What Does Socializing a Puppy Really Mean?

March 7, 2022


Many new dog owners assume that socializing their pet must mean to mirror human socialization – introduction to new sounds, places, and faces being at the forefront of it all.

Some of this rings true, however, exposure must be done thoughtfully to avoid resulting in a reactive adult dog. We dive into the ‘why’ and ‘how’ regarding dog socialization below.

Why Socialize?

Getting accustomed to the world as a puppy falls squarely on the shoulders of his or her owners. The purpose of socialization is easy to understand – the more familiar different sights and sounds, the less overwhelming they become. This yields a friendly, well-adjusted dog that can thrive in a variety of environments.

A myth surrounding socialization is that it means to introduce your pup to a variety of dogs early on. This is a gray area – it’s not a bad thing to help your dog make furry friends but it is best done in puppy training courses versus throwing them in the ring at a dog park. If not done in a constructive and controlled manner, your dog could have an interaction that spooks them, resulting in a fear of other dogs.

Dog Parks – Yea or Nay?

Dog parks serve a purpose, there’s no doubt. Particularly for those in urban areas with limited places to exercise their pets. They can be a wonderful outlet for your pooch to run and play, and yes, get some quality nose-to-behind time with other puppies, too. As your young pup grows you will see their personality blossom – whether you head to the dog park relies a lot on what kind of dog they are.

Know Their Limits

At the park, on the street, or at daycare, groups of dogs from different homes are not a natural phenomenon outside of modern-day dog life.

This means that your dog’s default behavior might be aggressive or standoffish even if they are the biggest love muffin at home. It is your job to help your dog navigate this, train them and work to get them comfortable. Or, look into other ways to exercise your pup outside the park! Whatever works for you.

Wise Words from a Dog Trainer

When we took our puppy to a beginner training course, the trainer had 30+ years of experience and had some surprising insights for us. One of the most shocking was this – contrary to your greatest desire, your dog doesn’t have to be perfect! Dogs have funny personalities like anyone else and some things may always be a struggle for them. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

The example she gave was how one of her own dogs absolutely hates balloons, “The movement, the occasional popping – all of it freaks him out. But did we stop having balloons for our kids’ birthdays? Of course not. The older he got, he simply goes into another room when we break out the party supplies. It doesn’t hurt anyone and it makes him more comfortable”. The wonderful lesson here is that it is A-OK for your dog to have their quirks. Stay consistent with training and let your pup’s personality shine.