Puppy Socialization ChecklistMost people know that puppy socialization includes introducing their puppy to other dogs and people. What you might not know is that there are hundreds of other things that puppy needs to be socialized to such as objects, sounds, traffic, crowds, new locations, and even different flooring surfaces. Knowing what to socialize your puppy to and where to take your puppy to experience these things can be a bit of a challenge. As such, we’ve put together this puppy socialization checklist to get you started. Before you begin puppy socialization, please refer to AVSAB puppy socialization.
Puppy Socialization- Noises
Your puppy needs to be exposed to all noises in the environment in order to learn that these noises are safe and not worth reacting to. Please consider the purchase of a puppy socialization sound CD which is available from a variety of sources on line. The more places you go for puppy socialization, the more exposure he will have to a variety of sounds.
Socializing to Men, Women and Children
A good rule of thumb is to allow your puppy to meet 100 men, women and children by 16 weeks of age. Meeting the same person repeatedly does not count as the puppy will only socialize to that particular individual. Be sure to make allowances to meet different ethnic groups, different sizes and shapes and different ages of individuals.
It’s relatively easy to socialize a puppy to women as women are much more likely to walk right up to a strange puppy and coo and coddle him. Men are more likely to admire an adorable pup from a distance and children can sometimes be hard to find. Below are some clever places to go to find those elusive men and children. When you get there, proactively ask the men and the children to meet your puppy…now is not the time to be shy!
Linger in the parking lot or close to the entrance and bring treats that the children can offer to your puppy. Bring one or two small plush toys to put into the puppy’s mouth while he is greeting the children to prevent him from accidentally mouthing a child.
- Bus stops
- Toy stores
- Across the street from any school when school is starting or ending
- Ice cream shops
- Entrance to movie theaters
- Playgrounds (keep puppy at a safe distance, please)
- Athletic fields and courts
- Home Depot or Lowe’s”“ Visit the contractor entrance early in the morning to see uniforms and lots of trucks too!
- Car washes
- Hardware stores
- Barber shops
- Hotels- linger by the entrance
- Gyms- linger by the entrance
- Electronics stores
- Sporting goods stores
- Sports arenas
- Bicycle and motorcycle stores
- Downtown for morning, lunch hours or evening rush hour
- City Parks
People of all shapes, sizes, ages and nationalities
- Open air shopping centers
- Outdoor cafes and coffee houses
- City parks that allow leashed dogs
- Hotels- linger by the entrance
- The parking lot or entrance of any grocery store or mall
- Schools and churches- be across the street when school or church lets out and let puppy watch all the action and meet and greet the people.
Heavy Traffic and Crowds Including Those Big, Scary Things That Move
- Post Offices
- UPS Stations
- Fed-Ex Stations
- Mall Parking Lots
- Entrance to hospitals or rehab centers for wheelchairs and walkers
- Grocery store and mall parking lots
- Police stations
- Fire stations
- Rest areas off the highway (daytime visits please for safety)
- Home Depot or Lowe’s parking lot and inside the garden section where leashed dogs are allowed
- Boats, canoes, floats, jetski’s and other floating things can be found at your local waterway.
- Make it rain! Utilize a drive-through car wash as often as possible to experience loud sounds, movement and water
Different Flooring Surfaces
Puppies should be exposed to linoleum, hardwood, carpet, concrete, grass, stairs, pine straw, mulch, sand, wooden steps, bridges and decks, tile and gravel. Be on the lookout for these surfaces or create them yourself utilizing flooring samples from your local flooring or home improvement store. You can purchase a bag of sand, mulch and gravel for less than $7.00!
It is essential that the scale at your veterinarian’s office be one of the surfaces that your puppy is heavily exposed to. Bring puppy and tons of treats to your veterinarian’s office as often as possible so that he can be routinely weighed. He will benefit from these exercises for life!
