Socializing your new puppy is one of the most important things you’ll do in those early weeks together. But the process will be much more effective if you have a plan, and understand where to socialize a puppy to get the best results. Parks, beaches, superstores and schools are all great locations to begin with, but you’ll also need to think about where your dog is likely to be spending their time when they grow up.
The socialization window is very small for dogs. New introductions and experiences ideally need to happen before they turn 16 weeks old. Before their vaccinations you can carry them in your arms or a puppy sling, and after that they can go on the ground with a harness and leash.
Where To Socialize A Puppy
Most eight week old puppies are still very small and most of us will find them quite easy to carry around in our arms during those initial weeks. If your dog is a struggle to carry, you can use a large shoulder bag to help support his weight. Make the most of this ease of transportation to take them to lots of places. Make sure they are made a good fuss of by as big a range of people as possible.
1. The Park
If you live in a town, you still want your puppy to get used to more open and rural environments. A public park is a good way to combine this experience with meeting people.
You don’t need to go on a forced march around the place. And its best to keep him out of any dedicated ‘doggy’ areas for now. It’s fine to find a space on a bench, pop your puppy into your lap, and let them have a good look, and sniff.
He will get to have some valuable early experiences of other park-going dogs, people, bikes, skateboards and children, as well as the usual wildlife too.
2. The Beach
When we think of how life will be with our new dog, a lot of us picture going for runs on the beach. Playing beside the sea.
Not only is the beach a great place to see lots of people and other dogs, but it has certain unique aspects to it that you will want your dog to be comfortable with.
The noise and sheer scale of the water, for example. Take some time to stand by the waves with your puppy in your arms, taking in the sea spray and the sound of the ocean.
Sit on a bench on the seafront and watch fun. Get him used to seeing all the activities that take place there, from ball games to kite flying.
3. The School Gates
The school gates are a fantastic place to get puppies used to young kids. They will make lots of noise, and in their droves want to say hello, pat or cuddle your tiny puppy. However, there is a pitfall here. If you are a single man, I absolutely do not recommend going and standing at the school gates with a puppy, when you don’t have a child at the school.
If you are single and want to socialise your pup to children, get in touch with a friend or family member who has school age kids and go with them to pick up or drop off. This will prevent any awkward questions, or potential embarrassing misunderstandings!
4. The Super Store
Depending on where your local super store is, they may or may not let dogs in. It’s no problem if they don’t, because you can just settle down on a bench by the trolleys and let the human traffic come to you.
Let your pup get used to the rumble of trolleys being pushed around, and the clunks as the carts are stacked together.
Get in the mix of people standing waiting outside, or coming in and out. Remember, you are there to expose your pup to everyday experiences, so standing a long way away and feeling shy will unfortunately achieve a lot less than putting yourself and your puppy out there.
5. The Bus Stop
Public transport, especially if you live in a city or town, is a great way to get your pup to meet lots of different people. As well as contributing to their acclimatisation to roadside noise.
You don’t need to ride on the bus, just walk up to a few busy bus shelters and take a seat with your pup on your lap.
Puppies are people magnets, you will probably soon find that a lot more than the local bus clientele are coming up for a chat and a quick puppy cuddle.
6. The Train Station
You might think that you will never want to take your dog on a train, so why bother getting him used to them?
Well it’s not just large, loud locomotives you find at the station. But a lot of people, in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life.
They will be either moving quickly leaving trains, or dithering around on platforms getting bored, and quite happy to say hello to your adorable little pup.
7. The Car Park
Unless you live in the darkest depths of the back of beyond, your Labrador will come across a lot of cars in his life. They are loud, large and often make unexpected noises like hooting or engine revs.
A dog who is scared of cars has a tough time when out on what should be a fun day with his family.
Hanging around in a safe corner of a car park a few times when your puppy is small will help her to feel at ease with their presence.
Try and go to a few different ones, and let your puppy experience loud lorries as well as Smart cars and Minis!
8. The Mall
Public malls are a mass of people on busy shopping days. They are also full of noise, people jostling each other and hauling swinging bags around. All things that any dog in the town will have to be used to when he’s grown up.
Wander around the busier sections, and make sure to go on days when you know there will be a lot of people around. Weekends are ideal as you will have teenagers and children as well as adults, who are all altogether different experience for pups!
9. The Pub
The local pub is a great place to bring a puppy for socialisation. Not just because it’s a good excuse to sit on a bar stool and have a nice, cool beer!
Pubs are a very different environment to a lot of places you will take your dog in your day to day life. They are more similar to going to someone elses house, and being happy relaxing in their sitting room.
They will see lots of different people coming and going, with a wide range of ages, from skinny teenage girls to big bearded old men. Your little puppy will need to have experience of a range of people in order to be happily accepting of any of them when he is older.
10. A Local Sports Match
Whether it’s football, soccer or baseball, sports matches are common place in most villages or towns. They draw crowds and present a lot of noise.
There will be a great deal going on, and lots of people getting rather enthusiastic from the sidelines.
All of which your puppy will benefit from experiencing during the vital socialisation window.
Make sure you pick something that isn’t going to get too rowdy or crowded though, or that involves tickets rather than just walking up on the village green – as you might not be able to bring your pup along.
11. Local Festivals
These events are usually intense, excited little hives of activity. There will be children screaming and running around, announcements over loud speakers and a press of bodies by tents and in stalls.
All of these things are really important for a family dog to be familiar with, and to stay confident around.
Let as many people as want to come up and say hello. And take him into all the most busy and loud areas. It might be a bit of a pain to do, but it will be worth it for the experience.
12. Renaissance Fairs
Theses are fabulous places to get your pup used to all manner of sites and sounds. Lots of them have livestock tents. It is fine to bring your puppy into these, unless there is a sign telling you otherwise.
Be careful to show your pup the animals in there, and let him take in the sights and smells, but don’t be tempted to personally introduce him to a sheep or pig there and then.
Remember, you don’t know how either animal might feel about the other. Or want potential illnesses your unvaccinated pup might pick up from the creatures he meets.