Socialization for a puppy is a critical point in their life that will shape their behavior and personality for the future. They need to build experiences and have exposure to as many new things as soon as possible to develop comfortability and confidence with the outside world. So, how exactly do you socialize a puppy, and how early can they start?
What Does It Mean to Socialize a Puppy?
Socializing a puppy is all about providing new, positive experiences early on to develop proper behaviors as they mature.
It's essential to expose your puppy to as many new triggers as possible to desensitize them to new and unfamiliar environments. Socializing your puppy can help them develop confidence that will help them deal with the outside world!
Socialization helps your puppy build better behaviors, natural curiosity and become better equipped to handle stressful situations!
Is It Important to Socialize a Puppy?
Yes, it is very important to socialize with a puppy! Early socialization encourages puppies to be more social, acclimate to their surroundings, and feel safe even in unfamiliar situations.
Many adult dogs that were not properly socialized tend to have more behavioral issues and be more fearful of strange people and new environments.
The first 16 weeks of a puppy's life is known as the "imprint period," the timeframe when they are the most impressionable and easiest to train. During this period, puppies should be exposed to as many new sights, sounds, and smells as possible so they can slowly become used to new experiences and triggers.
Socializing your puppy also helps ingrain good behaviors and prevent the bad ones. Since puppies are more impressionable early on, you can reinforce good habits so that they keep those for the rest of their life. After the imprint period is over, it may be significantly harder to train your dog (but still possible!).
What Happens If You Don't Socialize a Puppy?
Unsocialized dogs are more likely to have nervous or aggressive behaviors out of fear or anxiety. They may be more scared of other dogs or people since they were not exposed early on during puppyhood.
However, the good news is that it is never too late to train or socialize an older adult dog! You can always teach new behaviors with enough dedication and care. The saying that you can't teach an old dog new tricks simply isn't true!
What Should I Expose My Puppy To?
Expose your puppy to as many sights, sounds, and smells as you can to help them build up familiarity with the world. From various surfaces to other dogs' scents to different noises that could scare them, introducing your puppy to new experiences is critical for their growth and socialization. Remember that you are building a vast library of potential triggers for your puppy to help them become desensitized!
Walking on various surfaces like concrete or grass can help your puppy learn more about the outside world. Here are some easy, common surfaces you can get your puppy to experience:
- Grass, dirt, rocks
- Bathtub (for future grooming and bathing purposes)
- Indoor surfaces (wood, tile, carpet)
Depending on where you live, you can play various noises in the background to help them acclimate to certain sounds. Your puppy may or may not have an immediate reaction to the noises, but with repetition, they will recognize and be unafraid of familiar sounds. Here are some sounds you can try to play:
- Loud ringtones or music
- Dogs barking
- Traffic or car noises
- Construction noises
- Police sirens
Dogs are always smelling around and exploring with their noses. The more scents they experience, the less afraid they'll be of other dogs and people. Here are some smells you can do scent training with:
- Other puppies
- Friends and family, a variety of people
- Toys and items from other pets (cats, hamsters, horses, etc.)
- Perfumes (must be safe for pets!)
- Various foods
When Should I Socialize My Puppy?
It's never too early to start socializing your puppy! Most breeders and dog experts recommend that a newborn puppy stay the first 6-8 weeks of their litter and mother to nurse and grow. After about eight weeks of age, the puppies can be taken to their next home and begin socialization.
You may want to wait about a week or so for your new puppy to settle into their new home so they are not overwhelmed. Allow them to explore and slowly gain familiarity with their new surroundings.
Don't worry about cramming all the dog training and socialization into the first 16 weeks. Socialization is a lifelong pursuit that goes into adulthood. There are endless amounts of things for dogs to become accustomed to!
How to Socialize a Puppy
When you begin socializing with a puppy or dog, keep in mind that they are still young and have short attention spans. Puppy training sessions should be kept short and sweet with plenty of positive reinforcement and rewards. Treat your puppy like a newborn baby and be patient with them!
Don't get discouraged if your new puppy is taking a while to adapt! Some breeds mature faster, while others are a bit more fearful at first and may take a while to come out of their shell. Stay patient and keep constant supervision, and your puppy will be acclimated in no time.
So what are some great ways to encourage socialization? Take a look at some of the many things you can do to help your puppy become the perfect dog!
Before you start any socialization, take your puppy to the veterinarian to get vaccinated. If your puppy will be in close contact with other dogs, vaccinate your dog, so viruses and diseases are not transmitted. Some of the core vaccines you need are for:
- Canine parvovirus
- Canine hepatitis
Don't Overwhelm Them
When you start socialization, try to avoid large groups of people or packs of dogs as it may be too much to handle for your new puppy. Remember that the best way to socialize your puppy is to take baby steps and don't force anything.
Overwhelming your puppy can cause them to become more fearful and less socialized. Traumatic experiences can be detrimental to their growth. Remember that you don't need to rush socializing your puppy because they will continue to learn even after the imprint period!
Set Up Puppy Play Dates
Remember when our parents set us up for play dates with the kid next door? Well, now we know that it was meant for us to socialize and gain more interactions with other people. Building friendships and learning how to act around other people is a critical part of our learning stage.
The same effect applies to our dogs and is excellent for building a friendly personality. Having a friend to run around and play with can go a long way to helping your puppy become socialized!
Meet New People
Once your puppy has gotten used to meeting other dogs, you can start taking them to meet different people. Close friends or family are fantastic choices for people to meet your dog since they will be the ones that are around most often. Just to be safe, introduce new people one at a time not to overwhelm your puppy.
Make sure that your guests are always speaking in happy and calm tones. Prepare some yummy dog treats for your friends and family to feed your puppy to build positive experiences with new people!
Use a Controlled Environment at First
Besides taking your puppy outdoors to experience new environments, you want to start socialization in a controlled environment. Using a controlled environment means trying to limit outside influences that can scare your puppies, such as sudden car honks or other dogs on the street. Try to do everything at home in the beginning so that your puppy can feel safe as they get acclimated to new sights and sounds. A backyard can be a great place for your puppy to play in the grass, sniff around the dirt, and explore.
Introduce Them To Different Sounds & Smells
In general, introducing your puppy to new experiences will help them learn and grow faster! Feel free to get creative and play various sounds or introduce them to new smells that pique your puppy's curiosity. You might even be able to figure out what they like and don't like early on.
New situations with different people and surroundings are extremely important for socializing a new pup. Be sure to give them plenty of exposure during their puppy training!
Reward Them for Good Behavior
Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to train and socialize your puppy. Positive association, like treats and praises, to negative triggers can help your puppy become desensitized and familiar with all sorts of sights and sounds. Rewarding dogs for good behavior is a fantastic way for them to learn better and faster.
Can CBD Help with Puppy Socialization?
Yes, CBD can be a great way to help calm and relax your puppy! A less anxious puppy may be able to socialize faster and get over its fears quicker.
CBD provides soothing effects and can help reduce stress in your puppy. Our delicious CBD Dog Treats for Stress & Anxiety are perfect for comforting your puppy if they get anxious. Also made with all-natural, organic, superfood ingredients, these treats can be a significant health booster for your puppy.
Our CBD for dogs is another popular option for calming anxious canines. You can add a few drops to their meals or treats to achieve the same effects as the CBD dog treats. It can help your puppy get over their shyness or nervousness and make socialization easier.
Enroll Them in a Puppy Training Class
Puppy classes are a fantastic way for your new dog to learn basic commands, go through leash training, and socialize them in new environments.
However, the most significant benefit of puppy classes is that it exposes them to other dogs and people. Think of these training classes like preschool or kindergarten for dogs!
A professional dog trainer supervises everything in these classes to ensure that all interactions are positive and beneficial. Look up puppy classes closest to you and see if this is an option for you!
Take Them Out Into the World
One of the best and simplest ways to socialize your puppy is by introducing them to the outside world. Take your puppy to dog parks or walks around the neighborhood and let them explore to their heart's content! Let your puppy enjoy long car rides and experience the city's sights and sounds or out in nature.
This is crucial, especially during the imprint period when your puppy is extremely curious about everything! Nothing is better than getting them accustomed to the world they'll be living in. Give your puppy a little bit of freedom to explore once they are comfortable inside the home! Want to keep learning about your dog? Check these guides for more info about dogs and dog care.
Final Thoughts - How To Socialize A Puppy
Puppy socialization is a critical part of every dog's growth but don't forget to have fun with it! The goal is to build up a healthy, confident dog that has experienced many sides of the world. Give them as many positive experiences as you can and live life to the fullest with your new puppy!