To prepare your puppy for noisy surfaces, pluck leaves from a tree and let them sit in the sun until they dry. Bag them when they are dry and create a heavy leaf trail or pile for the puppy to walk through. If you got your puppy in the winter, use dog food bags or any other crunchy, plastic material and make a walkway with the objects. Encourage puppy to walk through the new walkway. You can also roll out a large plastic garbage bag and encourage your puppy to walk over it. For wee ones, (6-10 weeks) you can line cookie sheets with tin foil, wax paper or parchment paper and encourage your puppy to walk in and out of it. Supervise please so that the puppy does not taste test the new surfaces.
Dogs and Other Animals
A good rule of thumb is to have your puppy meet a minimum of 50 dogs by the time he is 16 weeks of age.
- Dog stores and dog bakeries. Chain pet stores typically have cats, hamsters, fish and a variety of other animal species safely contained in cages. While your puppy won’t technically be able to “meet” these animals, allow him to linger by the cages, sniff and watch the activity. If your puppy is upsetting the caged animal, please remove him promptly.
- Veterinarian offices, especially helpful if they have office cats
- Puppy socialization classes
- Groomer locations
- Horse pastures and miniature farms/petting zoos
- Private play dates with other puppy owners (call your dog trainer and inquire if they can arrange for puppy play dates)
- City Parks (Please”“no dog parks until puppy is fully vaccinated.)
- Don’t have a cat? Call a friend who does and ask if you can bring your puppy over for a meet and greet. Be sure to keep puppy on leash so that you can control his movements.
Every Appliance in Your Home & Routinely Used Equipment in Your Garage
Make opportunities to run your dish washer, garbage disposal, vacuum, automatic ice machine, blow dryer etc. and do it regularly. Have a home office? Make sure that puppy sees and hears the shredder, fax machine and any other equipment which may make noise. If you have equipment in the garage which is regularly used such as a car vac, air compressor, lawn mower, trimmer etc., turn them on while puppy is in the house and feed him treats and play games with him. In this way, the noise becomes background noise and puppy won’t be able to focus on it. Repeat this exercise as often as possible.
Bikes, Joggers and Strollers
Dogs who are not properly socialized to things that move grow into dogs who chase things that move. Don’t let this happen to your dog! Below are a few places to visit with puppy so that he can acclimate to moving objects and learn that they are normal in the environment and therefore nothing to pay attention to.
- City parks
- Walking/jogging trails
- Baby stores and mall entrances
- Entrance to pediatrician offices
- Check the Internet for biking and jogging events in your city and make yourself and your puppy part of the crowd.
Any public place will provide the opportunity to see a variety of people, bicycles, joggers, strollers, traffic, wildlife & multiple flooring surfaces.
- City Parks and Greenways
- Outdoor cafés (Starbucks, Panera Bread, etc.)
- Pet stores and pet bakeries
- Open air shopping centers where you can walk with puppy or simply sit on a bench and watch all the cars and people go by.
- Veterinary offices
- Mall parking lots
Places for Puppies Who Will be Service or Therapy Dogs
Animals being trained for service work require specific, additional socialization. Contact your dog trainer or service organization for a list of items and experiences that your dog will need in addition to the following:
- Elevators and escalators
- Nursing Homes/Rehab Centers (people using wheelchairs, walkers, IV poles etc.)
- Pet friendly hotels for an overnight stay
Your puppy will quickly socialize to the objects and sounds in his immediate environment. While this is important, it is not enough. Your puppy must experience a variety of different environments in order to generalize that objects and events are safe no matter where he encounters them. Below is a list of ideas to help you accomplish this:
- Regularly drive your puppy to a new neighborhood and go for a short walk.
- Have as many people as possible come to your home. If you are new in town and don’t know anyone, purposely order food or products on line so that delivery personnel are coming to your door. And yes, let the puppy meet them when they arrive!
- Take your puppy to at least two other homes before he is 16 weeks of age so that he can explore the different scents and objects and experience the different sounds.
- If you plan to travel regularly with your puppy, take him for overnight stays at a hotel so that he learns to be comfortable no matter where he is.