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Socializing your Puppy or Adult Dog

Everyone has heard that socialization is very important for dogs, but not everyone may know when and how it takes place.

When a puppy is developing, one of his developmental stages is actually called the socialization period. This period is from 3-12 weeks of age and this is when he is most accepting of new things. Puppies should be rather fearless at this stage and willing to investigate their environment. They are also learning how to form attachments with humans and other dogs, read body language, and build trust.

Once the puppy hits 12 weeks of age, this window of socialization begins to close. So by the time the puppy is 16 weeks of age, he is starting to become more cautious. This means that attachment to people and other dogs, and fearlessly investigating new things, slows down dramatically.

You may be thinking, “Wait, I didn’t even get my dog until he was 8 weeks old!” There is a great benefit to puppies staying with their mom and littermates until 8 or 10 weeks of age. They’re learning communication skills and bite inhibition. For optimal behavioral development, it would be great if they were spending those first 8 to 10 weeks in an enriched environment (full of positive, social interactions with a variety of people, places and things). However, not all puppies get this, so the best you can do at this point is get to work socializing.

It’s possible to socialize an older dog, but you may not get the same results as if the process had been started younger and generally it will take longer.

Recommendations for socializing a puppy or adult dog:

  • Should always be a positive experience for the dog and not too overwhelming. Taking treats with you is a good idea so he can associate the new things with something positive.

  • When meeting new people, be aware of your dog’s body language and never pressure him. Let your dog warm up to the people, places, animals and things at his pace.

  • Ask people to allow your dog to smell them first before reaching or petting

  • Take your dog walking with other pet owners and their dogs. Walking is a non-threatening way for dogs to get comfortable with each other. Allow them to meet once they are no longer interested in each other (this usually means they are now comfortable).

  • A good goal for your new puppy is to have them encounter 100 new things in the first 30 days you have them. Example: men, women, children, wearing hats, umbrellas, trash cans, rain, bicycles, noisy trucks, vet’s office, dog groomer and 99 more things.

  • Enroll them in a group class which specializes in socialization and building confidence.

This isn’t everything you should know about helping your dog become more social, but it should start you on the right path.

Please call, text or email me with any questions you may have. Our website is, email:, and cell: 480.652.4900

Kathy Fabish, Pet Services of Ocean Isle Beach

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