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

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.

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.

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.

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?

33 thoughts on “Easy socialization tips for dogs and puppies”

  1. What an awesome list to keep as a reference! You pretty much covered everything I can think of except maybe opening and closing an umbrella. Go ahead and really crank up that stereo once in awhile, haha! Thanks for putting this list together. 🙂

    1. Good one! I’d forgotten to mention an umbrella. I imagine some dogs really freak out when they first see one open!

      1. I got a puppy about three months before I broke my tibial plateau and spent three months non-weight bearing and another three months learning to walk again. Needless to say, my little girl is a scaredy dog. She knows two things: going to the park and visiting my sister. At 16 months what can I do to help her? She is literally afraid of everything — even the dog food bag. If we’re not at the park, she is under my bed.

  2. I think you covered pretty much all the things I was going to suggest. It’s funny how there’s all these experiences I notice that even at 3 years of age Laika hasn’t seen; last week we went on a walk in a new neighborhood. One of the homes had 3 flags and it was a windy day so they scared her. I’m thinking all the new Halloween decorations coming out soon might startle her a bit as well. It does seem overwhelming when you have a new puppy; especially since so many people recommend such a wide variety of people, animals, and environments. But it’s so worth it to end up with a dog that’s comfortable and confident in his surroundings.

    1. Yes, the Halloween decorations definitely cause a lot of dogs to do a double-take! Especially some of the “scarier” life-sized scarecrows and such!

      1. Hardware stores have lots of holiday decorations, the cackling witch etc was great for my papillon to meet.

  3. Mom just tries to take us along everywhere she goes, has us around with everything she does and hopes it works and usually it does. We are all pretty fearless. Good list!

  4. Thanks for the shout out! I was just putting together a list for our guide dog puppies. Our list includes most of what you’ve written about plus a little extra for guide pups.

    One area that is very important for puppy raisers is public transportation like trains, planes, boats, ferries, buses, taxis etc. We take it for granted, but blind and disabled people will often take public transportation on a daily basis.

  5. Great list of things to introduce your dog to. I would add foods…our Maggie wanted nothing to do with anything beyond her kibble…of course it wasn’t hard to get her to try new things, new food…she is a Lab after all.

  6. Good list! Kaya & Norman were weirded out by the odd shadow, stump or random object. I’d always encourage them to check it out. Doesn’t seem to happen anymore:) Though Norman hates the vacuum…no socializing was enough to trust that monster:(

    1. Oh yes, my pets will never accept the vacuum either. They aren’t terrified, but they are definitely on edge when it comes out and highly irritated. If only I could make them understand they are the reason I have to vacuum so often!

  7. Great list! You covered a lot of ground. Honestly, I realize now I have not ever done a very good job of socializing puppies that I’ve had. Of course, I did some things, but not nearly enough. I think I worried way too much about “naughty” puppy behavior. I’d just add, don’t be afraid to venture out and try these things. In other words, don’t worry about what other people think when things don’t go well. Try to think about your long-term goals. Easier said than done I know. Thanks for all the useful suggestions. Great photo too!

  8. Awesome list 🙂 We would like to recommend eating habits. Usually retrieves and Labradors are receptive to new types foods. But a few other species might have problems.
    -Team pettagsiddogscats.com

  9. This is a great list for great dog owners and their dogs; I can imagine that there are many dogs that don’t have the socialization opportunity. My Rottweiler dog still not yet dares to be near a 1,300 lb. friendly horse eating grass on a hiking trail; though the horse owner inviting us to be close to her horse. I seem to read somewhere that we should not get too close to the horse’s hind legs to avoid being kicked.

    I did encounter some incidents that some dog owners don’t want to socialize with my Rottweiler (named Seven), though Seven often gives impression to people as a calm dog. I also observe at the Ocean Beach dog beach (in San Diego), that some owners playing fectching (throwing the floating toy into water) with their dogs don’t want to be interrupted, while Seven is obsessed in waiting for the dog to come out of the water and then inviting the dog to play.

  10. great Job Lindsay, you covered every aspects of it . As you mention Indoor noises, my puppy does ok job with these Vacuum, blender, loud TV like football games, smoke alarms, musical instruments but when he hears any object dropping sound or door slamming sound he get scared I dont know why.

    1. Those sounds are very abrupt rather than constant sounds like tv or a musical instrument.Think of how you react to the same things.Are you startled by short quick sounds rather than constant ones.I imagine dogs react in the same manner.

  11. I have a four year old YorkiePoo, adopted at age two. It takes him a very, very long time to be comfortable with a new person. My brother-in-law spent five days with us and the first four Eli barked at him every time he moved. We hesitate to have people to our house because he barks. He wags his tail at the same time, and is not threatening, but it is offputting and hard to talk. We have tried everything that has been suggested.

    1. Hi Sandra. I’m sure that is frustrating. Does it seem like your pup is acting out of fear? Just brainstorming here, one thing you might try is having all people 100 percent ignore your dog when the come over and have them drop highly valued treats like pieces of chicken or jerky. But have them completely ignore the dog – no looking at him or eye contact or talking to him. Really hard to do, but just a thought.

  12. Niesy Bevilacqua

    Our therapy dogs often have to ride elevators at the hospital, so there is another area to cover while you are working on exposure to the wide world.

  13. Great List!
    One I wouldn’t think of unless it had happened is…
    Inside staircases, second story homes, basement rooms etc.
    We invited guests to come stay (and their 4-legged children) at our home. Our home was a two story with bedrooms upstairs. When time came to go to bed, their dog wouldn’t get past the 1st landing area. She would look up, she would cry but wouldn’t come up. They tried to carry her up and set her down once they made it to the second floor only to have her go right back down. The dog was 3 at the time and was familiar with steps outside, but had never been exposed to indoor stairs.

  14. I wished I started the putting a backpack on Emma Lou when she was a pup.Now(shes 3 years old) she will wear it but she don`t like it much.I`m not carrying everything when were out and about.Making a list is really good.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. Pingback: How to Bathe a Puppy - Dog Peralta

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