What is socialization and how to safely socialize your puppy in 4 steps

Let’s first understand what puppy socialization is – Puppy socialization is a crucial process that involves introducing your young canine companion to various stimuli. From different textures to new people, objects, sounds, and smells, this exercise prepares your puppy for life beyond the confines of its home.

what is puppy socialization

However, successful socialization goes beyond simply exposing your puppy to new experiences. You must control the circumstances to ensure that each encounter is safe and positive, instilling confidence in your puppy. Keep in mind that certain breeds, like the Indie, may require a gentler approach.

It’s perfectly okay to have one person visit your home every day for a week to introduce your puppy to new individuals. Your dog needs space and time to acclimate to each person. Forcing interactions with a hesitant dog is a surefire way to trigger aggression.

While there are various aspects of socialization that take place outside the home, it’s essential not to wait until your puppy is ready to venture out to initiate socialization. Start socializing your puppy as soon as they arrive home, even before they are fully vaccinated. Dogs can begin to handle new experiences at just three weeks old. Here are 5 ways to initiate puppy socialization at home.

1. New surfaces and touch 

Tiles, carpets and wood are typical surfaces around most houses. Let your puppy stand on these and get used to them. If you do not want to risk exposing your puppy to dogs outside the house, you can improvise to provide grass-like textures at home. Use door mats and rugs with different lengths of the pile (the fuzz on the surface).

If you have a balcony or a private garden, collect some fallen leaves so that your puppy can safely experience that. Begin giving your puppy age-appropriate chews and toys so that they get used to a variety of textures through chewing too.

Handle your puppy frequently but gently, so that they are used to being touched all over. Ensure you handle their paws and check the nails, tail, eyes, ears, teeth and nether regions, like the groomers or vets, would later. Take things slow and reward desirable behavior. Involve your family members in the process, so the puppy gets used to being handled by different people. If children are involved in the process, supervise them and make sure they’re gentle. Use this opportunity to teach them about appropriate behavior around dogs (ideally, this should be done before you get a dog home).

2. New sounds

A regular household has plenty of new sounds for a young puppy. The vacuum cleaner, hairdryer, pressure cooker, mixer, washing machine, doorbell, speakers, etc., may all seem like everyday things to you but are entirely new (and strange) sounds for your puppy.

Since these are often loud, even by human standards, and dogs have a heightened sense of hearing, they can be scary. If your puppy seems overwhelmed, take a step back and try again in some time. Instead of having the puppy in the same room, begin by keeping the puppy in a different room and once they gain some confidence, move them closer to the source of the sound.

When your puppy startles, do not over-comfort them. Instead, say in an even tone “Oh, that’s the pressure cooker. It’s your food there. ” The puppy takes her/his cues from you, and if you show there is nothing to worry about, they won’t be concerned either. However, do not force the hairdryer or vacuum cleaner on the puppy to acclimatize them. They won’t trust you with their well-being then.

You can even introduce your puppy to sounds like thunder and fireworks by playing them on a speaker. This allows you to control the volume, making it a more comfortable experience. It also lets you accustom your puppy to these sounds in advance, without relying on the weather or calendar.

3. New People

After a few weeks of the pup coming home, begin introducing your puppy to new people in the house. Make this a calm and easy process to not overwhelm your dog. Once your puppy has settled a bit in your home, invite friends, family and neighbors over. Let your dog meet them the same way you introduced family members – fuss-free. If you live by yourself and have visitor restrictions, take your dog out to the balcony or window and let them watch people from there. As soon as your dog gets used to only you (or a small group of other people), he will become cautious around everyone else.

Try to introduce as many different people to your dog as is possible – men, women and children of various heights and builds. Slowly familiarize your dog with the regular visitors – the gardener, delivery personnel, domestic workers, etc. If possible, ask friends and family to dress up differently and come over. You can also do this at home by yourself – just put on a pair of sunglasses and your hat or a coat and scarf. Introduce your dog to people in different outfits and accessories so they become accustomed to the variety of people they’ll encounter outside.

Give your puppy the time and space to interact with the new humans. Do not force him/her to “make friends”. Also, the puppy must bond with humans over the next few months, so do not allow it to interact with other dogs. 

4. Other Animals

If you’re introducing a resident cat to your new puppy, make sure the cat has plenty of space and an escape route if they want to leave.  Cats prefer to assess things from a higher spot, so ensure you let the kitty watch the puppy first from the top of a cupboard or shelf, and not on ground level. Also, keep the cat’s resources — food and water — on a higher level accessible to her/him. Before you let them together in one room, take a piece of cloth, rub it on the dog and then rub it around the cat’s domain. A ‘scenting’ introduction is the first step.

It can be difficult to introduce your puppy to other animals and we also recommend this to be done under expert guidance. Playing other dogs’ sounds on speakers can at least get them used to the sounds of other dogs. Window/ Balcony- watching other dogs and animals can be helpful too. Allow your puppy to look at birds that perch near your house. Ensure they don’t eat the droppings, though – doing so can cause a parasitic infection.

5. Expert Tips

Socialization helps your puppy become calm, confident, and balanced (of course, training is also necessary). It introduces them to various environments, reducing their chances of reacting in fear when presented with new stimuli. As with everything else related to your dog, you have to be patient while socializing with your puppy.

Always reward positive behavior and ensure you do not force your puppy into doing something they are unsure about or don’t want to do.It is better to take a step back and introduce the new stimulus again in a controlled manner. If your puppy constantly responds with fear to new things, it may be necessary to consult a professional behaviorist.

Post vaccinations, you can carry them on a walk, ensuring they do not come in contact with other animals. This will help your puppy get used to the sounds of traffic and other stimuli but can be overwhelming for the puppy; put the puppy’s comfort first.