two puppies socializing outdoors
(Photo Credit: Anita Kot / Getty Images)

Socializing Your Puppy

Puppies start to learn as soon as they are born. They are especially receptive during their first 13 to 16 weeks of life. Therefore, it is especially important that puppies have experiences with other dogs, as well as with children and adults. From birth to 16 weeks is the optimal time for socializing your puppy.

Puppy development

As do children, young puppies go through a progression of development. The time from 7 to 16 weeks of age is the “socialization stage.” Puppies are keen to explore new surroundings, meet new people, and get to know other dogs. Researchers have found that this socialization stage starts to wane at around 16 to 20 weeks of age.

After that, an event known as neophobia can take hold. If puppies haven’t had plenty of enjoyable contact with new people, dogs, and situations before 20 weeks, they can acquire trepidations and anxieties, as well as aggressive behaviors. These problems can be irreparable, with the puppy unable to become a true companion to their human family.

To solidify the bond between you and your puppy, classes on socialization should be at or near the top of your new dog parent to-do list. That bond can stretch over a lifetime of 12 to 18 years.

When looking for a puppy socialization class:

  • Your questions should include the training method used and what age range of puppies is allowed to attend.
  • Be sure to pay a visit to the class before you join to see if it will work for you and your puppy.
  • Your veterinarian can be a source of knowledge in your search for reputable socialization and training classes.

Vaccinations and socialization

Most veterinarians recommend that puppies begin socialization classes around the age of 8 to 9 weeks. By then, puppies should be through their first series of vaccinations against infectious diseases.

Many owners fear their vulnerable pup will contract a disease through socializing and being exposed to new germs. However, a lack of socialization may very well be more detrimental to your pup in the long term than a disease that can be treated by your vet.

Prioritize socializing your puppy. It will make for a happier life for both of you.


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