Importance of Socialization

Have you ever seen the young adult dog who acts terrified, almost like they'd been abused in some form, as people often assume? While that does sometimes happen more likely the cause of the fearful dog is lack of socialization during the critical period of development. In the first 8 weeks of their lives, breeders or the responsible caretaker of the puppy should be providing the litter with enrichment activities such as different under footings, noises, and people. Once you come to own your puppy it is your job to continue to positively expose your dog and socialize them to the world. It's more than being around other dogs it's different places, people and things to help build and create a confident, stable, adult dog. This is more important than teaching your dog any basic commands. You can always do that but you only have a short window to socialize.

Here is a list of ideas of ways to socialize your puppy.

Different Types of People - Your puppy needs to be socialized with at least 100 different people before they are 16-20 weeks old. If you don’t have access to that many people, consider hanging out with your puppy at a busy shopping area. You need to do that more than one time. Make field trips fun and keep them short. Not every trip needs to result in greeting every person. Calm behavior should be encouraged during these interactions. 

  • Men (men with beards, men without beards, men with beards that wear hats, wearing hats and sunglasses, etc.)
  • Women
  • Boys
  • Girls
  • Shuffling people
  • Slouched people
  • People with glasses
  • People on crutches
  • People with walking sticks
  • People with walking frames
  • People walking strangely
  • Babies
  • Parties
  • People on roller blades
  • Joggers
  • Wheelchairs
  • Heavy people
  • Thin people
  • Tall people
  • Short people
  • People costumes
  • People in big coats
  • People with beards
  • People with sunglasses
  • People of all races
  • Bald people
  • People exercising (running, jogging, star jumps, etc)
  • Children and babies (See NOTE)
  • Dancing people
  • Busking people

 Note: It is really important that your puppy interacts with kids of different ages. Infants are very different than a crawling or semi walking baby. Most dogs are fine with infants but when a baby become a little more mobile is when most families see signs of growling and other aggressive displays. Please go out of your way to find children who will follow direction well and not hurt or scare your pup by accident.

Different surfaces

  • Bean bags
  • Tile floors
  • Wood Floors
  • Bubble wrap
  • Different walking surfaces
  • Wobbly bridges
  • Heights
  • Agility Equipment
  • Gravel
  • White floors
  • Child’s plastic sled
  • Leaves
  • Metal street grates
  • Plastic tarp
  • Cookie tin
  • Walk through a ladder on the ground
  • Tippy board
  • Mud
  • Puddles
  • Foot bridge
  • Stairs, closed and open back

Note: Be creative here! Your puppy will not need to walk on all of the above.
You can pile the treats on different weird surfaces and gently encourage your pup to step on. Never force your puppy to go on something. Help shape the puppy to think that this is their idea.


  • Sprinklers
  • Hoses
  • Being wet by the hose
  • Water
  • Shower
  • The beach
  • The bath
  • Swimming pools
  • People swimming
  • Water feature
  • Rain

Note-Just because you got your puppy in the winter does not mean that you don’t have to go out of your way to find things that they will see in the summer.


  • Airport
  • Skate park
  • Bus depot
  • Bus stop
  • Train station
  • Shopping malls
  • Loud fun places
  • Football game
  • Supermarket
  • School
  • Coffee shop
  • Building site
  • The gym
  • Tennis game
  • Office
  • Speed way
  • Place with crowds
  • Main roads
  • Your place of work
  • Playground (start at a distance and work your way closer)

 Note- Many large stores like Home Depot and Lowes or greenhouses allow puppies to come and train. Check with your local store before going. This will cover many things on your list. You need to go more than one time!

Moving and making noise

  • Lawn mower
  • Bikes
  • Children playing with various toys
  • Shopping carts
  • Vaccum cleaner
  • Skate boards
  • Scooters
  • Bus
  • Train
  • Tractors
  • Ride on lawn mowers
  • Cars
  • Hammering
  • Trucks
  • Motorbikes
  • Chainsaws
  • Fork lift
  • Helicopters
  • Airplanes
  • Sirens
  • Hair dryer
  • Suit cases
  • Remote control cars
  • Ceiling fans
  • Mirrors
  • Glass sliding doors
  • Boats
  • Automatic doors
  • Garage doors
  • Construction sites 


  • Fireworks from a great distance
  • Storms (e.g. thunder and lightning)
  • Parties
  • Musical instruments (piano, guitar, saxophone)
  • Gunshot
  • Cheering
  • Yelling
  • Singing
  • School bell
  • Sound effects CD and/or on line
  • Saucepans
  • Radio
  • Lawn mower
  • Loud noises

Note- Fireworks -please do not take your puppy to fireworks. If you know a holiday is coming like the 4th of July, be ready to make it a positive experience with lots of yummy treats, your jolly voice and a soothing music. If your puppy lives with a noise phobic dog, consider having the pup in a different location during these holidays. You can also find noises on line that you can condition your puppy to. Start at low levels.


  • Leash
  • Harnesses
  • Muzzle
  • Loom overhead
  • Collar grabs
  • Opening mouth
  • Cutting nails
  • Grooming (as appropriate to the breed)
  • Clippers
  • Being tethered
  • Having ears cleaned
  • Having eyes cleared
  • Having every part of the body handled
  • Being picked up
  • Teeth cleaning
  • Being carried on a stretcher
  • Being bandaged
  • The vet

Note – Please make arrangements to stop in to your vets several times for some treats and love at times when your puppy does not have an appointment. This will make visits less stressful for everyone.

Weird things

  • Big plastic objects
  • Plastic bags
  • Balloons
  • Umbrellas
  • Mirrors
  • Big balls
  • Thrown things
  • Shopping carts
  • Baby stollers
  • Fast movement
  • Kids toys
  • Brooms
  • Vaccuum cleaner
  • The wind
  • The wind blowing bushes/trees
  • Flags
  • Balls and frisbees
  • Tents
  • Flashlights


  • Escalators
  • Elevators
  • The car
  • Planes

 Other animals

  • Puppy school
  • Big dog
  • Little dog
  • Shaggy dog
  • Smooth dog
  • Farm animals
  • Bull breed dogs
  • Rabbits
  • Birds

When socializing is done properly you build the confident and stable dog. Therefore your dog will quickly recover from any instance that might startle or scare him. You may not need to socialize to every item on this list but if you can check off most of them you will find your dog is able to roll with new encounters or weird objects. Socializing is for life but it is best received at the young age of 8-16 weeks. It is always a good idea for the first 6 months when out with your puppy to bring tasty treats. If your dog sees something that makes him uneasy you have your tasty treats handy to work him through it and turn it into a positive experience.

What are you waiting for, get out there and start helping your dog cope with the world.