Have you read Puppy Socialization 101 Series | Part 1? If not, follow the link below to read part one of this series.
How to socialize your puppy before completing vaccinations
Once your puppy has settled into its new home, the critical socialization window from 7 to 16 weeks of age begins! During this time, it is important for your puppy to be exposed to as many different people, well-socialized animals, situations, and places as possible. Frustration, challenge, and problem solving with a positive outcome are important aspects of any socialization plan. Positive socialization experiences from a young age, allows puppies to build confidence, and less likely to develop fearful reactions to people, noises, and unfamiliar locations. At this early age, most puppies are not fully protected from the diseases we vaccinate for until they reach 18 to 20 weeks of age. With proper planning, primary vaccinations, and appropriate care, we can improve training, strengthen the human-animal bond, and socialize puppies in an environment where the risk of illness can be minimized.
Places and activities, you and your puppy can enjoy safely:
- Attend puppy socialization classes. Puppy socialization classes offer a safe and structured way to introduce puppies to playing with each other while also improving their responsiveness to commands. Each puppy participant should have at least started their vaccination series and be disease and parasite free before entering the class.
- Host a puppy party! Invite friends and family over to handle and play with your puppy. They can even bring their own pets along if they are healthy, vaccinated, and puppy friendly!
- Bring your puppy into town. If your puppy is small enough, carry him around town and let strangers pet him and give him treats.
- Take your puppy to a friend’s house. Just bringing your puppy to a different environment will offer them a lot of new experiences.
Keep in mind that it is important for your puppy to have easy, happy experiences while being socialized. Your puppy should be the one to initiate each approach to something new and be allowed to retreat when they need to feel safe. Help your puppy stay calm and relaxed and provide plenty of treats!
Continue healthy, lifelong socialization
While a dog’s sensitive period of socialization typically ends around 4-5 months old, it is important to continue socializing your puppy.
- Continue introducing your dog to new people. Dogs only remain social when continually exposed to unfamiliar people. Consistent pleasant encounters with new people keeps the idea that strangers are good news in your dog’s mind.
Continue to introduce your dog to other dogs. There are a multitude of ways to keep your dog socializing with other dogs: dog parks, organized play groups, behavior classes, and simple leash walks.
- Switch up your walking route. Avoiding the same walking route every day, can allow your dog experience a variety of environments. This provides your growing dog with further mental stimulation.
- Teach your dog to be alone. Scheduling alone time with neither people nor other dogs is critical to preventing separation anxiety. Proper confinement training using crates or pens, helps to ensure that puppies/dogs have a safe and secure place for rest and confinement.
- Don’t punish fear. Most displays of aggression are a direct response to fear. Many owners are caught off guard when their puppy reacts fearfully, and therefore aggressively to a new dog or person. By punishing this reaction, you only confirm his feeling of fear. Instead, remove your dog from the situation and enforce a positive behavior (such as “sit” or “stay”).
- Continue handling your dog. It is important for your puppy to be comfortable with different parts of his body being handled. This will ensure that vet visits are comfortable and smooth for your dog and for the veterinary staff.
Click Here For Our Puppy Socialization Checklist:
Gabby Alonzo, Jordyn DeHaan, Hannah Urig, MPH, DVM