Socializing Your Puppy or Dog

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 2, 2011
Socializing Your Puppy or Dog

Socializing Your Puppy


Raising a puppy can be stressful, but you can make socializing them fun.

This article is courtesy of

by Phoebe Assenza

When you start raising a puppy, there are stressful tasks like housebreaking, behavior training, obedience training, grooming, and health to worry about. But one of the most important — and fun — things you can do for a new dog is to socialize him.

It may sound silly — walking your dog around town and introducing him to other people and pets — but the more exposure to the outside world your puppy gets, the smaller the chance he'll exhibit serious, almost unchangeable behavior problems as an adult dog. Here are some tips for raising a happy, well-adjusted friend:

1. Puppy Kindergarten. Most dog trainers and doggie day cares, and some veterinary clinics, hold regular sessions of "puppy kindergarten." These classes focus less on training than obedience classes for older dogs. Puppy kindergartens mostly provide a structured social environment, where your dog will meet and learn to get along with lots of different dogs and people. The sooner your puppy learns to socialize with other dogs, the less likely he'll be scared or aggressive around new dogs or people. The trainer who runs your puppy kindergarten class can also offer help with housebreaking, barking, and initial obedience training.

2. Hit the streets. As soon as your puppy is fully immunized and has his collar and ID tags, take him for frequent walks around town. Introduce your dog to the neighbors, other dogs, and children, and generally get him used to all the different sights and sounds. The sooner your dog becomes comfortable in his surroundings, the less anxious he'll be when he's suddenly confronted with construction or traffic noises — or the mailman.

3. Carry your puppy around on errands. If you have a dog carrier for your puppy, use it on trips to the mall, grocery store, or local parks. Let your puppy experience crowds of people and busy activity early on in life.

4. Introduce your puppy to the most obnoxious sounds around the house. Let him hear the vacuum cleaner, blender, garbage disposal, and coffee grinder soon after he arrives. This way, he won't be surprised later on and start barking every time you use one of these appliances.

5. Teach your puppy to walk up and down stairs. And do it as soon as he can physically manage.

6. Take your puppy for a brief walk in the rain or snow. Make sure he has the appropriate puppy attire, of course.

7. Groom your puppy early. He needs to become accustomed to being brushed, bathed, having his teeth cleaned, and nails clipped.

8. Don't reward timid behavior. A regular old Dumpster on the street might look sinister to a young puppy, and it's normal for him to bark and back away. Don't be too quick to kneel down and soothe your puppy, or he'll think he's doing a good thing by barking. Instead, let him work through his fear, offer an encouraging tone, and gently lead him past the obstacle (but don't pull or force him). Soon enough, he'll be flying past trash cans like he doesn't even see them. loves pets! Read this article and some of their other columns here.


How to Socialize a Dog

If you adopted a dog, or got your dog when it was past the puppy stage, you'll still need to work on introducing them to their new home and other animals.

It can take a little bit longer to socialize an adult dog, but it is just as important as socializing your puppy. According to the Animal Humane Society, while puppies are more accepting of new animals, other dogs, new places and people, adult dogs are not so much. Additionally, dog-to-dog socialization looks much different for puppies than it does for adult dogs.

The main goal when socializing an adult dog should be to teach the older dog how to behave calmly on walks and in public, rather than to teach them how to "play nicely" with other dogs.

When socializing puppies, it's suggested to let groups of them play together, under supervision of course. When socializing an adult dog, this could have adverse affects. Socially-mature dogs (usually between 1 and 3 years of age) do not typically enjoy playing with large groups of unfamiliar dogs.

Tips for Socializing Adult Dogs

Take your dog out to the park or for walks and bring plenty of treats. Reward them whenever they remain calm amidst the presences of other dogs or chaotic scenes. 

Don't feel the need to acknowledge or introduce your dog to every other dog you may pass, it is unnecessary.

If your heart is set on familiarizing your dog with other dogs, introduce them one at a time. Have a friend with a pet dog accompany you on your walks and keep a relaxed distance between the two animals.

No matter what, use patience and positivity when socializing your puppy or dog, and remember that every animal is different – what works for a friend's may not necessarily work for yours.

For more information and tips on socializing an adult dog, visit the Animal Humane Society.

Image: Kate & Jen / via Flickr

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