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Dog Socialization Checklist: Everything You Need To Know

May 20, 2022

Since socializing your dog is such a necessary part of their development, determining where to start can feel a bit overwhelming. This dog and puppy socialization checklist will break it down into easy steps, outlining what your dog should experience and when. By following these tips, you can set your dog up for success and help them feel comfortable with a variety of environments.

Why Is Socialization So Important in Dogs?

Properly socializing your dog from an early age is the best way to help them feel safe and confident throughout their lives. Even if new environments or the sound of a vacuum cleaner might not pose any actual threat, your dog does not know that yet. In order to get this message across, take the time to create positive associations sooner rather than later.

Stimuli that we might not perceive as scary things can be completely different to our dogs. We can help our dogs gain important social skills as well as a feeling of security by exposing them to as much as possible. The most effective socialization window for a dog is when they are between three and 20 weeks of age. At this time, a puppy’s brain is the most amenable to positively engaging with new sights and experiences.

Can Adult Dogs Be Socialized?

While dog socialization is often discussed as being primarily for puppies, adult dogs can benefit from it as well. If an adult dog was not properly socialized as a puppy, it is never too late to start. Introduce them to people and experiences slowly, as they might not be as fast to pick up on it as their younger counterparts.

What Kinds of People Should You Expose Your Dog To?

Now that we have established the basics of exactly why socializing your dog is so crucial in the first place, it is time to delve into our checklist. First and foremost, your dog is bound to meet a lot of different people throughout their life. Unless associations are made early on that show your dog the positives of people, dogs can grow fearful later in life.

Dogs are also not able to distinguish between different groups of people in the same way humans are, so they will need to be socialized with a variety of different groups. You should try to create positive experiences with your new puppy surrounding people whenever possible, but here are just a few groups that you should make sure your dog meets.

People of Different Ages

To a dog, a baby is not necessarily going to register as a young person. Instead, your dog might just interpret an infant as a tiny, loud creature. This is why you should introduce your dog to a variety of babies and children. While doing so, feel free to give your dog a treat or treat spread to help especially food-motivated dogs make positive connections.

Dogs should also be exposed to a wide variety of adults. Young adults or elderly people can both come across as intimidating to your pet if they have not been exposed to them before.

People of Different Genders

Dogs really do need to create positive associations with all sorts of different people, and that includes people of different genders. If a dog lives primarily with women, it is a smart idea to expose them to other kinds of people. If a dog has never seen people with beards before or has never heard deep voices, it can be a surprisingly jarring experience.

People of Different Ethnic Backgrounds

In order to fully socialize your dog, they should be introduced to people from many different ethnicities. It is never too early or too late to begin making these positive associations with your pet!

People Who Use Various Health and Mobility Aids

If your dog has not seen mobility aids such as canes or wheelchairs before, they could be confused. Be sure to read your pet’s body language while introducing them to new people.

What Kinds of Animals Should You Expose Your Dog To?

Other than people, it is also important to introduce your dog to different types of animals.

Other Dogs

This dog socialization typically happens when a puppy is with their littermates. However, some additional socialization is never a bad thing, especially if you might introduce a new dog into your home later. Bringing your pet to dog parks or having puppy play dates are excellent ways to increase friendliness.

Any Animal That Your Dog Will Continually Meet Throughout Their Life

If you have any other species of pet (cats, birds, or other small animals), you should introduce them early. For added assistance, you can always reach out to your veterinarian or a qualified dog trainer.

What Kinds of Household Experiences Should You Expose Your Dog To?

Even everyday stimuli around the house can seem threatening to a dog who has never experienced them. Many of these experiences will occur naturally throughout day-to-day life, but some more boisterous activities could still be scary.

Loud or Potentially Disruptive Sounds and Activities

Anything from opening umbrellas, to using brooms to sweep up, to using a hairdryer might not seem remarkable to you, but could be very upsetting for your dog. All of these are large or noisy disturbances that your dog should get used to.

What Kinds of Outside Stimuli Should You Expose Your Dog To?

We can control a lot of what happens in our homes, but there will also be occasions when our dogs face new and uncontrolled stimuli outside.

Cars and Other Forms of Transport

Make sure that part of your dog training includes exposing them to cars, motorcycles, and more. Even items like skateboards or strollers could be off-putting to your dog. This isn’t to say that you should regularly hang out in parking lots with your dog for no reason, but taking them on a walk somewhere where they can be exposed to different stimuli is helpful.

Desensitize Your Dog to Touch

Another form of socialization is getting your dog used to being touched. This is how you make sure your dog will allow you to handle them later on. First, have only one person pet your dog at a time. Then you can gradually increase the number as your dog gets more comfortable.

Start Brushing Them at an Early Age

As long as you introduce your dog to brushing early, they might even start to enjoy the process.

Show Them That Nail Clipping Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of

Clipping your puppy’s nails is necessary to avoid scratches, but it will help you in the long run as well.

Turn Your Dog Into a Social Butterfly

Taking the time to give your dog a proper socialization period can be stressful, but it will lay a foundation for many years of joy ahead for both of you. Socialization classes can also be a helpful tool, as can training classes. All of these types of puppy classes give your dog the opportunity to have more experiences that will carry them throughout their life.


Socializing your dog | Animal Humane Society

How to Help A Dog That's Missed Early Socialization | Preventivevet

Puppy Socialization: How to Socialize a Puppy | AKC

The Diggs Team

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