How To Socialize A Puppy – Free Printable Checklist

Are you wondering how to socialize a puppy? These tips and our printable/digital puppy socialization checklist will have your puppy on its way to being a friendly, amazing dog in no time.

how to socialize a puppy pin

The first 3 months of a puppy’s life are vital to their social development.

The experiences your pup goes through during this time will shape who he will inevitably be as an adult dog.

Because of this, it’s highly recommended that puppy owners gently introduce their puppies to a variety of people, animals, places, and experiences during the first few weeks in their new home.

Socialization begins before you even get your puppy, which is yet another reason that picking a reputable and responsible breeder is important.

A good breeder will facilitate positive interactions in the early weeks.

The main idea behind socialization is that your puppy experiences positive interactions with other people and animals.

According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, improper socialization leads to behavioral problems later in life.

What’s more, they write, “Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.”

How To Socialize A Puppy

how to socialize a puppy featured image

Socializing a puppy doesn’t have to be complicated.

I’ve made a puppy socialization checklist so you can easily keep track of the experiences your puppy needs.

Remember, some of these suggestions may seem strange, but allowing your puppy to experience each and every one of these activities will make for a well-rounded adult dog.

Here are some tips for successful puppy socialization:

  • Make it positive. The whole point of puppy socialization is to give your dog positive experiences with other animals, objects, and people. A bad experience will naturally have the opposite effect on your pooch.
  • Introduce your puppy to as many new things as possible. Variety is the spice of life! Some dogs are naturally more hesitant than others and that’s just their demeanor no matter what. But, generally speaking, a dog that is nervous and afraid likely hasn’t experienced as many new things as a dog that was properly and positively socialized as a puppy.
  • Let other people handle your puppy. The more people that are involved in the process of your puppy’s socialization, the better. Then they know that new experiences can happen with anyone. Besides, the time spent together, in and of itself, is socialization.
  • Don’t overwhelm your puppy. Take baby steps if you notice your dog’s body language is shifting. Overwhelming your puppy would only push them further away from the experiences that you’re trying to get them accustomed to.

How to Socialize a Puppy Before Vaccinations

puppy getting shot at the vet

Here are some of the things listed on my puppy socialization checklist that you can do with your puppy before their vaccinations since none of them require you to leave your house or put your puppy on the ground outside.

However, the recommendation for socialization before vaccinations has changed.

These are still important to do every day…

  • Trimming toenails
  • Hugging your puppy
  • Wiping body with a towel
  • Putting on harness
  • Cleaning puppy’s ears
  • Examining mouth and gums
  • Cradling puppy
  • Squeezing puppy’s feet

You can also introduce your puppy to objects, such as:

  • Plastic bags
  • Pots and pans
  • Umbrellas
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Hairdryer
  • Loud music
  • Balloons
  • Newspaper

How To Socialize A Puppy To Other Dogs

dogs playing together

It used to be recommended that you wait until your pup is fully vaccinated to allow them to play with other dogs.

That’s since been changed, as professionals have found that the risk of a puppy contracting an illness is far outweighed by the behavioral implications and risks associated with a lack of early socialization.

Instead, to be safe, the main place to avoid when your puppy is young and needs socialization with other dogs is the dog park.

Because dog parks have heavy traffic, the risk of contracting an illness goes up dramatically.

Instead, visit your friends with friendly dogs, or find a puppy class near you. Daily walks can also be incredibly helpful and give you the chance to work on leash training.

How To Socialize A Puppy With Humans

dogs playing with kids

  • Take your puppy for car rides
  • Visit friends
  • Invite company over
  • Dog classes
  • Have your family or friends give puppy treats
  • Follow your puppy’s body language

How To Socialize A Puppy After 16 Weeks

aggravated dog

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the door to socialization really kind of closes at 16 weeks.

By that point, you aren’t socializing your puppy, you’re treating a behavioral problem, and that’s not a fun situation to be in.

Some experts in the field actually argue that 12 weeks is the cut-off date, while others still are exploring the possibility of this varying by breed.

For a more in-depth explanation, I highly recommend you read this article by Dr. Jen.

Download my puppy socialization checklist below to keep track of your puppy’s experiences and progress:

What tips about puppy socialization do you have? Let us know in the comments below!

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