Category Archives: Socialization

Socialization is the process of developing relationships with other living beings, people, and animals.

3 Tips To Take Your Socialization Strategy from Blah to Brilliant

Young woman cheering her puppy socialisation strategy.

What Does It All Mean?

It seems like most folks have a vague idea about what socialization is. More people are enrolling in puppy class and this is a great thing. But what is it really and why does it matter? What does it mean specifically for a new puppy person and the dog now in their charge?

There is a small window of time in a pup’s early development where, what happens or does not happen, will have a significant impact on his entire life.

In his ‘Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training Steven Lindsay says “During a brief period from 3 to 16 weeks of age, an average puppy will probably learn more than during the remaining course of its lifetime, forming a lasting emotional and cognitive schemata of the social and physical environment. Furthermore, these early experiences format the general outline and organization of how and what the dog is prepared to experience and learn in the future.”

We know for sure that it is a time-sensitive, paramount consideration. Best practice means that it is understood and carried out proactively and thoughtfully with a new puppy.

Invisible Gains

Socialization isn’t sexy but it should be. My theory on why people don’t get excited about socialization is because of the lack of tangible returns. You teach your puppy to sit when you ask and are rewarded almost instantly because you are able to see him do the behavior. Socialization, on the other hand, is not so easy to spot since you will not see the benefit of your efforts immediately or maybe never notice them at all. It is only when that work has gone undone and the dog suffers that you notice. Then it is too late. Know that your attention to detail in this area will have myriad long-ranging positive effects.

Here are three tips to help you rise to this important occasion.

1. Think Everyday Items

While it might not be in the schedule to get out on an elaborate socialization field trip with your puppy every day you can still do interesting and worthy introductions at home using seemingly ‘everyday items’ from around the house.

Make An Obstacle Course

With a handful of yummy treats take your puppy exploring right in your own living room. Scatter treats about or feed the pup as he explores, safely and at his own pace.

  • Trash bags or tarps draped over a couple of small piles of stacked books or big pillows can make strange, uneven surfaces.
  • A baking tray also makes a weird, slippery surface for your puppy to explore. I like to put the tray on something skid proof, for example, a yoga mat makes a great base from which to build your novel surfaces for puppy exploration.
  • Drape a sheet over a couple of chairs and create an opaque curtain for the puppy to walk through or you could call him to come from one side to the other a couple of times.

If Music Be The Food Of Love, Play on

It is important to NOT startle the pup but introduce a sound gradually and from a distance. And remember to ALWAYS pair with tasty treats.

  • Get out your bongos, tambourines, and maracas. If there is a guitar or a piano, let the music play.
  • Dollar stores or thrift shops are good bets to find instruments if you don’t have any.
  • Let the pup see and sniff the instrument before you make any noise with it.
  • Introduce the noise at a low volume from a distance.
  • Wait to see if the puppy is interested in coming closer, investigating, and is curious.
  • You can also make noise with a hairdryer, the vacuum or the blender.

Play Dress Up

Big floppy hats, Halloween masks or wigs are good props. My students with children have no shortage of fun things for us to get creative with.

2. Seasonal Miss Outs

If you live in a climate with drastic weather changes like my students do you will want to consider what the different seasons bring. Puppies that go to new homes in the winter miss out on seeing warmer weather things like hoses, bikes, and skateboards because they are not around. Pups that go to their homes in the summer miss out on winter wear, snow shovels, and plows. As a result, we end up with pups nervous about these things when that season does roll around.

Get creative with introductions of these seasonal miss outs. If you have a summertime puppy, bring out the winter coats and simulate some snow shovelling. Roll out your bikes and skateboards for a quick meet and greet for those wintertime pups

  • Winter parka with the hood up
  • Bulky winter boots
  • Umbrellas
  • Bundle Buggy

3. Make A Plan

I have discovered the value of a plan when it comes to teaching my dogs. If you don’t have a plan you don’t really know what you are doing and this early socialization is too important to leave to chance.

We have created lists and worksheets for you to use to get inspired and think strategically in regards to your pup’s socialization. The Socialization Section at Ultimate Puppy is full of photos of the work being done and troubleshooting tips.

The Social Schedule and Socialization Field Trip worksheet have been designed just for you to help you navigate this period of development with your puppy.

Please use these and feel free to share far and wide.

Have you gone on any interesting socialization expeditions with you pup lately? Have you noticed any stress in your adult dog regarding things that may have been missed during early introductions?

Happy Puppy Raising!


