Posted by: Linda Trunell | December 15, 2013

Puppy Socialization

Socialization is introducing your puppy to the world he will inhabit and helping him to make good associations with people, places and things.  This includes kids, dogs and other animals, car rides, surfaces, sounds, and outside environments.

The critical period for socialization is the first 4-16 weeks of a puppy’s life. By about 5 months this window begins to close as a puppy goes through a “fear period” and is much less accepting of new things.   A reputable breeder will begin the socialization of puppies before they leave the litter.  Puppy mill puppies can wind up in a pet store or farmer’s market at about 6 weeks of age and spend this critical time in a cage.

Puppy Classes should be started as early as possible.  PetSmart Puppy Classes are for puppies 10 weeks to 5 months of age.

Unfortunately, many veterinarians tell people to keep their puppy isolated until he has received all his shots (5 or 6 months of age). Lack of proper socialization is more of a risk to a dog’s life than the minimal disease risk to a healthy puppy. The reason most dogs are surrendered to shelters is aggression or behavior problems which result from lack of proper socialization and training.

Dr. Ian Dunbar, veterinarian and Animal Behavior PhD, says ” The risks are minimal to non-existent and the benefits are positively HUGE, namely, learning bite inhibition (via dog-dog play-fighting),socialization with people (during off leash play), handling by strangers, and owners learning to train their pups in a controlled yet extremely distracting setting (integrating training interludes into play, so that rather than being a distraction to training, play with other dogs becomes a reward for training). Plus, it is a fun night out for dogs and their human families.”

The Pet Professional Guild has free information for pet guardians including a Puppy Socialization Checklist available here


Dr. Ian Dunbar has made two books available as free PDF downloads:

Before You Get Your Puppy – This book is simply a MUST READ for anyone thinking of getting a puppy. Puppies should be raised in an errorless housetraining and chewtoy-training set-up.  This is very easy to do and everything you need to know is described in this little book.

After You Get Your Puppy – This book covers housesoiling, destructive chewing, barking, separation anxiety, socialization, handling, puppy biting, bite-inhibition and preventing adolescent problems.

If you are adding a puppy to your family, please take advantage of these free resources and get him started off the right way. A puppy should be a family member for life!

Here’s to being our dog’s best friend,


%d bloggers like this: