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Puppies and Socialization

February 2020

Socialization: What is it?

Socialization is a concept that everyone brings up when talking about puppies and dogs.

Any time we discuss a concept or word, it is important that we first define it, so that it is clear to all parties what we are referring to.

Socialization doesn’t mean take them to a crowded doggy day care or a dog park and walk away, hoping it will go well.  Socialization means introducing them to a variety of people, places and objects.  It means exposing them gently, and positively, to sounds, sights, smells, experiences, textures and surfaces.  Socialization involves us being somewhat a control freak, in a patient and loving way, in order to teach our puppies that the world is a good place, that people are kind, and that they can relax and enjoy life’s adventures.

Proper socialization is crucial to the development of a calm, well-adjusted, safe and social dog. Associative learning is powerful; let’s be sure that our puppies make positive associations with the world in which they will be living.

Socialization: How do we do it?

Now that we have a basic understanding of what socialization is and what it is not, how do we properly do it?  Socialization doesn’t happen by putting a young puppy into a large group of dogs, and letting him “work it out”.  It doesn’t happen by throwing him into a swimming pool (literally or figuratively) and hoping that he quickly learns to swim.  We socialize our puppies by patiently and gently giving them the opportunity to experience the world, at their own pace.

It is important that we do our best to learn about canine body language and what it means, so that we can make good decisions about our puppy’s experiences. As a result of genetics and very early life experiences, each puppy will already have their own unique way of approaching the world.  We provide a variety of surfaces and textures on which to climb, introduce them to a group of people that is diverse in age, size, color and gender.  We take them new places, making sure to keep them safe, so that they can learn that “new” does not mean “bad” or “scary”.  It’s not enough to just take them places, we need to help them have a good time.  They are always learning; we need to make sure they are learning what we want to teach them.

Group classes with a certified trainer can teach you how to help your puppy grow into a calm, adaptable adult dog.  Puppy playtime, in a safe and controlled setting, where puppies are matched up by play styles, can help you learn what is appropriate and positive so that you can help your puppy interact in a way that is fun and safe.  Introductions to calm and tolerant adult dogs can teach them manners and respect.  Adventures around town, where they meet a variety of people, hear noises, and see all sorts of sights can be great for your pup if they are relaxed and not scared.

To find a certified trainer in your area who offers group classes or private training for your puppy, search here:

To learn more about the classes offered at Best Friends Dog Academy, see our website:

Happy Training!

Sara & Liz

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