6 ways to socialize your puppy for mental fitness

6 Ways To Socialize Your Puppy

Socialize your puppy for mental fitness! I can’t stress this enough.

Mental stimulation really is key in order to avoid problem behaviors.

For example, excessive barking, digging, destructive chewing and similar unwanted behaviors, especially as your little guy grows older.

It’ll turn him into a confident adult who’s not afraid of new environments, engage him mentally and keep his brain sharp.

What Exactly Does It Mean To Socialize Your Puppy?

Now, what exactly does it mean to socialize your puppy? It’s the process of shaping your pooch into a balanced, polite being.

A dog who is comfortable in new surroundings, happy to explore unprecedented situations, and who is respectful of their owner and friendly strangers.

Socialize Your Puppy As Soon As Possible!

How do we go about it? Ideally, you’ll want to start at a young age and keep it up throughout your pup’s life! 

A young pup is most impressionable at 2-4 months of age.

That’s why it’s crucial to introduce him to the world around him in a fun, positive way during that time.

It may take a little longer to introduce an older dog to the world around him, but it’s doable.

Just remember that consistency & patience are key!

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Puppy Socialization: What To Cover

1. People

Your pup should be exposed to as many people as possible. That includes different ethnicities, genders, and ages. 

Whether you live at an apartment complex or in a single family home, there is usually a broad diversity in tenants or neighbors in your neighborhood.

Most people are willing to stop dead in their tracks too as soon as they see a cute puppy! 

Have them direct a few friendly words and pats at your pup, and he will soon be looking forward to meeting all those new “smells”.

I remember that it was impossible for me to walk my puppies Missy & Buzz on the apartment complex grounds I used to live at without someone wanting to say hi to the puppies. 

K9sOverCoffee | Puppies Missy & Buzz socializing with people and another pup

Don’t forget to include people in work uniforms. For example, UPS and FedEx drivers, your mail carrier, or police officers.

They’ll be grateful to encounter a well-behaved, friendly 3-year old German Shepherd down the road! 

Men wearing hats and hoodies should also make it on your to-introduce-to list.

2. Everyday Items and Sounds

The same goes for objects and sounds. Your little furball should get used to as many of those as possible.

At the very least to the ones he’ll be experiencing on a daily basis.

Those include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • (upside down) umbrella
  • Laundry basket
  • Open fridge
  • Water hose
  • Bathtub
  • Sports equipment
  • Cars
  • Doorbell
  • Washer & dryer
  • TV/radio/stereo
  • Garbage disposal

You name it, the list is endless…and yes, if lakes and boats are part of your life, go ahead and introduce your pooch to them as early as possible!

K9sOverCoffee.com | Missy hanging out on a boat with her Yorkie friend
8 month old puppy Missy hanging out on a boat with her Yorkie friend Martina

Needless to say, he also needs to be introduced to all the doggy paraphernalia like:

  • Collars
  • Leashes
  • Crates
  • Dog beds
  • Toys
K9sOverCoffee | Puppies Missy and Buzz in their crate
Missy & Buzz in their first crate

3. The vacuum

I clearly remember the way my living room used to look when I raised Missy & Buzz. 

I would leave the Bissel Pet Hair Eraser out in plain sight, while changing its positions. Sometimes it would be standing upright, at other times it would lay flat on the floor. 

At first, they were definitely unsure of this big, bulky “thing” that appeared all of a sudden, but it didn’t take them long to associate tasty treats with it.

I would “decorate” the vacuum with high value treats, like tiny bits of cheese and/or hotdog. 

Update 2022: Now that Wally lives with me, his bed is set up right next to my iRobot Roomba charging station. Whenever the robot vacuum cleaner gets to vacuuming, Wally doesn’t mind it.

Socializing puppy Wally to the roomba robot vacuum
Wally and the Roomba robot vacuum

4. Other dogs

Of course you also want her to behave well around fellow canines.

One way of introducing your pup to other dogs is to enroll him in a puppy kindergarten class. There, he’ll learn how to politely interact with other puppies in a playful manner.

There’s just something about an experienced dog trainer who gives you valuable tips about your dog’s body language & social skills. Especially when you’re a first time dog owner.

If some of your friends or neighbors have dogs, you can also set up puppy playdates!

The picture below features my new pup Wally and his puppy friend Fonzie.

Feist mix Wally and Mutt Fonzie
Wally (left) hanging out with puppy Fonzie (right)
Walking 3 Dogs In NoVA
Missy & Buzz with their Bulldog friend Ada

5. Shopping centers, pet-friendly stores & hotels

The two apartment complexes I lived at in Northern Virginia were within walking distance of a little shopping center.

So the pups & I would venture there every so often, and take in whatever we could! 

One activity we enjoyed was pushing “abandoned” Harris Teeter shopping carts back to where they belonged.

That was a fantastic way of teaching my pups to walk calmly next to me while I was pushing that loud, rattling thing. 

The pups have also come along on the occasional trips to Lowe’s and Tractor Supply, both of which are pet-friendly and allow polite, leashed dogs.

Missy & Buzz have also been to two pet-friendly hotel chains so far – Red Roof Inn & La Quinta.

They got to use the elevator at the Red Roof Inn we stayed at and did really well during the short ride!

They didn’t get to experience those hotel stays until later in their lives, but I would definitely recommend exposing your puppies to those types of experiences early on if you have a chance to do so.