We help you get ready

Don’t forget, we now have an online lesson with workbook and videos for anyone that’s getting ready to bring home a puppy…


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Watch Out For Problem Patterns

puppy pulling back while on leash

Prevent – It’s a thing

Brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist helps us maintain healthy teeth and prevent gum disease. If we don’t brush our teeth one night we won’t suffer the next day. However complications may come later on in our life if we miss years of proper oral hygiene.

This is the way it rolls. We make choices now to prevent problems later. The same goes for our dogs. By making certain choices early in their lives we will help prevent some behaviors from becoming problematic down the road.

Safe Spot Keeps Spot Safe

The safe spot (confinement with a crate or gate) and structure that you provide early on will go a long way to help prevent annoying habits from developing. For example, a puppy with structure will not have the opportunity to door dash, counter surf, jump on guests or chase the kids. Problems prevented! As the pup matures his propensity for many of these behaviors will mellow. You have raised a calm, well-mannered adult dog which is a result of your early efforts of training and management. Job well done!

Let’s look at some other common problem patterns and how to prevent them.

Puppy Hoover

Outside on walks the puppy picks up trash, sticks, rocks and other random debris. We yell ‘NO!’ and grab for the thing in their mouth.

What can develop is intense guarding of objects, running away from you and sometimes growling and or biting you.

Work to prevent this behavior by first understanding that a puppy explores the world with his mouth. Therefore he is always going to be interested in snuffling around on the ground, grabbing things and sometimes eating them. Determine a ‘what’s safe’ and ‘what’s dangerous’ list. Monitor surrounding areas for the ‘dangerous items’. Avoid them or pick them up before the puppy has the opportunity.  Trade or ignore ‘non- dangerous’ items because grabbing for them may lead to resource guarding.

If the pup is doing this inside you need to examine the amount of free, unattended time he has. Be more organized about what is left out for the pup to grab. While it might be a natural reaction to yell and grab for a pup when he picks something up try not to do it since this type of reaction will always backfire on you. Be prepared for the behavior and manage it well.

Are You A Grabby McGrabby Pants?

You can create real problems for yourself as well as stress on the pup with thoughtless handling. A quick swoop to lift him can be starting. A reach for the little one to  put on ‘gear’ like a harness or a leash may seem innocent to you but your pup might feel quite put out by the experience.

Slowly but surely you start to see a puppy that runs away from you when you reach for him.Pull quote: “The result will be a puppy who eagerly participates in getting ready rather than a puppy who runs away.”

A more mindful approach to begin interactions with your pup may look like this. Let the pup come to you and always reward him. Do this with a body posture cue. With a treat in your right hand bend down and put your right hand low, close to or right against your right ankle. When the puppy comes over for the treat place your left arm over the pup and under his belly and feed him the treat as you lift.

The Information Cuepull quote: “Include an ‘information cue’ for the pup by saying the word ‘lift’ as you pick him up.”

Include an ‘information cue’ for the pup by saying the word ‘lift’ as you pick him up. Your body posture becomes a cue for him to come over for the ‘lift’. Always reinforcing this movement with a pup will go a long way to prevent keep away, deke away behavior. Do mini training sessions of multiple reps (3 to 5) of bending, lifting and treating because being picked up by their person shouldn’t be a stressful experience for any pup.Pull quote: “The same type of training can be used to get gear on.”

The same type of training can be used to get gear on. Kneel down or sit on the floor when you are putting on a harness, collar or leash and pair it with a treat. A fun game is to have the collar done up loose enough that the pup can poke his head through. You might lure it through to start. Reward every time, then give it a word like ‘head in’ or ‘gear on’. The result will be a puppy who eagerly participates in getting ready rather than a puppy who runs away.

Social Butterfly

Lots of puppies are is very eager to meet dogs and people they pass on the street. They regularly pull towards new people or dogs and are permitted to meet them sometimes and not other times. However this pattern inadvertently makes the pulling stronger and the doggie emotions run higher.

This pattern of meeting and greeting starts to produce a pup that stops, pulls towards or barks at every person and dog they see on the sidewalk.

Think about alternatives to this style of meeting and greeting. I am not a fan of dog-to-dog Pull quote: “Use other dogs and people as a training opportunity to get your puppy to tune into you.”meetings on leash because it can often lead to problems. If it must happen keep it short. A sniff and move on. Three seconds should do it. Good puppy play can’t happen on leash therefore why allow it? Leashes get tangled, this could make a puppy panicked and in general it is not best practice. Small puppy socialization classes with carefully monitored puppy playtime and curated play dates with selected pups or known friendly adult dogs are my picks for puppy play opportunities.

