How to Train Your Puppy to Socialize with People

Medium
7-8 Weeks
General

Introduction

A large part of a growing puppy’s life is his brand new experiences with the outside world. Before eight weeks of age, he spends most of his time with his mother and littermates, getting his first experiences with the other dogs in his immediate family. So what happens then when he is old enough to leave his mother and be adopted by a loving family? Your puppy’s experiences with other dogs may have prepared him for how he should handle encounters with them, but not with you or your family, which can be noisy and scary.

Between eight and sixteen weeks of age, your puppy will begin his socializing period. This is a crucial period of life where he will begin to form his opinion of the world, and the people, around him. With bad socialization practices, a puppy may grow to fear people, or worse, become reactive and aggressive around them. But with the right preparation and socialization, a puppy can become a well behaved and loving family pet. Much of this outcome is dependent on how you, as the owner, handle the process of getting to know all sorts of people, places, and things.

Defining Tasks

People can be inherently scary for some puppies. People are taller and are sometimes imposing. Children are noisy. Lots of people swarming your puppy for petting and affection can be overwhelming. An important part of owning a puppy is teaching him that there is nothing to be afraid of! Whether you do this by creating a safe environment, introducing people gradually, or offering tons of good rewards and fun games to make people enticing, whichever tools you decide to utilize will need to create a good impression of people in general.

You’ll need to have control of your puppy’s environment and of who you expose him to, being careful not to ask more from him than he can reasonably handle. Your puppy will trust that you know best and that you will control the balance between patience and resilience to help him develop proper expectations when it comes to being around people.

Getting Started

Before exposing your dog to any strangers, be sure that he is properly vaccinated. Vaccinations can help prevent diseases from spreading like kennel cough, canine influenza, and other nasty illnesses that can harm your puppy. All puppies should begin to receive their vaccinations at six weeks of age and continue to receive different ones every few weeks within their first year.

Once your puppy is vaccinated, get him a well-fitting collar and leash. This can help you maintain control of where he is or where he is going. Have a safe space where you can allow him to rest and de-stress if he becomes overwhelmed at any point in his socialization training. This space should be quiet and removed from any noise or large numbers of people. If you’d like, get some treats and toys together as positive rewards for good behavior. 

The Exposure Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Make a list of dog-safe places
Figure out how many areas or places around your home allow dogs and puppies to visit. Bringing a puppy into a public establishment that does not allow dogs will only cause issues.
Step
2
Explore one by one
Take your puppy to a new place each day. This can include places like pet stores, the vet’s office, a groomer’s salon, the park, or other outdoor areas.
Step
3
Be wary of dog parks
While dog parks may seem like a good place to introduce him to other people, many people who have untrained or unsocialized dogs may visit dog parks, which can present a safety hazard to your puppy. Do some research on your local dog parks to ensure that they are safe places before visiting one.
Step
4
Up the crowds gradually
Start exploring less crowded areas and work your way upwards. Exposing your puppy immediately to a very noisy and busy area may be overwhelming, so work him up to it.
Step
5
Keep an eye out for stress signals
A puppy who is cowering, whining, or hiding may be scared and stressed. Remove him from the situation and try again later. Never force your puppy through exposure if he is stressed, as this can result in fear and aggression later on.
Step
6
Introduce children slowly
Children can be noisy and invade a puppy’s space easily. Be sure that you have control in any situation with a child to prevent them from hurting or scaring your puppy. Encourage the child to be kind and gentle when petting or to offer treats and toys. This will help build a positive association.
Step
7
Keep exploring
Socialization should continue for several weeks. Taking too long of a break from exposure to people or strangers can make your dog hesitant to be around them again. Be sure to try and allow for a new experience with people every day or every other day to keep the socialization lessons fresh in your puppy’s mind.
Recommend training method?

The Reward Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Find the tastiest treats
Discover which treats your puppy enjoys the most. If she is eager to take the treat from you, she will probably be eager to take it from a stranger, regardless if she knows them or not.
Step
2
Keep treats nearby
If you’re in your home, keep treats at the door in a bowl that guests can access. If you’re out and about, keep them in a small pouch or bag that you can get to easily.
Step
3
Offer treats at random
Have people offer your puppy treats at random intervals after the first meeting. She will gradually begin to realize that strangers are treat machines! This will make it more likely that she will enjoy spending time around them.
Step
4
Play games
Use toys to encourage play with other people. Tug ropes, balls, and chew toys can be passed back and forth between individuals to allow for a little bit of play time with each new person and your puppy.
Step
5
Work on obedience
Have people help you with the beginning of your puppy’s obedience training by asking them to reward her for performing things like ‘sit’ or ‘down’. Keep it relatively simple, as you don’t want to ask too much of your puppy while she is acclimating to strangers.
Recommend training method?

The School Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Sign your puppy up for classes
Many cities have local puppy classes that help with things like obedience, leash walking, and socialization with other people and other dogs. Look into the class that is right for your puppy.
Step
2
Attend every class
Each class will likely have more people for your puppy to meet and greet. Try not to miss a class to keep from missing out on important socialization opportunities.
Step
3
Greet people before and after
Bring your puppy up to the other owners in your puppy class to say 'hello' and 'goodbye' to them each time you have your class meetings. This will help him get used to being around different types of people.
Step
4
Get one-on-one time with a trainer
Have your trainer evaluate your puppy to make sure that he is getting proper socialization and training throughout the course of your class. This will also get your puppy used to being around trainers who may smell like all kinds of different people and dogs.
Step
5
Continue with schooling
Even when your puppy has completed a course, find another if possible. Keep your puppy busy and active with new people to meet each time you sign up for a class. These classes can provide much needed diversity in the types of people he meets.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd