Socialize Your Puppy - Our Checklist Will Help

THE most important thing you can do for a puppy is introduce them to the world in a positive way.

Puppies are genetically programmed to learn about and explore their future world up until just over 4 months of age. Everything that they will see as adult dogs should be introduced to them as pups if it is at all possible. If you get a puppy—this is your job. No excuses. You will pretty much eliminate future behavior problems if you do this properly.

Behaviorists, vets and trainers do not recommend waiting until your puppy has had all it’s shots. You have a much greater chance of developing severe behavior problems than your puppy getting sick. Your puppy should be protected from Parvo before going out and about in strange places.

It is really important that you take your cues from your puppy and that you do not over face them. For example, some pups thrive at a puppy play group and others do not.

Below is a Socialization Checklist.
Hang it up. Use it. You’re Welcome!

Different Types of People

  • Men
  • Women
  • Boys
  • Girls
  • Shuffling people
  • Slouched people
  • People with glasses
  • People on crutches
  • People with walking sticks
  • People with walking frames
  • People walking strangely
  • Babies
  • Parties
  • People on roller blades
  • Joggers
  • Wheelchairs
  • Heavy people
  • Thin people
  • Tall people
  • Short people
  • People costumes
  • People in big coats
  • People with beards
  • People with sunglasses
  • People of all races
  • Bald people
  • People exercising (running, jogging, star jumps, etc)
  • Children and babies
  • Dancing people
  • Busking people

 
Note: It is really important that your puppy interacts with kids of different ages. Please go out of your way to find children who will follow direction well and not hurt or scare your pup by accident. Consider having as many new people as you can find give your puppy high value treats. Dogs who like kids, tend to be good with them.

Your puppy needs to meet and interact with at least 100 people before they are 20 weeks old. If you don’t have access to that many people, consider hanging out with your puppy at a busy shopping area. You need to do that more than one time. Make field trips fun.


Different surfaces

  • Bean bags
  • Tile floors
  • Wood Floors
  • Bubble wrap
  • Different walking surfaces
  • Wobbly bridges
  • Heights
  • Agility Equipment
  • Gravel
  • White floors
  • Child’s plastic sled
  • Leaves
  • Metal street grates
  • Plastic tarp
  • Cookie tin
  • Walk through a ladder on the ground
  • Tippy board
  • Mud
  • Puddles
  • Foot bridge

 
Note: Be creative here! Your puppy will not need to walk on all of the above.
Good breeders will have already done this. You can pile the treats on different weird surfaces and gently encourage your pup to step on. Never force your puppy to go on something. Help shape the puppy to think that this is their idea.

Water

  • Sprinklers
  • Hoses
  • Being wet by the hose
  • Water
  • Shower
  • The beach
  • The bath
  • Swimming pools
  • People swimming
  • Water feature
  • Rain

 
Note-Just because you got your puppy in the winter does not mean that you don’t have to go out of your way to find things that they will see in the summer.

Places

  • Airport
  • Skate park
  • Bus depot
  • Bus stop
  • Train station
  • Shopping malls
  • Loud fun places ( fairs)
  • Football game
  • Supermarket
  • School
  • Coffee shop
  • Building site
  • The gym
  • Tennis game
  • Office
  • Speed way
  • Place with crowds
  • Main roads
  • Your place of work
  • Playground

 
Note- Many large stores like Home Depot and Lowes allow puppies to come and train. Check with your local store before going. This will cover many things on your list. You need to go more than one time!

Moving and making noise

  • Lawn mower
  • Bikes
  • Children playing with various toys
  • Shopping carts
  • Vaccum cleaner
  • Skate boards
  • Scooters
  • Bus
  • Train
  • Tractors
  • Ride on lawn mowers
  • Bob cats
  • Cars
  • Hammering
  • Trucks
  • Motorbikes
  • Chainsaws
  • Fork lift
  • Helicopters
  • Aeroplanes
  • Sirens
  • Hair dryer
  • Suit cases
  • Go Karts
  • Remote control cars
  • Ceiling fans
  • Mirrors
  • Glass sliding doors
  • Boats
  • Automatic doors
  • Garage doors
  • Construction sites
  • Dremel

