Dear Miss Behavin’: I recently adopted a puppy and I want her to be comfortable around people and new places. What’s the best way to set my puppy up for success?
Socialization is very important, especially in the first few weeks and months of a puppy’s life. Under socialized dogs are the ones who bark at strangers, shy away from children, or jump at loud noises. You should have an immediate plan with your puppy and follow through. Invite family, friends, and neighbors over for “puppy parties.” Have them pick her up and touch her all over, including mouth, paws, and tail. You’re teaching her to love people and accept handling. If your puppy isn’t fully vaccinated yet, have guests remove shoes and wash their hands before interacting so illnesses can’t spread. Have your guests give her kibble and start with basic training like sit and lie down. All of this will make veterinary and grooming visits much easier.
Enroll your puppy in class as soon as she is two months old to continue the work you’ve started at home. These classes will expose her to different situations and teach her how to play well with others.
Take her on field trips and out into the world where she can be exposed to loud noises and people of all kinds. Have kibble or treats on you to reward her for calm and friendly behavior, especially in challenging situations (men wearing hats, construction, elevators, leaf blowers, etc).
You are responsible for shaping your puppy’s perception of the world. If you dedicate yourself to the task of socialization in the first few weeks and months of your puppy’s life, you’ll have the joy of sharing your life with a calm and confident dog. And she will thank you for it too.