Training 911 – Socialization Nation

posted April 19th, 2015 by
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Training 911

Training 911

Socialization Nation


By Mary Green


Socialization is a big buzzword in dog training and pet owner circles. Dog parks, play groups, day cares and training classes all stress the importance of socializing your pet. Here’s a common scenario: a pet owner calls me and says, “I think my dog needs socialization.”  “OK”, I answer. “What’s going on with her?” “I took her to the vet today, and she was afraid of everyone and everything,” she says. “So my vet said she is under-socialized.”


What Is Socialization, and How Do You Go About “Socializing” Your Dog?

Socialization is the process of introducing a puppy to people, places, objects, animals and sounds. When a puppy is exposed to these new things in a positive manner, she is more likely to accept new things as an adult.

According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, the primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time, sociability outweighs fear. Great! However, when you bring your puppy home at 8 weeks, she is already two-thirds of the way through the socialization period. It’s not too late! Your puppies aren’t destined to be social outcasts or misfits if you take smart steps toward socialization.

Have puppy parties

Invite people to come over! Rule of thumb: for every woman the puppy meets, she needs to meet one adult male and one child. Invite kids of all ages but not all at the same time. Ask people to wear funny hats, coats and uniforms.

Go to puppy kindergarten

Dr. Ian Dunbar (at has some tips for finding a good puppy class. Enroll in a puppy class that has a good sanitization program and requires proof of vaccination and work closely with your veterinarian to keep your puppy current on her vaccinations.

Visit pet-friendly businesses

Don’t limit your field trips to the pet supply store. Find a café with a dog-friendly patio. Ask businesses that you frequent (your bank, hardware store, liquor store, book-store, etc.) if you can bring your puppy in for

a visit and make

it brief!

Make happy visits to the veterinarian or groomer

Just run in, meet some people, see some other animals and get up on

the scale or grooming table! Every visit to the veterinarian shouldn’t be just for a procedure or vaccination. Many vet clinics have resident birds and cats to visit, as well as pet-friendly staff.

Car rides

Make the most of a car ride by going to a drive-through fast food restaurant. Or go to the automatic car wash, but be aware that it can be pretty scary. Go to the drive up window at the bank and see if the teller has dog cookies, which many often do!

At home

Introduce your pup to the scary things that reside in your home, such as the vacuum cleaner. I had a puppy that thought the vacuum was a fire-breathing dragon that lived in the closet/cave and sprung ferociously to life. Items you use daily, such as a hair dryer, coffee bean grinder, and appliances, provide opportunities for your puppy to socialize with objects. Get creative and pull out your motion-activated holiday decorations.

The goal is to let your puppy socialize at her own pace. Don’t overwhelm her with  too many things at one time. Give her the time and space to be comfortable in approaching new people, animals or objects, and reward her with treats and praise for each encounter.

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