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Socialization Tips for Puppies and Dogs

It’s overwhelming to think about how you’re going to socialize a new dog or puppy.

I created a list of different people, animals, situations, sights, sounds and experiences you may want to introduce to your pup.

It’s a huge list, but it’s not like you have to expose your puppy to everything.

Pick one or two new situations or experiences per week. It will help your puppy tremendously.

Try to think about your lifestyle and the situations you’d like your puppy to be comfortable with ideally.

I liked to take my old dog Ace on boat rides, for example, but this may not be something you plan to do with your dog.

Socialization is about slowly introducing the pup or dog to new things over time in a positive way. Don’t underestimate the power of hot dogs to help create positive associations!

So here’s my list. Please add your suggestions in the comments, because there’s no way I can think of everything myself.

Things to safely introduce to your puppy or new dog

Sammi the cute pitbull mix

1. Introduce your puppy to different types of people

All types of “strangers” in general if you can. Women, men, seniors, teenagers, elementary-aged kids, pre-school kids, toddlers, babies, etc.

The key: Start taking your puppy for walks early. And make a point to drive to different parks and locations for walks.

2. Introduce your puppy to different types of clothing

Sometimes different article of clothing can surprise a dog.

So try to introduce your puppy to people wearing backpacks, different types of hats, big coats, big sunglasses, uniforms, suits, boots, helmets, face masks, etc.

Also think about the different seasons. If you will take your dog out on cross country trails in the winter, they may be started by people on skis or people wearing goggles and face masks.

Biking with my dog using a hands-free bike leash

3. Introduce your puppy to bikes, strollers, traffic, etc.

People in wheelchairs, people using crutches or walking with a cane, people pushing strollers, people on bikes or roller blades.

People walking at different speeds – runners, seniors moving stiffly and slowly, kids running and squealing, people running or biking with dogs, etc.

4. Get your puppy used to seeing people holding tools

Shovels, rakes, weed-whackers, skis, oars, hiking poles, etc.

5. Introduce your puppy to other animals

Cats, kittens, hamsters, ducks, chickens, horses, pet rabbits, any type of animal you think the pup might live with or be around later in life.

6. Introduce your puppy to different surfaces

(Thanks for this tip, Colby!) Sand, rocks, gravel, pavement, slippery or shiny floors, wooden walkways, tiles, concrete, dirt, snow, grass, agility equipment.

Socialization tips for dogs

7. Get your puppy used to water

Swimming at the lake, the ocean, the river, plastic kiddie pool, playing with the hose, riding on a boat or floating on a raft, standing on a paddle board or sitting in a kayak, etc.

8. Get your puppy used to grooming & handling

Being held or carried, having a bath, getting brushed & having nails trimmed, teeth brushed, having all body parts touched – feet, tail, nails, toes, ears, face, teeth.

9. Get your puppy used to riding in the car

Going through a car wash, going through a drive-thru window, driving by lots of pedestrian traffic such as school parking lots, etc. See my friend Dawn’s tips on getting a dog used to the car.

10. Introduce your puppy to riding in a boat

Or standing on a dock, fishing or watching boats.

11. Introduce your puppy to a lot of other dogs

Dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds on and off leash, including other puppies. I highly recommend obedience or puppy socialization classes.

12. Gradually expose your puppy to loud noises

You don’t want to scare your puppy, but I would start introducing your puppy to loud noises from a distance and then slowly move closer over a few weeks.

Things like trucks, trains, tractors, snowmobiles, motorcycles, school buses, lawnmowers, gun shots, fireworks. Our Lab breeder suggests doing a gun intro at around 5-6 months for Lab puppies and to do so very gradually, from a distance.

13. Expose your puppy to loud indoor noises

Vacuum, blender, loud TV like football games, smoke alarms, musical instruments. Also, just loud people! Like friends who yell at the TV during football games.

14. Get your puppy used to being in a crowd

Examples could be a softball games, watching people run a 5K, parades, fairs, a gathering of friends, a family reunion, etc.

Sophie the springer, Ace the Lab mix and Elsie the golden

15. Think about places to visit with your puppy

Take your puppy to a lot of new areas. Visit places such as the vet, the groomer, dog daycare or boarding facilities, pet friendly stores, different people’s homes.

16. Plan new experiences for your puppy

Get your puppy used to being left alone with someone new, like staying with a friend or relative for a few hours. Get your puppy used to having their toys or food taken away, visiting the country or visiting the city or the suburbs.

If you like to go camping, practice setting up a tent so your puppy can see it and investigate.

Other puppy socialization ideas:

Campfires (smoke and flames), visiting dog friendly restaurants, getting used to a doggy door.

I think I could go on and on …

Also see my posts:

What are some important puppy socialization examples you might add to the list?

Let me know in the comments!

Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.

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