imagesPuppy Socialization “Rules of Many”

Puppy/Dog Socialization
And Barbara Handelman, M.Ed, CDBC


“part of the article”


Socialization is most critical for young dogs from 4 weeks to 4 months.
However, maintaining your dog’s socialization is a life-long process.
Your dog needs to be exposed to all sorts of people, environments, and different looking dogs. Socialization is accomplished by gradually allowing your dog to investigate different looking people, children, environments, objects, and dogs. It is critical that the dog is exposed to new stimuli on a voluntary basis and not forced to interact with beings or objects s/he is afraid of.

4week-16 weeks = Socialization

• During this period, puppies need opportunities to meet other dogs and people.

By four to six weeks they’re most influenced by their littermates and are learning about being a dog.

From four to 12 weeks they’re most influenced by their littermates and people. They’re also learning to play, including social skills, inhibited bite, social structure/ranking and physical coordination.

By three to five weeks they’re becoming aware of their surroundings, companions (dogs and people) and relationships, including play.

By five to seven weeks they’re developing curiosity and exploring their environment.
They need positive “people” experiences during this time.

By seven to nine weeks they’re refining they’re physical skills/coordination (including housetraining) and full use of senses.

By eight to ten weeks puppies experience their first fear period – familiar objects and normal activities can alarm them. They especially need training to be based on positive reinforcement.

By nine to 12 weeks they’re refining reactions, social skills (appropriate interactions) with littermates and are exploring the environment, spaces and objects. Beginning to focus on and depend on people.

Take care when socializing a dog to new situations or people, especially during fear periods. Do not force the dog to approach an object or person s/he fears. Do not cue a dog to touch something they are afraid of, or use food to bribe them to approach the object or person they fear. Placing food near the object or person may encourage the dog to approach on his own.



Proper socialization is force free and completely all the dog’s behaviors are voluntary.


Many people make the mistake of giving strangers dog treats and then forcing the dog to approach the person even though the dog is feeling vulnerable. Just wait patiently. Let the puppy/dog approach strangers in his own time. Stand and talk to a friend, sit on the ground, let the puppy take its time with the experience. If the puppy or dog is fearful of slippery flooring or other substrates, tossing food on the floor may help. Do not cue the puppy to get the food. Just wait. See if the pup will find his courage and approach on voluntarily.

Socialization is a complex, long-term process. The process involves far more than playing with members of its own family and a few friends’ Dogs. Those experiences are a good start but not nearly enough for most dogs/puppies.

Socialization means taking the dog/ puppy everywhere dogs are welcome, exposing the dog/puppy to hundreds of people – young and old alike – and all kinds of dogs.

You want your dog/puppy to meet many unfamiliar humans – people in wheel chairs using crutches, real life events at school yards with lots of yelling and screaming kids, and dogs of all different sizes and colors. Socialization will need to continue throughout the dog’s life. An undersocialized dog is more likely to bite and or become stressed in unfamiliar environments and situations.

Below is a schedule to follow: The Rules of Many

Make sure all experiences are safe and positive for the puppy. Each encounter should include treats and lots of praise. Slow down and add distance if your puppy is scared!

By the time a puppy is 16 weeks old, the puppy should go 7 new places every week for 7 weeks (or at least one new place a week. If your puppy or foster dog is over 16 weeks start right away with this socialization guide.

During the intensive socialization period the puppy or dog should:

Experience many different surfaces, daily: hardwood floors, woodchips, carpet, tile, cement, linoleum, grass, wet grass, dirt, mud, puddles, deep pea gravel, grates, uneven surfaces, on a table, on a chair, surfaces that tilt or move, etc……

Play with many different objects: fuzzy toys, big & small balls, hard toys, funny sounding toys, wooden items, paper or cardboard items, plastic milk jugs, metal items, car keys, etc…….

Experience many different locations: front yard (daily), other people’s homes, school yard, lake, pond, river, boat, basement, elevator, car, moving car, garage, laundry room, kennel, veterinarian hospital (just to say hi & visit, lots of cookies, no vaccinations), grooming salon (just to say hi), etc….

