.

Have a Social for the Puppy

Invite friends and family over to your house to watch hockey, eat pizza, or just to hang out. As your guests come in, lure your puppy into a sit with a treat. Have all of your guests give a treat to the puppy as well.

Go to the Vet Just to Play Games

Make sure you visit the vet with your pup just for fun. Drop in and ask the staff to feed your pup a treat. Play a quick game of fetch or hide and go seek. Leave on a happy note. You can do the same with the groomer. Do this regularly during the first year.

Common City Sights

With cyclists, joggers, or skateboarders, rev it up! The pup may be inclined to chase or he may be frightened by sounds. Whip out a fun toy and make the treat something extra special.

The Calculated Risk

Suggestions for socializing your puppy with his own kind:

  • Enroll in puppy socialization class with a reputable trainer. This is the best way to ensure that your puppy gets ample playtime with other dogs.
  • Find people or friends with older well-socialized dogs. Be sure their dog’s shots are up to date and that the dog is in good health.
Pour on the Human Contact

Make it a game that the whole family takes part in. Who can come up with the best way for your pup to meet different kinds of people? Who can come up with the most unusual ways to meet people?

  • All races, people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds
  • Different ages: babies, toddlers, the elderly
  • Meet people wearing: sunglasses, punk hairdos, hats, beards, or carrying umbrellas
  • Go to a sporting event

Once the human socialization period ends, it is still very important that your puppy continue to meet new people on a regular basis. The more people you expose your puppy to in the first year, the better he will be at meeting strangers throughout his life.

Walk on Different Surfaces

Allow your puppy the opportunity to experience different surfaces.

  • Sand
  • Ceramic tiles
  • Wet surfaces
  • Manholes and grates
  • Gravel
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Strange Sounds and Smells

Dogs know the world first and foremost through their sense of smell. Their sense of smell and hearing is far more acute than ours. Prepare your pup for life’s loud noises and odd smells. Play the stereo and TV loud! Beethoven’s 5th symphony is a good choice to accustom your dog to large bangs and booms!

Boosts Natural Curiosity and Confidence

A well socialized dog gets an added boost to his natural curiosity and confidence. During the course of his life he will recover in no time to things that may startle or unnerve him. A poorly socialized dog may get ill from stress and not have the confidence to be in situations that you would otherwise both find enjoyable.

If You Have More Than One Dog

If you have litter mates, socialize each puppy individually. If you have more than one dog, it is important that you socialize your new puppy on his own. Doing it together can have a negative effect on your new puppy’s healthy socialization.

Don’t Avoid Weak Spots

You may feel inclined to avoid problem areas, such as situations that your pup is uncomfortable in. This is a big mistake. You need to make special note of these situations and be sure to work out any kinks. (See Tip: If your Puppy is Frightened.)