Canine socialization is a continuous training exercise in which
breeders and puppy buyers teach the dog to accept and interact with
a variety of people, animals and objects, in all types of situations, without becoming
overly fearful or
exhibiting aggressive behavior. Socialization training
requires that a puppy have repeated opportunities to become
unfamiliar people, places and things in a no-pressure,
non-threatening environment. This allows the dog to learn from his own experience that
strange people or animals, loud or unusual noises and strange
looking objects are not a threat. With proper socialization,
the dog learns to be a confident, out-going and friendly companion
and this will make the dog a better family pet. (Most of the
following information will apply to socializing any age dog, although
this is written specifically for puppies.)
socialization begins when the puppy is still nursing and within the
litter. The interaction of each puppy with its mother and
siblings is where the puppy first learns that there are limits for
For example, a
puppy that insists on tugging Mom's ear or chewing on her tail will
eventually be reprimanded. Mom may "discipline" this pup by
snapping, growling or just by knocking him over. A pup also
learns to "bite nice" (bite inhibition) when the pups play with each
other. If one pup is overly enthusiastic when play biting, the
other pup involved will yelp to let it be known that the bite was
too severe. In some instances, the injured pup may also turn
the tables and aggressively pursue (growling and snapping at) the
offending pup to impress that its behavior was unacceptable.
This is how puppies learn to play and interact in an acceptable
The first few
weeks of a puppy's life are also where a puppy learns that
humans are a part of the dog's "pack" and where they will begin to
learn how to interact and deal with humans.
Puppies will "learn" temperament from
their mothers’ or other dogs' attitudes toward humans. It’s
imperative that young puppies NOT be exposed to ill-mannered,
aggressive or overly-fearful dogs as they can "learn" to exhibit
these same tendencies.
This is why it is so important that your puppy has parents with good
temperaments. (I believe early socialization training by
is one of the most important aspect of a
puppy's socialization training!)
If your puppy's
dam or other dogs in the breeder's household growl or snap at the
breeder, children or strangers, then your puppy will have learned
this behavior before you ever bring him home. Overcoming this
type of learned behavior is extremely difficult if not impossible.
If you are
investigating breeders and available puppies and visit a home where
the parents or other adult dogs are out of control and show obvious
signs of aggression, RUN, do not walk, back to your car and NO NOT
BUY A PUPPY from this person!! Bringing home a dog from this
type of home is asking for serious temperament issues in your
family's pet. Do keep in mind however that many dogs,
especially dams with young puppies, will bark or growl at strangers.
This is not necessarily a sign of "bad temperament" IF the dogs calm
down when the owner tells them that the strangers are "OK".
(Many times a dam will be protective when in the whelping box, but
will be fine when not confined with the puppies.)
However, if the dam, other adult dogs or the puppies in a home snap
or growl at the owner or the owner's children, this is NEVER
puppy is learning proper "dog" etiquette from his dam and
littermates, he will also be learning correct human etiquette from
the breeder. This will begin when the puppies are born and
will last for as long as each puppy remains with the breeder.
A good breeder will work consistently to assure that each puppy will
accept being handled by humans, is accustomed to different sights
and sounds and is encouraged to exhibit appropriate behaviors
towards humans and other animals. This early training helps
assure that each puppy will mature into a dog who can be trusted to
meet and interact with a multitude of humans and that can be trusted
to meet and play with other dogs.
Of course, a
puppy's training while still with its dam, littermates and breeder
is merely the foundation of an adult dog's training to accept and
feel confident in new situations/surroundings. New owners must
continue to build upon this foundation and increase a dog's social
skills by exposing their puppy to a variety of sights, sounds,
textures, animals and humans.
Socialization should be a part
of every puppy's daily routine.
first socialization lessons in his new home should include gentle handling of the
puppy by each member of his new family. (This should be done
with one or two people at a time so as not to overwhelm or
intimidate the puppy.) As your puppy grows, he should also
learn to interact with other adults and children. These
lessons should include guests in your home and yard and
strangers in different public locations. (An easy place
to start this is in your own neighborhood. Take the puppy for
walks and introduce him to the neighbors, being sure to bring treats
for everyone to give him!) You will also want to
enroll your puppy in a puppy kindergarten class as soon as possible
so that he can continue to
have regular, safe, positive
interaction with other dogs.
Young puppies must be enrolled and
attend a puppy kindergarten class
puppies or adult dogs should be started in a regular obedience class
after they arrive in their new home.
New owners will also need to teach
their puppies not to chew on fingers and toes, not to eat their
slippers and the kid's toys (lessons similar to what a mother dog
would teach her puppies), and this training, in addition to a puppy
kindergarten class, should provide most puppies with the necessary
social skills to interact successfully with humans and animals.
