How to Socialize a Puppy and Things to Avoid

How do you socialize a puppy?  This seems like an easy enough
task, right?

I mean, you just take your puppy out and expose him to
things…. Seems like one of the easiest ideas and tasks available
when it comes to your new puppy.

If you think that, socializing a puppy is a  simple and easy
process you are WRONG!

for more information.

Puppies are young and pliable.

Think of your toddler: if you threw him into a body of water, or
if he was traumatized by a farmer in a red tractor; he might very
well suffer from a lifetime of  the fear of large bodies of water
and farmers with red tractors.

Of course, no one in their right mind would throw a toddler into
an open body of water; and chances are a farmer with a red tractor
is not likely to hurt or traumatize you and your family.  But
these overwhelming and traumatic experiences leave lasting imagines
in a young mind.

As adults, former positive experiences can override a
generalization that something fairly benign and regularly not
threatening things are terrifying across the board.

So for the young, socialization and exposition (exposing someone
or something to something) is something to be taken seriously.

Socialization is a Process

What people don’t realize is that socialization is a
process.  Puppy kindergarten classes can be important, we will get
to that later.   But socialization classes are not the do all end
all when it comes to learning about life and a puppy’s

It, also, isn’t as easy as leashing your puppy up and hitting
the trails or the streets.  Socializing your puppy isn’t always
informal and easy.

I have a love hate relationship with the internet, you can
literately find anything pro or against whatever stance you are
taking.  This is super frustrating, as a professional dog trainer
and a medical professional.  It also makes common sense even less

But I found from information from Berkley (yes, Berkley East Bay
Humane) and so I thought I would share it for you to read about
puppy fear stages and fear of situations and people places.

Many people don’t realize that puppies have fear stages….
But they certainly do. One day your puppy may be or seem very
outgoing and the next he can appear fearful and apprehensive.
 And, it is critical not to try and push your puppy past or
through these stages in a negative or overwhelming way.

Imagine being a little fearful but then someone trying to walk
you past a jackhammer.  You may never like loud noises !

Flooding is a form of behavior modification where you are faced
with an overwhelming amount of your fear.  Let us say that you are
afraid of snakes.  Flooding would dictate to take you to a place
full of snakes and let you understand that these snakes are not
likely to hurt you.

However, if you are truly terrified of snakes, this form of
behavior modification and training can actually make your fear
worse; and not better.  You could panic and form more of terror
response than you formerly had!

Be careful not to “flood” a puppy that is trying to work
through a fear.  Even if the fear seems irrational to you and your
family.  It is up to you as a dog owner to raise a well behaved
dog free of fears and the irrational and aggressive responses that
may follow.

After all, I personally like snakes… so I might think that a
fear of snakes is irrational.

Read these guidelines
from Berkley

Fear can be very serious for fearful dogs and dog owners.

Overwhelming fearful situations people places, weird strangers,
strange dog and loud noises must be avoided so that dog owners can
enjoy a well behaved dog, for a lifetime.

7 weeks to 9 weeks is probably the most critical.  This is why
many breeders won’t ship puppies at this age, because it can
negatively affect them for lifetime.  Breeders will carefully
socialize and let the puppy work through these weeks without
risking that the new puppy owner will inadvertently traumatize the
puppy during these weeks.

If you pick your own puppy up during these weeks, remember that
they are still very critical.  Socialize and expose your puppy to
people, places, and well behaved and well socialized dogs that you
know so that nothing horrifying accidentally happens!

From Another point of View

People places and People

I know that some of you have a love/hate relationship with my
analogies comparing babies or toddlers to puppies.  However,  I
think we take “motherhood” or parenting much more seriously and
realistically. Would you pass your screaming or fighting petrified
child to someone you didn’t know when you knew the child was
terrified of the person for whatever reason?  Chances are that
unless that person is family, that you trust, you would not.  You
would respect that the baby is scared and understand that we
don’t want to make it worse.

Take your dog’s or your puppy’s body language and your
dog’s or your puppy’s behavior into account when it comes to
safe socialization.  Animal behavior is very easy to read, when we
pay attention! Try to encourage independence while not creating
fear and force when it comes to sights and sounds that your puppy
will encounter.  DO NOT coddle him or reinforce his fear, when you
see it, but also avoid flooding and making it worse.   Ironically
both stances:  coddling and cooing “it’s okay, it’s okay”
and flooding will both make his fears worse!  Remember that good,
respectable and healthy socialization takes time.

Click here
to understand why too much love and control will
also make it worse.

