The ABCs of Puppy Socialization

How to help your puppy grow into a people-friendly dog.


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Coming up with people and places for socialization opportunities can require creativity, but the how is simple. Use treats and a lot of praise, touch, and gentle play to convince your puppy that the new sight, smell, person, or situation is fun. End each introduction on a positive note, perhaps with a treat, affection, or short play session with a favorite toy.

Should We Take a Class?
Puppy socialization classes are a wonderful place for your puppy to learn about other dogs. Your puppy will learn to share and interact with other owners and pets on his own, at his own pace. Most of the time, you will sit back and watch, refraining from forcing your pup to interact and instead leaving the when, how, and how much up to your puppy.

Consult your veterinarian about the best time to start your puppy in socialization classes. The standard recommendation is to wait to start classes until his vaccinations are complete, but Tripp believes that's an outdated idea. "It is certainly true that you must separate your puppy from sick and aggressive dogs," he says. "However, delaying socialization until vaccines are finished at four months squanders this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." The best policy is to combine a vaccine and socialization program. Your veterinarian is the best person to help you construct a program that works for your individual puppy.

To find a good puppy class, ask for recommendations from dog-owning friends and animal professionals, such as your groomer or veterinarian. You can also call the places that offer puppy socialization classes and ask for references from people who have used their services.

If you don't have access to puppy classes, take stock of your dog-owning friends, and invite them and their fully vaccinated, adult dogs to your home.

Keep It Up
By exposing your puppy gradually and positively to new sights, sounds, and experiences, you encourage further learning. As Wright explains with co-author Judi Wright Lashnits in "Ain't Misbehavin': The Groundbreaking Program for Happy, Well-Behaved Pets and Their People" (Rodale, 2001, $18.95), Socialization does not stop at a certain age. It is a continual process ... You must continually exercise and socialize a dog throughout their lifetime. Puppy socialization plants the seeds of confidence and good behavior; ongoing socialization lets both you and your dog reap the rewards.

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Carlisa   Tulsa, OK

3/13/2011 10:13:23 PM

This is an awesome webiste and I really love all the information given on here and the things owners can do and learn with your babies also......

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Vic   landofmilkandhoney, PA

6/16/2010 11:00:52 PM

to: Rhonda, lebanon,NE- have anyone who your dog has trouble warming up to take it for a walk. multiple walks. there's something about the walk that stimulates a dogs brain in a way no other activity does. simply exercising in this simple way is the best way to introduce a new person or train an old dog to be more friendly. once your husband has done enough positive reenforcing things like walking, the dog will be noticeably more friendly with him. also, showing the dog that you are the dominant member of the household is another way of saying in dog language that you are the protector of the household, because that's what pack leaders do. when that dog realizes that you guys are the top of the pack, that dog will feel less vulnerable and therefore more calm and less afraid. if you need this type of method explained further, i suggest looking up Ceasar Milan aka the "dog whisperer" online, or watch his show on national geographic. the method has never failed. no i'm being totally serious. there's no dog he hasn't been able to rehabilitate.

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Rhonda   lebanon, NE

1/29/2010 6:51:08 AM

Our Cocker is almost 6 months old. We got him at 4 months. He is so afraid of my husband. My husband trys to work with him all the time, holding feeding trying to play etc but nothing has worked. Any ideas!

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Stephanie   North Canton, OH

11/8/2009 5:33:26 PM

Great article-thanks! We socialized our Pomeranian as soon as we got him. Introducing him to lots of people and pets have helped him become a friendly and welcoming dog. Socialization is sooooo important!

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