While on leash be selective about the people and other dogs your puppy is going to meet.  Use other dogs and people as a training opportunity to get your puppy to tune into you. Meet select people for socialization purposes. Everyone does love a new puppy so you must use this to your benefit instead of the detriment of your pup’s behavior?

Prevent Problem Patterns

A keen eye and attention to detail is a winning combination in the thick of puppy raising. Your prevention strategy makes a difference. Annoying or dangerous habits become much less of an option or a challenge. Be on the look out for problem patterns and “cut-em” off at the pass. Happy puppy raising.

Socialization Deconstructed


This is a black and white hand drawn sketch of a mind map about puppy socialization deconstructed. There is a puppy head (with the title your puppy) in the middle, surrounded by 5 think bubbles: When - age 0 to 16 weeks; What - Early exposure to oodles of people and experiences; Why - After 16 weeks of age the opportunity is gone. Fallout = Stress. Afraid of things. Compelled to bite or run away from the scary things; Where - Everywhere, Everyone, Everything; How - Pair introductions with something your puppy loves: Food + Toys

Mind Map

“I’m So Confused”

There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the term socialization and what it means for a puppy. The term comes from the description of specific stages of canine development. A pup goes through two socialization periods. In the primary socialization period they learn how to be a dog, in the human socialization period they learn how to navigate our complex world and everything in it. Combined, these development stages comprise only about 10 weeks; starting at about 3 weeks and ending at about 14 weeks of age. What happens or doesn’t happen during this time has a lasting effect on a puppy.

What Socialization is NOT

• A pup on leash meeting other dogs on leash.

• A puppy getting pets from the neighbor while you stand back and watch.

• A puppy sequestered in the house or yard until he has all his shots.

What’s The Big Deal?

Lacking a comprehensive understanding about this stage of development can literally make or break the quality of your dog’s life. If a puppy misses out on lots of positive early introductions during this time, serious behavioral issues are likely to develop. It’s crucial to have a robust game plan. You must be organized and strategic. Use our Social Schedule to stay on track, and use the Field Trip Worksheet to think critically about your outings. During this time social expeditions must be part of your daily routine.

Continued Reading

Giving Puppies Extra Socialization Is Beneficial To Them

Socialization and Vaccinations Belong Together

Game Plan to Go!

Everyone is saying it. Shelter staff, breeders, veterinarians and trainers are all throwing the word Socialization at you. But what does that mean beyond going down to the local Starbucks with your new puppy? Once you’ve had a chance for a bit of fun showing off with your friends, it’s time to think a bit more about what your puppy needs.

What all dogs need is a robust socialization game plan.

There’s nothing wrong with heading out the door and ad libbing. There are oodles of opportunities to socialize right outside. But what tends to happen is you leave the house forgetting a key piece of equipment that can undermine your success. Or worse, you keep repeating the same encounters. Constant repetition is only good if you plan to live in a bubble with your dog. That is unlikely. The whole point of a socialization plan is to experience a wide range of encounters. This will get your puppy ready for all the situations he may come across during his life.  A dog who is comfortable with a variety of circumstances is likely to be happier. He will be less stressed by the unknown and easier to train. This dog will be a better companion. Its worth the effort, so let’s add some sophistication to your game plan.

We’ve created a handy worksheet that will help you create a plan for each of your outings. Click this link field_trip_worksheet for the PDF.


sample of a puppy field trip worksheet

The Field Trip Worksheet is designed to work with the training pointers provided by Be sure to print out the Social Schedule and use it as a guide. Your goal is to cover a wide variety of encounters. We would encourage you to focus on the highlighted section of the Worksheet where you should keep notes of your pup’s reactions to new situations.


What to do if your puppy is uncomfortable or frightened (trying to run away, tail tucked, or attempts to bite): Jolly him up with a silly voice, a treat, or a game. If a situation is overwhelming your puppy, back away until the puppy is relaxed again. Start from this new distance to build up your pup’s confidence. Gradually get closer to the stimuli. Your ultimate goal is for your puppy to be comfortable and confident around stimuli that was previously scary to him.

This is when keeping notes is helpful, it allows you to focus on weak areas the next time you go out.

Good luck and have fun!


socialise puppy


  1. Head out to a new and stimulating environment. The bus station, a pet supply store, a shopping district. The level of stimulation and distraction will vary depending on your puppy’s level of comfort and curiosity. Adjust to the correct and safe level.
  2. Stand still and watch your puppy. Let him acclimate to the area. When he looks at you treat and praise – be quick about it. Timing is key.
  3. If some one wants to pet him, ask them to wait while you lure him into a sit, then get them to treat your puppy. We call this meet, greet and treat.