The Broken Puppy

puppy training

A good friend of mine handed her new Jack Russell puppy to one
of her kids’ friends.  The child inadvertently dropped the puppy
and broke her leg; and the puppy never liked children that she
didn’t know ever again.  There was an association with pain,
trauma, and terror when children entered the environment and the
situation.  Accidents happen but it t is up to you to keep your
puppy safe, or as safe as you possibly can!

If you want a child to socialize your puppy, have them sit down
in order to hold the puppy.   Or let them safely play with the
puppy with a toy.  Utilize a leash to help you control the
puppy.  These things can help from a healthy generalization that
children are good instead of bad.  Interactions can be controlled
by you!

Yet somehow, we expect our puppies to work it out by
themselves…. Eventually they may work it out in a healthy way so
that you end up with a confident dog.  They may bond to you, they
may trust you.  And, eventually if you are working diligently you
may see a huge difference.

But don’t push a terrified person or animal to “socialize”
when they don’t want to!  The only way to get away is  “fight
or flight” and if the dog feels he can’t get away (flight) he
has to choose fight (aggression) and you could very well be
teaching aggression as a coping mechanism when they are
uncomfortable.   Read


How We Create Fear Aggression and Why it is So Frightening

Correcting the Aggression

When a puppy or an adult dog feels “fight” and can’t get
away with “flight”, he often shows a series of aggressive
behaviors; growling, lunging, showing teeth etc. as a way to
deflate his fear and the situation.  He is communicating that he
is uncomfortable.  When a dog owner physically or verbally
corrects the dog for this behavior, he is often making the
situation worse.


I mean it seems like allowing this behavior is a bad idea, but
by only adding physical and verbal corrections or force you
aren’t changing how the dog is feeling about the sights and
sounds and situation going on around him.  We aren’t making him
more confident!  We are actually only correcting the “warning
system” the growling, lunging, etc.  So, the dog learns,
instead, that the growling etc. is not what the dog owner wants. 
This inhibits his warning but not how he is feeling.  So next
time, the dog is much more likely to just bite instead of warning
someone that he is going to bite!  This is not a good situation
and this is why I say a growl can be a good thing.

Fearful puppies often lead to fearful adult dogs with bad
behavior.  We certainly don’t want one or two situations to lead
a fearful life.  I was sideswiped in my car yesterday, but I
don’t want to be afraid to drive forever.  Fear is never

Independence and the short abundance of healthy respect helps us
to not get squished like the running squirrel in the middle of the
road who couldn’t make a decision.  We need to learn
independence and how to make decisions on our own.   Remember
don’t coddle!  Let your puppy work out some things on his

Coddling your puppy and cooing “it’s okay, it’s okay”
will also create serious and dangerous aggression, just as much if
not more so as correcting aggression.  It reinforces the puppy’s
fear and even if the puppy is not aggressive or showing aggressive
behaviors yet, this reinforcement and reward of fear will often
create serious aggression and some confidence because the dog feels
that the owner likes and appreciates the fear and aggression.

Be careful what you reinforce!


Puppies are cute.

Even the fearful or aggressive ones.  People often scoff and
laugh and marvel when an aggressive puppy with severe behavior
problems comes into a veterinary hospital.  I mean how dangerous
can a 6 week old 10 pound puppy appear?

Add 150 pounds to that aggressive puppy and it is no longer even
remarkably cute.  Aggressive adults dogs are terrifying.  These
dogs can be afraid of strangers, loud noises and just a basic fear
of the unknown because they were never exposed to anything or
safely socialized when they were young, are chilling.     The
early stages of dog body language often says they will kill what
opposes them, or at least go to war with them (fight).   Animal
behavior isn’t always easy for people who aren’t paying
attention.   I notice changes of behavior very quickly and
respect all information given to me.  “Whale eye”, snarling,
growling are all assessed even in dogs I like or had never
previously seen aggression.  I want to understand what the dog is
telling me, no matter what!

Adults Dogs Can Simply Kill People

I have seen numerous articles of people’s own dogs that killed
them.  One was being visited at a quarantine facility and the
other was on a hiking trail.  The police said they had never and
did never want to see anything as horrific as that again.  What
amazes me is that neither of these people claim to have ever seen
any “signs”.

Read the latest
article here

The Problem

We aren’t teaching our puppies impulse control.  I had seen
pics of some of these dogs and had seen the “whale eye” of the
dog who didn’t want to be hugged.  Yet, whose owner forces the
hug and close contact on them.   Just because the dog doesn’t
growl or show blatant aggression doesn’t mean he likes it.

