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Socializing your dog.

Socializing your dog.

We use the term "socialization" a lot when discussing dog behaviour, but what does socialization really look like? Socializing your dog is not just visiting dog parks and arranging play dates, and it actually involves more than just your dog interacting with other dogs in order to create a solid, sound foundation for your puppy. 

Socialization begins before your dog comes home. Your puppy begins learning about socialization from it's owners, mother and littermates. It learns how to speak, play and nip - and also learns that biting hurts. That's why it's so important for puppies to be rehomed after 8 weeks of age, so they can spend that time learning valuable lessons with their family!

From 8-16 weeks, exposure is the name of the game. During this age your puppy wants to explore just about everything. They have very little fear of the unknown, and using this natural instinct to learn and experience new stuff will benefit both you and your dog. 

Using a checklist to introduce your dog to new things can really help. The key in accomplishing each check is having your puppy be OK with the new exposure. Playtime is fun and great for learning how to communicate with other dogs, but you also want you puppy to be able to achieve a neutral/ calm state around other dogs and environments as well. As they grow, introducing structured pack walks with other dogs supports their ability to remain in a neutral state while in the presence of others. 

 What's on the socialization checklist? Be sure to include:




People of many ethnicities

Tall men

Men with deep voices

Men with beards

Elderly People wearing hats, helmets

People wearing hoodies

People wearing backpacks

People wearing sunglasses

People with canes, walking sticks or walkers

Teenagers/ Young adults

Children standing as well as playing

Toddlers (walking and squealing) Infants (crawling)

People running by


Checking the ears

Examining mouth and gums

Opening the eyelids

Touching and holding the feet

Handling and trimming the toenails

Pinching skin lightly (emulating a vet exam)

Poking the skin with a capped pen (emulating a needle)

Touching the nose

Cradling puppy in your arms on its back

Holding him in your lap

Holding puppy upside down 

Holding puppy on its back while giving a belly rub

Hugging your puppy

Pulling the collar (gotcha)

Grabbing puppy by other part of body

Wiping body with a towel

Putting on a harness or jacket

Touching and holding their tail



Dogs who play well

A dog who will reprimand puppies with appropriate force and restraint for getting into his personal space

Puppies who play well and do not get overly aroused




Horses and livestock

Large and small birds

Small mammals (Hamsters, etc.)

Any reptiles or exotic animals that you may have or know your dog might come into contact with



Slippery floors such as hardwood, linoleum or marble

Metal surfaces-such as manhole covers, vet hospital scales

Wobbly surfaces such as BOSU® ball, a board on top of a book or unbalanced thick tree branch, a wobble board


Wet grass


Ice, frost, or snow




Babies and kids 


Dogs barking

Doorbell wringing

Traffic (like downtown in a city)

Jack hammers

Vacuum cleaner



Suburban neighborhood

Residential city street

High traffic city street (such as downtown)

Shopping mall

Indoor parking lot 

Dog-friendly event such as an agility or obedience trial, or expo

Locations of several different dog training classes





Garbage bins

Shopping carts

Baby strollers

Wheel chairs





Pots and pans

Blankets or rugs being shaken




Bags blowing in the wind

Sidewalk signs

Garbage cans in the house

Electric and push scooters


Take note of how your dog reacts to these things. Are the overexcited? Are the nervous or scared? Did they seem content and not phased by them? Exposures that cause fear or overexcitement are ones that need to be worked on with slow and steady repetition. Remove your puppy from the exposure when they show these signs, and repeat the exposure at a later date with encouragement and your distraction. Getting them to focus on you while being exposed to the environment that is causing the reaction is the goal.