Meet and play with many new people (outside of family): include children, adults (mostly men), elderly adults, people in wheelchairs, walkers, people with canes, crutches, hats, sunglasses, etc….

Be exposed to many different noises (ALWAYS keep positive and watch puppy’s comfort level – we don’t want the puppy scared: garage door opening, doorbell, children playing, babies screaming, big trucks, Harley motorcycles, skateboards, washing machine, shopping carts rolling, power boat, clapping, loud singing, pan dropping, horses neighing, vacuums, lawnmowers, birthday party, outdoor concerts, car repair shops, etc…

Exposed to many fast moving objects (don’t allow to chase): skateboards, roller-skates, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, people running, cats running, scooters, vacuums, children running, children playing soccer, squirrels, cats, horses running, cows running, etc…

Experience many different challenges: climb on, in, off and around a box, go through a cardboard tunnel, climb up and down steps, climb over obstacles, play hide & seek, go in and out a doorway with a step up or down, encounter an electric sliding door, umbrella, balloons, walk on a wobbly table (plank of wood with a small rock underneath), jump over a broom, climb over a log, bathtub (and bath) etc….

Be handled by owner (& family) many times a week: hold under arm (like a football), hold to chest, hold on floor near owner, hold inbetween owner’s legs, belly up, hold head, look in ears, mouth, inbetween toes, hold and take temperature (ask veterinarian), hold like a baby, trim toe nails, etc…

Eaten from many different shaped containers: wobbly bowl, metal, cardboard box, paper, coffee cup, china, pie plate, plastic, frying pan,™Kong, Treatball, ™Bustercube, spoon fed, paper bag, etc……

Eat in many different locations: back yard, front yard, crate, kitchen, basement, laundry room, bathroom, friend’s house, car, school yard, bathtub, up high (on work bench), under umbrella, etc….

Play with many different puppies (or safe adult dogs) as often as possible.

Be left alone safely, away from family & other animals (5-45 minutes) many times a week.

Experience a leash and collar many different times in lots different locations.

Learn to enjoy the security of a crate, or other small enclosed space on a regular basis.

– Genetics can impact the effectiveness of socialization.

–  Fear is the basis of almost all dog bites.

Ray and Lorna Coppinger in their book: Dogs – A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution discuss how 80% of a dog’s brain is fully formed by 4 months of age, from 4 months to a year the remaining 20% of the brain develops.
Most of a dog’s brain growth occurs from 4 weeks to 4 months this is the most critical time when socialization will make the biggest difference. Once the brain’s growth stops, it becomes far more challenging to change the dog’s attitudes, fears, and aggressiveness.

– The problem is that many puppies just never develop an extended view of their family unit.

Owners may be too tired, when they come home from work, to take the dog to the park or to have guests over. Families with small children may be too busy. The end result is that because the puppy doesn’t meet many people outside the family, she begins to distrust anyone not in her magic inner circle.
This is normal for wild canids, such as wolves, who live in small, tight-knit family groups and reject outsiders.
But it’s a perfect recipe for failure for domestic dogs, whose aggressive behavior can seal their fates. The kindest thing we can do for dogs is to help them extend their concept of “family” to encompass any and all friendly people they meet.
These recommendations are minimums – the more people and places your puppy/dog experiences, the more well-adjusted she’ll be as an adult. Keeping track of the people your puppy meets and the places she goes can be fun for young children and will ensure that you meet your goals.

By seven months of age, a puppy whose owners have followed the “Rule of Many “ has met and received treats, pets and praise from at least 196 new people and has gone to at least 28 new places!

This lucky puppy will feel relaxed and happy around all types of people and at home almost anywhere.  For the next 12-15 years, she’ll truly be a companion to her family.

Whether socializing, play training, or just hanging out around the house – exposing your dog to a wide variety of experiences – will make a big difference in your dog’s future as a safe and happy member of your family.

“Follow Rules of Many “

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