Puppy kindergarten classes
help build a strong bond with the puppy's new owner and will lay a
solid foundation for teaching the dog to be a well-behaved pet.
Owners that follow up the puppy kindergarten class with a basic
obedience course should have a well-socialized, nicely-behaved
companion animal that is a pleasure to have around the house or out
A new puppy, whether he’s 8, 12 or 16 weeks old, will need to have
limits set on what he can do during playful interaction with humans.
Just as a puppy’s mother and littermates let him know when he’s
being too rough, a puppy’s new human pack-mates need to let the
puppy know when he has passed acceptable limits. To do
this, owners must provide their puppy with sufficient playtime and
opportunities to interact with their new family. Puppies
learn through play, so interaction with their owners is necessary to
increase their physical coordination and social skills, and to learn
appropriate limits on their behavior. Conscientious
owners must be sure their puppy receives adequate interactive
playtime. This is the first step in teaching your puppy his
new position in your “pack”.
You should make
a point of socializing your puppy with a variety of people.
This may include people in wheelchairs, those with a cast or sling,
workers, deliverymen or service personnel that wear uniforms, someone on crutches or using a cane. It may also include
people roller-blading in the park, riding a bike, pushing a
stroller, riding a horse or walking a dog. People wearing or
using unusual items are also important learning experiences - people
wearing sunglasses, eyeglasses, caps, hats or clothing that flaps in
the wind. People carrying umbrellas, grocery bags,
briefcases, babies and/or baby carriers are also good opportunities
for socialization training.
In addition to
introducing your puppy to the humans and situations described above,
you must get the puppy used to items in your area/neighborhood that
move and/or make noise. Depending on where you live, this may
include cars, trucks, miscellaneous types of trailers, buses,
motorcycles, street sweepers, trash trucks, 4 wheelers, airplanes
and trains. Other items that make noise and may need to be
"introduced" to your puppy include lawnmowers, doorbells,
knocking, babies crying, thunderstorms, vacuum cleaners,
fireworks, leaf blowers, hair dryers and sirens or alarms.
Your puppy should also be exposed to places where there are lots of
distractions and different noises - public gatherings, the
veterinary clinic, the groomer's, locations
where they make announcements over a loudspeaker, parks with
children running and playing (neighborhood parks and/or schools or
parks where students participate in baseball, soccer or other
Owners should also provide a variety
of treats and toys to stimulate the puppy and keep him motivated.
Treats can include a selection of store-bought goodies, home-made
treats, pieces of fruits and vegetables or the occasional "special"
treat of an appropriate meat bone or bite of fresh, raw hamburger or
steak. Different textures can also be introduced with a
variety of toys - hard, soft, those that talk, squeak, roll or
Last but not
least, you must teach your puppy to walk around, in, on, over, under
and through different types of obstacles, flooring and surfaces.
Obstacles can include such things as construction pylons or
barriers, machinery, bridges, tunnels, stairs, elevators, railroad
ties/crossings, boat docks, playground equipment or trash
receptacles. Different flooring and surfaces can include
grass, carpet, snow, cement, water, tile,
wooden decks, gravel,
metal grills on
the street, tarps laid on the ground, rubber mats, plastic or glass.
when and how your puppy is socialized will depend largely on your
life-style, place of residence and schedule. Just remember
that the more sights and sounds your puppy is exposed to, the more
confident and well-adjusted he will be. Always keep in mind,
however, that socialization must be fun and non-threatening for your
puppy and much of it should not be attempted until after he has
received all of his puppy vaccines.
If, at any
your puppy should become overly aggressive with people or animals you
should immediately seek help from a professional dog trainer or
behaviorist. The sooner this type of behavior is corrected,
the easier it will be to
stop. If this behavior becomes a habit or is reinforced in any
way, it could become a serious, long-term problem for you and your
When introducing your puppy to new people or situations, let the dog approach
at his own speed. Allow him to investigate or retreat as he
chooses. As long as the dog is not being aggressive, don't
force the issue, reprimand the dog or try to reassure him.
Maintain a calm, unhurried, casual attitude and ignore any behavior
that is not confident or friendly. Immediately and repeatedly
praise and reward confident, friendly behavior. Remember that
unwanted behavior may be reinforced if you laugh at the dog, coddle
or baby the dog or pet or hold it while it is exhibiting unwanted
If the dog is growling or barking, you should reprimand the dog with
a lead correction and a sharp verbal command of "No!". If the
dog continues to be aggressive, correct him again and then ask him
to sit/stay or ask him to continue walking on a "heel" command.