 
Noises

  • Fireworks
  • Storms (e.g. thunder and lightning)
  • Parties
  • Computer dial up
  • Musical instruments (piano, guitar, saxophone)
  • Gunshot
  • Cheering
  • Yelling
  • Singing
  • School bell
  • Sound effects CD and/or on line
  • Saucepans
  • Radio
  • Lawn mower
  • Loud noises
  • The sound of a carbonated drink opening

 
Note- Fireworks -please do not take your puppy to fireworks. If you know a holiday is coming like the 4th of July, be ready to make it a positive experience with lots of yummy treats, your jolly voice and a soothing music. If your puppy lives with a noise phobic dog, consider having the pup in a different location during these holidays. You can also find noises on line that you can condition your puppy to. Start at low levels of course.

Situations

  • Leash
  • Harnesses
  • Muzzle
  • Loom overhead
  • Collar grabs
  • Opening mouth
  • Cutting nails
  • Grooming (as appropriate to the breed)
  • Clippers
  • Being tethered
  • Having ears cleaned
  • Having eyes cleared
  • Having every part of the body handled
  • Being picked up
  • Teeth cleaning
  • Being carried on a stretcher
  • Being bandaged
  • The vet

 
Note – Please make arrangements to stop in to your vets several times for some treats and love at times when your puppy does not have an appointment.

Weird things

  • Big plastic objects
  • Plastic bags
  • Balloons
  • Umbrellas
  • Mirrors
  • Big balls
  • Thrown things
  • Shopping trolleys
  • Baby stollers
  • Fast movement
  • Kids toys
  • Wind socks
  • Brooms
  • Vaccuum cleaner
  • The wind
  • The wind blowing bushes/trees
  • Flags
  • Balls and frisbees
  • Tents
  • Flashlights

 
Travel

  • Escalators
  • Ride on Elevators
  • The car
  • Planes

 
Other animals

  • Puppy school
  • Big dog
  • Little dog
  • Shaggy dog
  • Smooth dog
  • Farm animals
  • Bull breed dogs
  • Rabbits
  • Birds

 
Note – Your dog needs to see a lot of dogs that do not look like him. Bully breeds can be hard to read and without early experience, dogs can think they are being threatened by them.

This post was inspired by a post by Lee Make Kennels

Happy Training!

Nancy’s blog is sponsored by the good folks at Doggie Loot. Check out their deal of the day, every day!




12 comments

  • January 6, 2012 11:09 amPosted 2 years ago
    melf

    What an excellent post and set of lists Nancy! I will be sharing onb my FB pages when I get back home.

    I can attest to what you said about the importance of socializing your puppy. I got Jasper (and his sister) at about 9 months old as a foster dog and eventually adopted him. He spent a good majority of his first year in a pet store window (I did not buy him. He was “rescued” from the pet store.), so he was exposed to very few of the items in your lists. As a result, he has a hard time with anything new in his environment or changes in his environment. A new rug? He’ll skirt it and sniff from a great distance before approaching it. A lawn mower or new item in the backyard? He does what I call his “chicken little the sky is falling” bark. A dog trainer once told me he is what they call a “brittle dog” meaning he cannot adjust easily to new things in his environment because he was never socialized as a pup. He is a good example of why it is so important to socialize your puppy as soon as you can.

    Thanks for providing folks with info they can really use!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
    • January 6, 2012 11:29 amPosted 2 years ago
      Nancy Freedman-Smith (@Gooddogz)

      Thanks Mel. How far dogs will come with “remedial socialization” depends a lot on genetics to. The odds that your dog’s parents were a bit spooky are pretty high I should think. Thanks for sharing. It is important information.

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Reply
  • Visit site
    January 6, 2012 12:38 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Chester's Mom

    The timing of this could not be any more perfect. My brother-in-law just got a 16 week old Australian shepherd pup. He has never been the primary parent of a dog before so I’ve been giving him all the info I have to help him. I’m printing this out to add to the pile. Thanks!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
    • January 6, 2012 12:59 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Nancy Freedman-Smith (@Gooddogz)

      Excellent! Tell him to get a move on. The socialization window is closing fast.