I can’t tell you how many owners tell me that their dog will
growl over food, or toys, or getting them off of the sofa when they
don’t want to move but would NEVER bite.  A “first bite”
starts somewhere and behaviors give us cues before aggression
happens.  Don’t ignore what your dog is trying to tell you.

Just because the dog allows it and the owner can’t necessarily
see the aggression (in the “selfie” picture etc.) Doesn’t
mean they shouldn’t see signs or feel the dog bristle.  People
have become trusting and clueless and naïve when it comes to
animals.   Dogs are animals, most have been domesticated but not
all of them have been domesticated to the same levels.

Dogs, also, don’t hug one another.  Hugging is a dominant
behavior to animals.  Some dogs and puppies can be taught to show
affection in this way, but few enjoy it.  My female dog enjoys a
brief hug, but I let her put her neck over mine in a kind
greeting.  I don’t grab her and hug her.  I would NEVER, EVER
allow a child to hug any of my dogs!  Hugging = restraint to
animals, that is why working at veterinary clinics can be so
difficult and dangerous for technicians and veterinarians.  No one
wants to feel negatively “restrained”.

Prey Drive

Prey drive also brings another dynamic.  One dog might not kill
you…. But 2 to 3 dogs especially that live in a cohesive group
become a pack and your chances are much less for your chance to
survive if you are trying to fight off a pack.

Control, train and socialize your puppy in a healthy manner
before adding another dog or another puppy!  This will drastically
drop the chances of prey aggression.

What Do You Do?

Start by socializing your puppy with well known and calm family,
friends, and dogs that you know!  This helps you to control the
people which helps control the environment and allows the puppy to
be socialized in a tranquil manner.

Begin training right away!  I want my puppy to have healthy
behaviors and learn impulse control before I begin adding people
and dogs that I don’t know.  This provides my puppy with some
coping skills if a frightening situation begins or occurs.

Service Dogs begin training in their own environment as soon as
their eyes open!  They are well controlled and have coping
mechanisms before they ever hit 7 weeks or go outside with anyone
they don’t know.  This allows them to begin to bond and build
some healthy relationships and form some independence on their own.
  After all, learning feels good and leads to independence. 
Learning rarely leads to fear and codependence or aggression.

To find out more about
Service Dogs click here

Puppy Kindergarten

Enroll in puppy socialization classes and/or puppy kindergarten
classes!  I am a firm believer that, again, my puppy should
already have the existing training so that I am in control and he
is already more independent and he is familiar and confident with
some obedience skills.

But be careful, puppy kindergarten can be fun…. But some
puppies pick on others.  Don’t let them socialize while you are
training!  It isn’t conducive to impulse control and training
and can be confusing.

And be especially careful of puppy playtime. I have seen puppy
kindergarten get out of hand quickly.  One or two dogs will pick a
lesser dog in the class and give chase.  Some of this is normal,
but if the dog being chased has fearful body language (tucked tail
or cowering or trying to get away) give everyone a time out.

A good trainer will not allow that to happen, nothing wants to
feel like prey all of the time!   Stop play that is too rough,
give short time out and then let them play again.  But not all dog
trainers are created equally.  Be more cautious of pet store puppy
training, often these trainers just don’t have the

I literally have a good friend with a Pug puppy and when she
went to puppy kindergarten class and the other dogs would give
chase, the trainers would make the Pug puppy sit in the corner on
the leash and watch and sometimes be approached by these dogs again
(this time feeling restricted and not being able to get away).  It
created some dog aggression at 10 weeks.  These trainers were not
created equal and had no business running puppy class!  Be careful
who you allow your children and dogs to learn from, it is your job
to put your foot down.

Aggressive Puppies

Yes aggressive puppies exist.  I used to have videos of 6 week
old puppies biting HARD and with severe aggression.  It isn’t
typical but it does happen!  Be aware.  If it doesn’t feel
right step in and break it up.  No one likes to be bullied all of
the time,

I literarily can pick out puppies who are lucky to become dog
aggressive later in life.  They are often very dominant and
serious with their play.

This doesn’t make these bad puppies and it also doesn’t mean
they have to grow up to be dog aggressive!

Please drill into your head that NOT ALL DOGS NEED TO PLAY TO BE


Your dog can simply walk next to the other dog to be social.

This is THE Big one!!!!!!!

Play does not = Sociability!!!!


Sociability is controlling yourself around those you may or may
not like and have coping mechanisms and independence in unknown
situations.   Again, we lead back to the confidence that training

If you approach sociability this way you will end up with a
happy, well behaved, and confident dog.

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How to Socialize a Puppy and Things to Avoid
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Source: FS – TheDogTrainingSecret
How to Socialize a Puppy and Things to Avoid