Make the dog pay attention to you until he calms down. Having
a "job" to do may help the dog relax as he will be more confident
when asked to perform a familiar task. Again, do not reward
unwanted behavior (growling, barking, cowering, etc.) by trying to
reassure the dog.
introducing your puppy to things that make noise (like your grooming
clippers), try to first allow the puppy to sniff and investigate the
object without turning it on. Reward and praise the dog for
not being afraid. Let the puppy get a little ways away from
you and then turn on the item. While holding or standing near
the item, call your puppy and talk to him encouragingly.
When he approaches, praise and reward him. Let the puppy sniff
and investigate the item while you continue to pet and praise him
for being so brave. Repeat this exercise a number of times and
the puppy will soon accept the noise from the object you are trying
to get him used to. For objects like your grooming clippers,
this exercise will need to be extended to you gradually holding the
clippers near the puppy's face and body and letting him get
accustomed to having the item right up against him. Again,
reward and praise correct behavior and do not reward unwanted
If there are other pets
in the home, gradually introduce them by initially keeping the two
separate but within sight of each other. If the existing pet
is not exhibiting signs of aggression, gradually allow the animals
to spend a bit of supervised time together. (Be sure to spend
some alone time with the older pet to reassure him that he is not
being replaced!) In most instances the pets will quickly learn
to get along and will become friends. Of course, it is up to
the pet owners to supervise the time the animals spend together to
be sure that neither abuses the other and that they learn to
several things that owners can do to help animals settle in to a
friendly relationship. The first step is for owners to
support the older pet's right to be the more dominant pack member.
This means the older animal should be fed first, should be petted
first and should be allowed to "put the puppy in his place" if he is
too obnoxious. This also means the older pet is,
to some extent, allowed to guard his possessions and to warn the pup
away from his food and bed. This does NOT mean the older pet
is allowed to bite or attack the new dog. It just means that
the older pet has a right to make the new dog respect his place as
an older, more dominant pack-member. It also means that the
older animal has the right to not be chewed on by the puppy, to not
have his toys or treats stolen by the puppy and to not have the
puppy constantly climbing on him. Owners should spend time
daily teaching a new puppy how to "play nice" with other pets.
New owners should continuously take their puppy for rides in the
car. If you are running to the pet store and the puppy has had
all of his vaccines, take him along and let him pick out a new toy
and meet other shoppers. If you are going to the bank, take
the puppy for a ride and a biscuit (most drive-up tellers keep dog
treats as well as lollipops!). Anytime you are going for
a short trip, grab Fido and have some fun. If you've got the
dog along, consider stopping by the park on the way home for a quick
walk and to visit with other park visitors; or stop by the groomer's
for a biscuit and to make your next appointment.
If the only
time your puppy gets to ride in the car is to go someplace where he
gets shots or a haircut and bath, it won't take long before he runs
and hides under the bed when you ask if he wants to go for a ride!
Getting through the door of the vet's and groomer's may become a
fight as well if the only time he visits is for "bad" things.
Instead of letting the dog become fearful of these regular
activities, take him for car rides as often as possible and visit
the vet's and groomer's occasionally just so they can give him a
biscuit and some petting.
Be sure when
you travel with your dog that you let him ride in his crate or that
you use a restraining harness. This is for his safety and
yours. In an accident, an unrestrained dog is likely to be
thrown around the inside of the vehicle and/or out of the vehicle
and into traffic. Needless to say, your dog may not survive
even a minor traffic accident if he is not crated or restrained.
If you use your dog's crate in the car, secure it to the seat or
another solid object with the seatbelt or some heavy duty bungee
cords. This will keep you from getting hit by the crate if you
are in an accident and it will help prevent injury to your pet by
keeping the crate from being thrown from the car.
Additionally, keeping the crate secured within the vehicle could
prevent your dog from being lost if the crate were to be damaged in
If your puppy is
afraid of riding in the car, start his training by just sitting in
the car and giving him praise and treats for not acting scared.
As he becomes more comfortable, let him explore the car and again
give him praise and rewards when he exhibits confident behavior.
Next, sit in your car with the motor running and let your puppy get
used to this. (Remember to never reward unwanted behavior and
don't coddle or try to reassure the dog if he's acting scared.
Just let him explore and get accustomed to the situation at his own
pace.) Once your dog is comfortable with being in the car and
having the motor running, start taking him on short trips down the
block. As he becomes accustomed to this, gradually lengthen
his car rides until he is comfortable going anywhere with you.
If your puppy
suffers from motion sickness, try to start getting him used to car
travel by taking him on short trips around the block. As the
puppy becomes conditioned to riding in the car, gradually lengthen
your trips. You might also withhold food and water for a few
hours before going out in the car so the puppy doesn't have a full
tummy. Most puppies will outgrow problems with motion
sickness. Even if your puppy had a problem when you brought
him home, he may be fine now that he is a little older. If
you've been putting off taking the puppy out and about because he
got sick in the car when he was little, you might consider trying it