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Reply
  • Visit site
    January 6, 2012 1:47 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Monica

    I wish I read this before I got my basset puppy – Piper. She is afraid of everything! Something falling or settling in the trash can sends her down the hall. It is very confusing to me because she is the “alpha” dog in our house. She guards her toys like crazy but will share when I tell her to “be nice” or “leave it.”
    I hate it when people come to visit and she runs to the bedroom! She eventually comes out (because she can’t stand not knowing what is going on) but she doesn’t warm up to people and she is the sweetest dog! I wish they could see her true personality.
    She is 2 now – is it too late for her????

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
    • January 6, 2012 2:07 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Nancy Freedman-Smith (@Gooddogz)

      Hi Monica, It is never to late to change behavior and two is not too old. You could really benefit from working with a positive trainer. You can contact me if you need help finding one. In your dog’s case there may be a genetic component, but still no dog should have to live in fear. We have so very many techniques these days that can help.

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Reply
  • Visit site
    January 6, 2012 3:32 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Anonymous

    I rescued a three year old border collie/terrier about 2 months ago. She was outside most of the time in the mountains with only one dog around and two people. When on a walk she whines and goes crazy when she sees another dog or a child. Do I need to socialize her? She is super sweet and loves people and other dogs (a little to much)

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
    • January 6, 2012 6:15 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Nancy Freedman-Smith (@Gooddogz)

      HI! It would be impossible for me to be able to tell what you have going on just by that short question. Is your dog excited to see other dogs? or fearful? a bit of both? conflicted? You need to take your cues from your dog. Only pups can be socialized. You do need to train your dog and help her play catch up. Some dogs have horrid starts and yet don’t seem to miss a bit. They are all different. When in doubt, consult a positive trainer in your area. Best of luck!

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Reply
  • Visit site
    January 10, 2012 1:02 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Pamela

    What a wonderful list. I’ll use it when I get my next puppy. We raised our last puppy, Panda, and things were going well. We also owned his 5 yr old Aunt who helped raise quite a few puppies at the same breeder. Then I bought his brother from the same litter as Panda. He was 2 yrs old and I thought he’d be the same temperment but had been in the show ring circuit and did not have the homey upbringing that Panda was given. He was on his best behavior at home for a month or so then started turning on his brother. If Panda walked through the door first, or bumped him – Bosley would turn on Panda and draw blood. Then when we broke it up, Bosley acted like he didn’t know what had happened. It was like it he was psycho dog for a few minutes then forgot what happened. We took both brothers to UCDavis for for a behavioral interview and the doc watched as both brothers wandered around the office and said, “did you know that Panda is actually the instigator?” We thought what? Our sweet little pup that takes the brunt of the beating? We then had to treat Bosley as the top dog in the house, feed him first, etc etc. We were told that Panda needed to learn to be submissive. Things got better but it was a long 12 years of never knowing when the next trigger would set off Bosley. I’ve since been told not to have two male or two females together. We’ve always been fine with a male/female relationship. My husband was a saint to put up with this for so many years. Bosley was the sweetest dog (when not in his psycho behavior) and used to sleep next to me on the bed. Things went along fine until they didn’t and we never knew when that would happen. Thank goodness for UCDavis vet center in helping us to cope with this type of situation.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
  • January 14, 2012 9:54 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Twinkle Enyong

    Thanks for this list; it’s so helpful and so timely because I currently have 15 newborn puppies (less than 4 weeks old) at home. Presently, they are currently exploring various surfaces…

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
  • Visit site
    January 15, 2012 1:14 amPosted 2 years ago
    Minneh

    This was probably the second most important thing for me when I first adopted my pup at 10 weeks (house-training was initially the most important). All the shelter volunteers knew was his mum was a rottweiler, so it was extremely important that I could groom him, trim his claws, and take him to the vet as he got older and much, much bigger. One thing I found that helped was to get a Kong, and fill it with the best-of-the-best king of treats, then freeze it and take it with you to the vet. Also, it helped that my vet was awesome enough to play with him after he checked him over. Now he thinks he’s getting “gourmet” treats and a playdate every time we see the vet.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
  • Visit site
    June 7, 2012 3:05 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Ashley

    Thanks for the great list. We just got our golden retriever puppy 6 days ago. He is only 9 weeks and we have already started introducing him to everyone and everything we can! We live in Portland, ME also – we may see you sometime at the Back Cove!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply

Leave your comment

Your Name: (not required)

E-Mail: (not required)

Website: (not required)

Message: (required)

Send comment