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 refers to 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!
Puppy Socialization: What To Cover
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.
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
- Sports equipment
- Washer & dryer
- 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!
Needless to say, he also needs to be introduced to all the doggy paraphernalia like collars, leashes, crates, dog beds & toys.
3. The vacuum
I clearly remember the way our living room used to look when I was raising Missy & Buzz. I would leave the vacuum 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.
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 having an experienced trainer give 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.
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.
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.
I found a Bar & Grill in my new neighborhood in rural NC that allows leashed, well behaved K9s 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.
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, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!