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Easy socialization tips for dogs and puppies

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to think about how you’re going to socialize a new dog or puppy or recently adopted dog.

I decided to create a list of different people, animals, situations, sights, sounds and experiences you may want to consider introducing to your puppy.

It’s a huge list, but i’s not like you have to expose your puppy to everything. That would be impossible anyway. Especially now that we’re dealing with social distancing and so many closures and restrictions ourselves!

But, if you pick one or two new situations or experiences per week, it could help your dog tremendously.

Try to think about your lifestyle and the situations you’d like your dog 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.

Sammi the cute pitbull mix

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

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.

Different types of clothing
People wearing backpacks, different types of hats, big coats, big sunglasses, uniforms, suits, boots, helmets, burkas, face masks, etc.

Biking with my dog using a hands-free bike leash

The different ways people move
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.

People holding tools
Shovels, rakes, weed-whackers, etc.

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.

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

Socialization tips for dogs

Water
Swimming at the lake, the ocean, the river, plastic kiddie pool, playing with the hose, etc.

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.

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.

Riding in a boat
Or standing on a dock, fishing or watching boats.

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

Loud outdoor noises
Trucks, trains, tractors, snowmobiles, motorcycles, school buses, lawnmowers, gun shots, fireworks.

Indoor noises
Vacuum, blender, loud TV like football games, smoke alarms, musical instruments.

Crowds
Once we safely have crowds again … Softball games, 5K events, parades, fairs.

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

Regular places to visit
If these places are open near you, visit places such as the vet, the groomer, dog daycare or boarding facilities, pet friendly stores, different people’s homes.

Experiences 
Getting left alone with someone new, like staying with a friend or relative for a few hours; Getting them used to having their toys or food taken away; visiting the country or visiting the city or the suburbs.

Other
Campfires (smoke and flames), being in a tent, 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 examples you might add to the list?

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How to Bathe a Puppy - Dog Peralta

Wednesday 16th of December 2020

[…] bath time is also an integral part of your puppy’s socialization process and will contribute to turning him into a confident, happy adult dog who’s not afraid of bath […]

Barbara Rivers

Monday 4th of December 2017

That's an awesome list! I took the pups boating when I had the opportunity to take them along for a weekend at a friend's lake house when they were about 9 months old. Too bad I hadn't had the chance to do it while they were still truly puppies - Missy loved it (she's my little water rat anyways), but Buzz absolutely hated it. He cowered under a seat on a towel and pretty much stayed there as long as the boat was in motion.

Lyndal

Wednesday 29th of November 2017

Grates. Sometimes they have to walk over grates or a bridge over a causeway. It's grate like, my previous dog would do it but prefer to walk around. My Labradoodle puppy thinks the idea of all that awesome space below her is an adventure waiting to happen and I often have to drag her away. Loved the list!

Madelyn

Tuesday 28th of November 2017

Mirrors and glass door reflections confuse my dog Midnight. I had to close the curtains at night as the light in the kitchen reflected what was in the house and seemed to cause him some anxiety. He is slowly getting used to reflections.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 28th of November 2017

I didn't even think of that possibility!

Cheryl Hoglund

Sunday 20th of August 2017

I have a 4yr old adopted lab/Rott mix. He is a fun dog except when he is dashing out the front door! We have had him for almost a year now and unfortunately never did obedience with him. I have MS and don't move fast and my husband has RA and can be in a lot of pain. He was going to do obedience with Rocket but hasn't gotten around to it. Rocky will sit or lay down for a treat. He will come when called when in our large yard but if he has shot out the front door, he will NOT come. Help.