Should You Socialize That Puppy? - McCann Professional Dog Trainers

Should You Socialize That Puppy?

We believe strongly in positive associations when it comes to socialization. It's a very important part of early development with a puppy. Once the breeder waves goodbye to a pup and you start your travels home, it's up to you to be creative and find as many positive and novel situations as possible to expose your pup to.

There are a lot of ideas floating around lately about not socializing young dogs. It seems to revert to the idea of hiding them away until they've received all of their vaccinations. While this may be a good tactic for the occasional dog, for the average pup, socialization is very important for their future. As many opportunities as you have to acclimatize them to different stimuli including people, dogs, vets, groomers, car rides, etc. is usually of benefit.  There are some downfalls to socialization, however. Here are a couple of things you'll want to consider.


This can come, seemingly out of nowhere. There may be something new and different, like a really tall man in a hat or a woman with a billowing dress. Your pup may become unsure about the situation. There are two ways you can proceed:

1 - Try to make the dog comfortable by using as many positive associations as possible. This is best with dogs who already have good associations with most people. If you are working with a pup who is already uncertain of people, trying to make them comfortable with extremes may prove to be too much and could do more harm than good.

2 - Pick up the puppy and remove them from the situation. Since not all socializations are good, if the pup is likely to be overwhelmed regardless of how many positive associations your try to pair, it's not worth your time to continue to try to make them comfortable on that day. You're better off to leave the situation entirely rather than cementing the fear they are experiencing. With some puppies, you can try again on another day and get great results, with others you'll need to devise a plan to try to increase their comfort level over time. 

To determine which road you should travel, you need to know your puppy. Their temperament should be the deciding factor. If your pup is usually confident and eager, then you may be able to quickly get them over this uncharacteristic fearful moment with some treats and interaction with the human. If your pup is a bit on the shy side already, you likely won't want to push as you may unintentionally make things worse. If your pup is fearful or shy by nature, you may want to invest in some time with a qualified behaviourist to help you read the puppy and come up with a solid plan for socialization. 


This is what happens when we overdo our socialization efforts with a young, enthusiastic pup. We don't want to put so much emphasis on the outside world that a dog becomes classically conditioned to become over-enthusiastic at the sight of other dogs or even people. There has to be a balance with a young dog who already views the world as wonderful. Don't forget about socialization entirely, but be sure that there are times when you work on rewarding a young dog for focusing on you in the face of excitement as well. This will greatly help your training efforts as they grow. 

In the end, it's up to you to what route you take when socializing a young dog. Use your good judgement and read the dog. If you aren't sure how to go about early socialization or if you are having trouble, seek the advice of a qualified professional to help guide you.

Happy Training!

Hi! I'm Shannon Viljasoo and I joined the McCann team in 1999 while training Quincey, my wonderful and spirited Rottweiler, to have good listening skills. I'm the Director of Online Training and Content for McCann Professional Dog Trainers and I enjoy writing about dogs and dog training for the McCann blog. I currently share my life with 2 Tollers (Reggie & Ned) and I love helping people develop the best possible relationship with their 4-legged family members.

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