Dear Critter Corner: We are first time dog owners and just adopted a new puppy.  We keep hearing about how important socializing our puppy is but are not really sure what that means or the best ways to go about doing it.  Can you give us some pointers?

Congratulations on your new pup!  Yes, the rumors are true, socialization at a young age is very important.  It sets the foundation for your pup and everything moving forward!

The ideal socialization period starts at around 3 weeks of age and can go until about 16 weeks of age, but usually cuts off around 12 weeks. During this time, we want to carefully expose our pups to all different types of people, dogs, noises, sights, object, and places.  The ideal setting is allowing your pup to engage with the item on their own and not be forced to interact and for the outcome to be positive.  If there is a negative outcome take it slower next time and work at a further distance from the object.  There is never a ‘one and you’re done’ approach to socialization.

Do remember that your pup is not fully vaccinated and you should be careful when taking them out.  You can carry them or put them in carts to get the exposure in pet stores or any other pet friend location like REI and Home Depot.  Your local park is another great place to encounter all types of items on your pups social check list.  I don’t recommend dog parks but DO recommend finding a puppy social or training class geared toward your pup’s age.  These classes will manage the puppies and help educate you as to what is and isn’t appropriate play.

You can expose your pup to all sorts of novel objects at home as well.  You can teach them to crawl under items, step on different surfaces and expose them to day-to-day items like the vacuum cleaner.  Whatever you do, take the time and allow your pup to process each encounter.

Be sure to check out our weekly Puppy Playgroups and Group Puppy Classes on our website or for a more personalized approach set up a 1:1 Consultation with one of our behaviorists.