Puppy socialization is one of the most important parts of your puppy’s training. Your puppy should be comfortable around other pets, people, and places. Puppy’s that are not socialized can lead to very scary, stressful lives. They tend to grow up and become fear aggressive dogs that have the potential to bite and attack.

In order to have a healthy, happy, well-socialized puppy, there are several things that a pet parent needs to know. First, your puppy should be exposed to social situations at a young age, preferably after they have had their first round of vaccines. The prime age for exposure is between 6 and 16 weeks of age. After this time frame, it is harder to accomplish certain social behaviors.

In order to prepare your puppy for certain social behaviors and situations, you must first perform some handling exercises. During these exercises, you want to provide your puppy with yummy treats and a lot of praise.  Below I have listed 10 activities to practice with your puppy.

1.      Handle your puppy. This includes cradling your puppy like a baby and looking him in the eye. He needs to know that you are the alpha dog. He also needs to trust you and look to you for the acceptable behavior in new, and sometimes scary situations.
2.      Touch your puppy’s paws, nails, and legs. This prepares your puppy for visits to the vet whereupon physical exam he will be touched from head to tail. It also prepares him for nail trims that he will need throughout his or her life.

3.      Brush your puppy. This is especially important if you have a breed that will be going to the groomer every 6 weeks and/or a breed that has a thick undercoat that sheds.

4.      Clean your puppy’s ears. Use cotton balls and ear cleaner. This prepares your puppy for ear exams performed by your vet as well as handling/cleaning of the ears after baths.

5.      Give your puppy a bath. You can do this in stages. Start with small amounts of water to play in. Make it fun! Advance to running water. Use a cup to pour water over your puppy until he can get used to a sprayer.

6.      Open your puppy’s mouth. This helps teach your puppy that it is ok for you to handle him. It makes dental exams safer, as well as making pill administration easier.

7.      Brush your puppy’s teeth. This helps prevent plaque and tartar build-up that leads to tooth loss as well as heart failure. It also helps keep dental cleanings to a minimum. Start by using your finger to rub the puppy’s gums. Use doggie only toothpaste that is chicken or beef flavored. Human toothpaste can be toxic!  Advance from finger, to finger brush, to a regular toothbrush.

8.      Have Strangers handle your puppy. Once your pet is starting to get used to you performing all of the exercises above, let people he or she may not know to take part in these activities. When friends or family come over, allow them to handle your pet. Again use a lot of treats and praise. Make sure you expose your puppy to many children and adults of various ethnicities, shapes, sizes, and appearances. Walking your dog at pet-friendly malls and outdoor events is a great place to start.

9.      Expose your pet to New/Strange things. This means exposure to sewer covers, curbs, crowds, elevators, anywhere or anything that you want your pet to be comfortable with that he or she may see on a routine basis.

10.  Use a checklist to provide additional exposure to new people, places, and things.

Children of all ages                                         Stairs
Teenagers/Adults                                            Automatic Doors
Elderly                                                            Tunnels
Wheel chairs                                                    Fireworks
Bikers                                                              Sewer Covers
People in Uniform                                           Scale at vet clinic
People with hats/glasses                                  Doorways
People with beards                                          Balconies
People with strollers                                        Elevators
People of varying ethnicities                           Umbrellas
Crowds                                                           Flash Lights
Social Events/Sports                                       Sacks
Dancing/Singing                                             Water
Livestock                                                        Boats
Other Pets                                                       Fountains
Motorized vehicles
Car Rides
Parks
Varying Weather
Different Textured Floors
Signs
Fire hydrants
Lawn Mowers
Vacuum