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Puppy Socialization: 8 to 12 weeks and beyond

Socialization - it's not playing with other dogs!

Caber MacKenzie of Bar TT Ranch

Thanks to Rhonda Gwynn

Socializing your puppy does not involve other dogs.  It's not like kids in Kindergarten.  Rather, this is when your puppy needs to learn how to live successfully in a human world.

From the time they were born, they've been learning about the world.  For the first couple weeks - it was just about warmth and food.  Then once their eyes opened they discovered they had litter mates and understood how their food arrived.  

From 4 to 8 weeks, we expose them to as many things as possible - things that we know they will encounter during their lives.  They will listen to thunderstorms and traffic noises, sirens and children laughing and playing.  They will see many different people, some with hats, long hair, short hair, almost no hair.  They will hear a variety of voices as well as household noises like the dishwasher and vacuum.  They will smell new people and other animals - our cat and horses.  They will eat both raw and kibble food and drink water and goa's milk from a saucer.  We will do our best to take them swimming (with life vests) in our warm pool and out for a walk in the wagon.

When they head home, they have 4 weeks left before their opinions harder toward new experiences.  It is important that they see, hear, smell and taste whatever you imagine they may encounter throughout their lives.  Not only do they need to encounter these new things, each time must be a positive and wonderful event to them.  If they become nervous or scared, pick them up, comfort and calm them, then try again next week.  Bad memories can be even more powerful than good ones - so keep everything fun from their perspective.  Treats may help too.


Try to include baby cries, goats, train engines, a variety  of dogs (just passing by) and LOTS and LOTS of people.  The more exposure you provide, (that they feel positive about), they more confident they will become and the easier your life with them will be.

A number of our COVID puppies have some reactivity, especially to other dogs.  This is not surprising, given their restricted exposure during those critical weeks.  It's not too late, up to at least 2 years to work on the 'scary' places in life.  We often pass some barkey dogs that used to upset Nakita.  I started just stopping there, asking the dogs to sit, away from the barkey dogs and feeding  them lots of treats.  We still pass by that route and now, Nakita reminds me that she needs a treat but she has forgotten why.

Our dogs are also quite excited when anyone comes to the door - except for a new visitor.  One of the Space Explorer owners lives close by and has come to visit several times.  She always brings treats for the adult dogs and today when she knocked, as soon as they saw it was her, they sat quietly to wait for their treat.

There are several suggestions on this page of items to include.  We found crutches had been missed and became a problem later.  Try to visit anyone in your circle with differences of any kind.

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