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Puppy Socialization—How to Make Your Puppy’s World Bigger

For the last 16 years, I have focused on puppy and adult canine socialization as a priority in my own life as well as at my business. The stories of having a pet that cannot be around other dogs, other people, children or grandchildren, cannot travel with the family, cannot board due to aggression, are endless for pet owners, including myself. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had a dog at some point in our lives that we adored but could not take anywhere because of his or her behavior. The vast majority of these limitations are due to a proper lack of socialization as a puppy.

 Take Advantage of Your Puppy’s Curiosity

A dog that is not properly socialized lives in a tiny world and life is less enjoyable for both you and your dog. If you have a new puppy, you have the chance of a lifetime for a fresh start.

Between 8 and 16 weeks, a puppy learns the vast majority of their social skills with people and other dogs. Once they have passed four months, there are various growth stages (both mentally and physically) that include fear stages. The goal is to take advantage of that tiny 8-week window of opportunity to safely expose your puppy to as many different dogs, sounds, sights, people of all ages, genders, color and sizes, and noises (everything from the coffee grinder to the vacuum) in order to open the doors of the world to your new pet.

At such an early age, a dog park is not your best option. Your puppy is still developing his immune system. At a dog park, he is exposed to other dogs that may not be vaccinated, may not be neutered or spayed and may be aggressive. The sheer size of a dog park means that if an incident occurs, unless you are standing right next to your puppy, you will not be able to intervene in a timely fashion. This is the period where puppies learn from other dogs; you want to be sure your dog is learning the right way on how to greet and play and co-mingle with other dogs.

Dog Daycare Offers Controlled Socialization

A supervised dog daycare is optimal during this period. It introduces your puppy to new people as well as like-minded puppies who have equally endless amounts of energy and no “off” button.  No human on earth can wear out a puppy the way another puppy can. A ten-mile hike will not do what another puppy can do in one hour. We all know there is nothing more exhausting than coming home from work at 5 pm to a hyperactive, bored puppy who is ready to play just as you are getting ready to collapse.

Dog daycare allows your dog to meet older, wiser “mentor” dogs that will have the patience to teach your puppy how to read dog signals. Dogs are not human. They do not speak English. They read body language, whether it is with fellow canines or with humans. Only another dog can teach a puppy how to read and how to speak the language of dogs.

Another positive aspect of dog daycare is you are teaching your puppy at a very early age that whenever you leave her, you will always come back for her. This strengthens her confidence in being left alone. Dogs are pack animals by nature. You get up to go to the bathroom and guess who’s in there with you? Dogs love being members of a family and members of a pack. Being alone is grossly unfair to a dog. Endless amounts of guilt over leaving your puppy at home while you work is not fair to you, either.

Expanding Your Puppy’s Horizons Through Daycare Friendships

A dog daycare provides your puppy with unlimited stimulus, a chance to develop their olfactory senses, to fine tune their manners with both dogs and people. It offers them new friends and the assurance and confidence that if they are left, you always come back.

Play dates with other puppies are often a side benefit of dog daycare. We have a group of six or seven puppies each spring and fall that grow up together and continue to come to daycare as adults, two to three times a week. They still prefer to interact with each other over any other dog. They are so well socialized they easily allow new members to join their “club.” As each new group develops, their owners become their “social directors” and start passing around names, numbers and emails to set up play dates and slumber parties!

The benefits of socializing your puppy are endless and last a lifetime. Your world and his world will become one that you can live in and enjoy together while it becomes bigger and better for both of you.

Linda Wagner is the founder of Linda’s Pet Care Services, a daycare and overnight camp for owners looking for an alternative to traditional style day and overnight boarding.

*While almost any breed of puppy can be trained, certain breeds may be better suited to your family than others. Talk to your veterinarian and friends who are dog owners to find out what kind of dog will fit your family’s lifestyle, be easiest to train and will have the temperament you’re looking for. Mixed breeds, such as these beautiful pug mixes, are often family friendly and quick learners.


  1. Nancy Wagner

    March 1, 2017 11:01 pm

    Great article, Linda, and a good summary of what I’ve been learning from you over the years. Puppy socialization is so important, far more than most of us doggy parents ever realize. Thanks for the insight!

  2. Sue stele

    March 4, 2017 6:30 am

    My vet told me not to go to doggie day care until Zeke was fully vaccinated. I’m so glad I didn’t listen. Doggie day care has been the best thing for him. He’s 3 now and plays beautifully with other dogs and is a well adjusted dog. He is so much fun to be with. Glad I listened to a doggie socializing expert and not just a medical one. Be sure the day care requires their dogs to be current with the shots and your pup will be fine.

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