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Puppy Socialization 101: Creating Positive Experiences for a Well-Adjusted Life

A chestnut brown puppy looking up at the camera wearing a floral bandana

Do you ever look back at pictures of your dog as a puppy and just melt all over again? I went all the way back to 2019 to find this baby-faced Peach, and I can't believe it's been five years since I foster-failed my sensitive, gentle girl!

Peach came to me with her sister, Charlie, in the spring of 2019 with an unknown history after being found in Texas. She was 4-5 months old, just about out of the critical socialization period, as is the case for many of us when we bring a new dog home. Whether you've brought your pup home during that critical window (it starts at three weeks and ends somewhere between 12 and 18 weeks) or maybe just outside of that, if you've ever spoken to me about puppies, you'll hear me say: socialization, socialization, socialization, and more socialization! When I say that, I mean exposing your puppy to new things at a pace they feel comfortable with while also ensuring that all experiences are good ones. This will help them grow up to be a happy, confident, and well-rounded adult. While we can work on a lot of skills at any age, socialization and exposure during this period, when they are seeing most of the world for the first time, is so important to set puppies up for success in the future.

All of my puppy clients are given an extensive socialization checklist that they can work through and customize for their own lives. What are things you'd like to be a part of your puppy's everyday life? Places you'd like them to go? People you'd like them to meet? Surfaces you'd like them to walk on? Sounds you'd like them to be comfortable hearing? Would you like them to be a dog that's comfortable at the vet? How about one that enjoys playing with other dogs? These are all things to consider and discuss with a qualified trainer when planning how to best set your puppy up for a successful future.

Here are a few things I encourage my puppy clients to include in their socialization checklists:

  • People of different ages, heights, ethnicities, in different clothing, with a variety of voices. Walking, running, and on bikes.

  • Other friendly, social dogs, cats, farm animals.

  • New surfaces: sand, gravel, tile, wet grass, just to name a few.

  • Sounds: automatic garage door, leaf blower, vacuum.

  • Things: balloons, strollers, wearing gear (harness, collar, leash, raincoat).

  • Places: hiking trails, plant nurseries, pet-friendly stores.

This is just a snapshot of the amount of things we should consider experiencing with our puppies while they are still young to work towards creating a confident adult that we can enjoy our lives with. If you're planning on bringing a new puppy home and would like help navigating all things puppyhood, reach out! I'd be happy to help.

A chestnut brown puppy and a tan adult dog sitting in the grass looking up at the camera
A chestnut brown puppy and a tan dog walking next to each other on a hiking trail

A tan dog and a brown puppy on leashes looking at a large white horse through a fence

A chestnut puppy and a tan dog standing next to each other looking at a horse in a paddock

After 5 months as a foster, Peach hadn't received any adoption interest. She and Darla (you'll see her in my logo!) were the best of friends and similar in so many ways. When Darla was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma in July of 2019, Peach never left her side. There are still moments that I see Peach and she reminds me so much of Darla that it takes my breath away. I like to think Darla left a lasting impression and knew Peach was just what I needed. They always know, don't they?

A puppy and an adult dog laying outside taking a nap

A cute brown puppy sleeping with her head resting on a tan dog who is also sleeping


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