Using the elevator with dogs at the Red Roof Inn

6. Car rides

I loved taking Missy & Buzz along on car rides with stops at a local Starbucks drive-thru, refilling breaks at the gas station, and the drive-thru carwash!

All great ways to safely expose them to the big world around them.

To this day, I take them along with me as much and whenever I can. 

They come along on trips to pet retail stores on a regular basis, usually once to twice per month. Again, this is another way of ensuring your pup stays social.

K9sOverCoffee | Leaving Early For A Little Road Trip To Break In Our New Car Hammock From Molly Mutt

I found a Bar & Grill in my new neighborhood in rural NC that allows leashed, well behaved dogs on their patio! I’ve taken the pups once so far, and loved the experience. 

Unfortunately, it was a bit too hot out to stay longer, so we limited our stay to 30 mins.

Bottom Line: Socializing Your Puppy Is Worth It!

So is it worth all the effort and patience it takes to socialize your puppy?

It most definitely is.

Whenever I see Buzz & Missy calmly walk past a house with a dog going crazy on the inside of it, I feel that our consistency in socializing & training is paying off. 

Every time I see them lying down in a relaxed manner after our morning walk in anticipation of breakfast and waiting calmly for my “ok” to go eat, I’m glad I invested my energy into shaping this behavior.

And I am a little proud of my puppy students.

How do you make sure to keep your doggie’s social skills up-to-date?

As always, I’d love to hear from you in our comment section!

Related reading:

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Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.


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21 responses to “6 Ways To Socialize Your Puppy”

  1. Emma Avatar
    Emma

    Socializing is hard in the US. In Germany, we went everywhere, but here dogs are rarely allowed in places. Even at dog school, we are not allowed to interact which is kind of frustrating. It is important to start early and get your pup out and about and used to as much stuff as possible. Good post!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Yes, being from Europe, I’m so used to seeing people a) bring their well behaved dogs to restaurants, b) take them along on public transportation, and c) bring them along on shopping trips ~ they will sit patiently in front of a butcher, bakery or grocery store (usually tied to a pole) and wait for their owners to reappear. Definitely a factor I miss here in the States.
      Thank you for the kind words, Emma 🙂

  2. Golden Daily Scoop Avatar

    What a great post! Socialization is so important! Now the vacuum part, that’s a different story! BOL! 😉

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thank you, dear Goldens 🙂 Haha, while preparing for the puppies’ arrival in our home I had read somewhere that “vacuum socialization” should definitely make in on your to-socialize-to list, since so many dogs freak out when they see/hear a vacuum cleaner in action. I made that one a high-priority :-)))

  3. Kate Obrien Avatar
    Kate Obrien

    Great post – lots of folks don’t realize how important socialization is for a pup. It’s just like kids…you have to expose them to new things to help them learn.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thank you, Kate ~ exactly. I love making lists, so I also made a looooong check-off one for our socialization work 😉

  4. Tenacious Little Terrier Avatar
    Tenacious Little Terrier

    I usually just take Mr. N with me when I’m out and about. We live in a pretty urban area so he’s exposed to just about everything. I think one of my favorite moments was when we were passing one of those multi-person pedaled bike tours (they look a bit like trolleys) and the guys were being really loud and they were blasting a Vanilla Ice song and Mr. N was just like whatever.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      That’s perfect & the ideal way of keeping social skills up to date! 4 paws up for Mr. N’s relaxed attitude around Vanilla Ice songs & party people 😉

  5. 2 brown dawgs blog Avatar

    We did puppy K when the dogs were young. Thunder and Freighter had good puppy K experiences but Storm’s was not so hot. The instructor had moved and there was only one other dog in the class. It was pretty useless and she hated it. 🙁 Most of our early training/socialization is geared toward bringing up useful hunting companions. We do not worry to much about the rest which seems to come in time.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Oh wow, talk about a tiny class with only two participants!! It makes total sense for you to concentrate on hunting, since that’s a huge part of your lives!

  6. Talent Hounds Avatar
    Talent Hounds

    Great post! Socializing is so important for a new puppy.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thanks, Talent Hounds, it really is. We had so much fun planning all our things & people to get the pups used to 🙂

  7. Hawk aka BrownDog Avatar

    Hi Y’all!

    My Human is a total believer in training classes to help her learn what she was doing wrong and so we could learn to handle different situations around other dogs.

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      That’s exactly what we needed a few pointers on as well! You have a smart human, Hawk 😉

  8. Kari Neumeyer Avatar

    Great tips! One thing I didn’t think about when we got a puppy in the summertime is windshield wipers! Fortunately, I had Leo in the car when I cleaned the windshield. He looked very startled, but got used to them quickly.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thank you, Kari 🙂 The windshield wipers are an interesting add-on; our pups came to live with us in the fall, so we had rain on a regular basis during their first few months with us. I’m not sure I would have thought of windshield wipers!!

  9. HuskyCrazed Avatar
    HuskyCrazed

    Wonderful tips. Socialization is definitely important.

    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thank you, dear huskies! It really makes a huge difference if a dog has been exposed to a variety of situations & objects or not.

  10. Lindsay Pevny Avatar

    I never considered helping my dog make friends with the vacuum! Whenever it’s on, she gets a bit scared, but she actually jumps off the couch, the bed, back and forth as though she WANTS it to notice her!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Maybe it’s her way of being involved in your vacuuming chore?!

      1. Lindsay Pevny Avatar

        It must be! I try to get her to just relax on the couch, the vacuum could easily eat her right up!

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