USE CAUTION. Your goal is to give the puppy a PLEASANT EXPERIENCE. Do not allow your puppy to become overwhelmed. Short (5 minutes or less), laid-back exposures are best.
- Get yourself to a friendly obedience class! Group classes are a GODSEND for socialization as they allow lots of contact with people and dogs and everything along the way to the class.
- Walk your dog in urban and suburban environments. Go to the strip mall. Hang out in the Wal-Mart parking lot letting people greet and pet your pup. Let your dog see car traffic and all kinds of other "city stuff."
- Take your dog with you everywhere you go, whenever possible. Allow your puppy to see and experience many and various environments. Feed your puppy delicious treats in new places. Give people treats to give your puppy when they greet him.
- Allow your puppy to meet and greet many and various types of people. It is extremely important that your puppy meet and learn about all ages of children, from babies to teenagers. Do not think that your dog "likes kids" if he gets along with your children. He needs much more than that. Use treats/allow kids to treat the dog when they meet him.
- Your demeanor is extremely important when socializing your puppy. Present a calm, blasé attitude toward everything. Do NOT act "jumpy" or attempt to reassure the puppy by saying, "it's OK, sweetie" and petting him if he gets scared. If your puppy get startled, then looks up at you and you are looking at him with a concerned look, he will think that there is a very valid reason to be frightened. Even if you FEEL concerned, PRETEND you are calm. Look at your watch, fiddle with your hair, dig around in your purse, read a bulletin board, whatever! Do something that shows the puppy "nothing is wrong." Don't freak out, or your puppy will, too! Also, if you pet him, he might interpret that as PRAISE for how he is behaving.
- Do not "point out" things that you want your puppy to see. Often dogs seem to interpret this as a warning! For example, there's a funny looking clown at the soccer game. The puppy is interested but a bit wary. Don't drag the puppy over there and then point at the clown and say "go see!" To the puppy, this probably means, "Have a look at this, remember this one in the future, very scary and dangerous clown!" Imagine how it might feel if someone forced you to go near something you were frightened of! Instead, get "casually close" to the thing without paying particular attention to it, feeding the puppy at the same time. Keep your back to the thing, or side-on, never straight on.
- If your puppy must be groomed by a professional on a regular basis, get the pup to the groomer you plan to use and allow the puppy to have several pleasant experiences there.
- End socialization sessions prior to seeing stress signals.