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Safe Socialization

"For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated."

Who:  All puppies, but especially puppies in the critical age group of 3-16 weeks.  However, socialization should continue throughout life so they remain comfortable with different stimuli in the environment and live enriched lives!


  • Socialization MUST be a part of raising a psychologically healthy puppy.  Providing your puppy with a broad range of experiences prior to the age of four months of age has been proven to be one of the most critical factors in raising a stable, confident dog.  Socialization is introducing your puppy to a broad range of new experiences, people, environments and activities. While you likely can’t expose a puppy to everything he may encounter in the future, the good news is that positive exposure to a wide variety of novel experiences results in a dog that easily adjusts to new things throughout his life. 


  • People—of all ages, shapes, ethnicities, and sizes.  Pay special attention to anything that changes the human silhouette like a person using a cane, rolling a suitcase, holding an umbrella, sporting a full beard, or wearing sunglasses.  Really anything you can think of that looks different than their everyday exposures. 

  • Places—this one takes a little common sense.  New environments such as urban areas, country settings and everything in between. Nothing attracts friendly people more than an adorable puppy, so taking your puppy to new places gets him used to loads of people, too.   The caveat being, be mindful of locations heavily trafficked with other dogs of unknown vaccination status.  Examples include: dog parks, dog-friendly beaches, your condo building's dog exercise area.  Visit friends’ homes, your kids’ soccer games, dog friendly businesses, and take walks in less crowded parks.

  • Things—Dog-friendly cats and other pets, household appliances, cars, buses, fire hydrants, trees and flowers. Virtually everything may be new to your puppy, so don’t be limited thinking that it’s something he’s likely seen before.  It is perfectly ok (and preferred) to have your dog interact with friends' and family dogs of known vaccination history! 

  • Activities—car rides, an elevator ride,  and the like. And of course, Puppy Class is one of the best places to socialize.  As long as the facility practices safe socialization practices which include: collecting vaccination history and proper cleaning/disinfecting protocols.  

  • Sounds - often overlooked, but equally important, especially here in Florida where we have afternoon thunderstorms.  Alexa will gladly play you sounds of rainstorms, thunderstorms, fireworks, city traffic noises, babies crying, brass horns playing, loud laughter, etc


Dogs go through critical stages in their behavioral development. One of those critical stages is the socialization period. Generally, this period takes place between 3 to 16 weeks and this is when puppies learn:

  • interaction etiquette with other dogs and people

  • which animals are friends versus foes

  • if they have plenty of positive interactions with unfamiliar dogs, they learn dogs in general are
    friendly and fun to be around

  • basics of interacting in a social group

  • play solicitation behaviors and playing too rough or using your mouth too hard makes all the fun go away



Puppies who miss out on socialization opportunities during this period often grow up to become:

  • fearful of unfamiliar dogs and people

  • easily startled by sounds and unknown environments with long recovery times

  • have poor social skills affecting their ability to communicate and play with other dogs 

  • lack greeting skills with unfamiliar dogs and people

  • often become bullies that push other dogs around


It’s important that exposure to all these new and novel experiences is positive and without stress. Keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Have fun! Remember why you got a puppy in the first place.  Your positive attitude toward new things will help give your puppy confidence.

  • Let your puppy approach new things on his own. Provide the opportunity for your puppy to investigate and let him take his time.

  • Respect your puppy’s feelings. Don’t push or force your puppy if he’s at all reluctant.  It's okay to err on the side of caution if your puppy thinks something is just too scary right now.

  • Use common sense and be careful that all experiences are positive. Avoid situations, people and environments that you think might result in a less-than-happy experience for your puppy. 

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