A common misconception with new puppy owners is that you can't socialize your dog until they've received all of their vaccines.
But, this can actually be a very misleading and possibly detrimental rule to follow!
The most crucial time for puppy socialization is right at the 8-16 week mark. So how do you socialize your dog without putting them at risk from the outside world?
You Don't need to Walk your Puppy to Take Them With You!
Yes, take them out with you!
That being said, you still MUST be careful to not let your pup roam around on the ground. When out in public, you have to ensure your dog only touches surfaces that are clean and safe from contaminants.
I highly recommend getting your pup used to a carrier or a stroller to take them out during these crucial times.
You might get some laughs and looks for strolling around with your dog, but I promise it's for the better!
This way you can safely bring your pup places without ever putting them on the ground.
When going places, still avoid spots with high dog / wild animal traffic, like dog parks, beaches, or hikes.
Car rides can be an amazing way to expose your dog to the noises and smells of the world without overdoing the stimulation.
Desensitization to Noises
Another great way to get some socialization done doesn't even need to be done out in the world, but in the comfort of your own home!
Introducing your puppy to loud noises via youtube, TV, or videos on your phone is a great way to get started on some noise desensitization.
Have treats ready at all times to praise and treat your dog as you expose these noises to them!
Host Puppy Parties!
Yes, a puppy party. This is a recommendation I give clients to have to create a fun, relaxing environment for their puppy to meet people and possibly other dogs.
A puppy party is hosted somewhere between the 8-16 week mark before your pup is fully vaccinated, where you invite a few people over purely for the purpose of creating positive associations with people. Have people feed your pup kibble and treats, gently play with your pup, and play calming music to create a gentle space for your dog to socialize.
If a friend has a calm, well-socialized, relaxed, healthy and vaccinated dog, a proper introduction in your home would be a great idea.
I'd like to emphasize calm and well-socialized here. You never want your pup socializing with a dog who lacks impulse-control or socialization during this crucial time for your pup. Too many times I see clients introduce their little pup to their friend's dog just to "see what happens" without knowing the other dog well enough.
Remember, this is an important period for your dog! We can always socialize your dog with your friend's dog once your pup has a base of good experience with others first, because one bad experience during this time can really affect your dog in the long run, so once your dog is a little older and ready, we can work on more slow proper introductions to build a friendship with all the rest of the dogs in your life.
Keep it Positive and Fun
It is so important to make sure both you and your dog are having a good time throughout the process! If at any moment you sense your dog getting stressed or overwhelmed, stop what you're doing immediately and try to offload the stimulation.
You never want to push your dog to say hi and be held by others, either. It can be hard when everyone and their mother are coming up to you to say hi to the cute pup, but ensure you are advocating for your dog and not putting them in situations that make them uncomfortable
Lastly, know when you need to hire a professional. Sometimes puppies show signs of anxiety and fear-based issues at a young age, and the sooner you hop on these issues, the more likely you are to be able to work through them. If your puppy struggles with going outside and shows signs of fear from any noise or trigger, have a positive-based behaviorist come out and help!