How to Socialize Your Dog with Humans
Socializing your puppy means teaching them to be well-behaved around other animals and humans. Socialization helps your puppy be comfortable in new environments and keeps them confident in new situations.
The first three months of your puppy’s life is important for their development. During these months, the desire to be social outweighs their fear.
The four keys to socializing a dog to attend school
Bring them along to days after school.
The earlier your puppy goes to daycare, the sooner they learn how to behave around other dogs and people. Co-sleeping is a great place for them to start, since your puppy won’t be afraid of humans.
When your crew goes to daycare, be sure to let your puppy know this is not just a typical day. Scent-marking all day campers will leave their scent on your bedding, which can end up ruining your cleanliness and creating a poor experience for your pup. Co-sleeping on the floor provides an alternative—and it’s much cheaper to have them find sleeping spots that way.
Give them a picture of a friend, family member, or other animal they’ve met.
The more you can socialize your puppy to such an event, the easier it will be later when the weather gets nicer. A picture of a potbellied pig or a friend is a good way to get them excited about the idea of a nice outdoor puppy walk.
Most large and reputable dog parks have signs posted explaining how to be socialized (with rules and regulations). An idea to start them on the right foot is by giving your pup a chew toy with a piece of paper with the park’s name and rules written on it. A small puppy won’t be able to understand all of the rules, so this helps start them with socialization.
In addition, produce an escape plan. Typically, if another dog starts climbing on your leg, a puppy will quickly leave. For a dog that is used to humans, it might be scary, but make it look like a mistake. Ideally, your dog will growl, snap, struggle, stop, growl, and snap once you’ve explained the problem, all while staring tensely at the offending dog.
After your pup stops growling, perhaps give them a treat or leave the room for a few minutes. Mistakes are okay if they recover just enough to not be aggressive.
Take the challenge to train your puppy to be social through their own tactics…or simple training from you! Lots of good books out there, such as The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Senior Caregiver’s Handbook have great suggestions for teaching your puppy social skills. Try these three solutions that we’ve used at some point and are sure to include someplace in your plan.
Sitting on your hands is a behavior cue your puppy is mastering. Teaching your pup not to sit on your hands when you’re around is a great way to establish social skills early in their life.
The formula for sitting on your hands is simple: A cue like “Sit! Now stop moving!” (Think about the cues in English class that typically involve “10 steps forward, 10 steps back” in a simple pattern.) Over time, your puppy will learn to sit on your hands without needing you to reinforce it. Most newer moms will immediately understand this on their own after playing with their infant baby for a couple of minutes while getting milk.
Remember, neglecting to socialize your puppy means they may never learn the best social behaviors.
Introduce your puppy to people whenever possible.
Socialization really increases if you introduce your puppy to your family instead of only human interaction while they are in your retinas. If you have a dog, the rules in the “When you turn your back, stop…” case also apply. Once the behavior isn’t automatic, say this to the puppy to get their attention:
“Now, now don’t get up. I want you to stay until you hear something else.”
You can have them stand in a few feet from a person, then slowly walk away (talk to your puppy!) and finally return with something they want. Those seconds make a huge difference. This is one cue that you can make up to reinforce (or not) at will.
Around other dogs is another behavior cue that is falling into place. It means your new puppy-in-training is living in their own world now.
Raising your puppy to be confident around other dogs shows their confidence in themselves, makes them less fearful around humans, and helps with socialization. Play with a friendly dog for an extended period of time (an hour or more) and the dog will think you’re part of their pack (or family) much more easily (this also helps with confidence building later on).
Introduce your puppy to a family member once daily.
The next best thing to being around your family member is being around someone who is an actual friend of theirs.