Early phases in a puppy’s development are extremely important for exposure and socialization. Socializing a puppy with people and dogs is known to most, but not fully understood.
Dictionary.com defines socialization as: a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position. The British dictionary defines the verb socialize as: to prepare for life in society.
A dog’s response to new people is shaped early in life. Socializing a puppy with people does not mean they should meet everyone they see. This is actually counterproductive. Adults and children can be overwhelming to a young puppy. Problems occur based on how people approach and what your puppy learns about them in the process.
When People See a Puppy
- They squeal, point, stare, and reach for the puppy.
- If the puppy is nervous, most continue to talk and stick their hands out until they get to touch the puppy.
- If the puppy is overexcited, people encourage this with affection, leading to jumping, mouthing and occasionally excited peeing.
What the Puppy Learns
- A timid puppy learns people are overwhelming and intimidating. As the puppy matures, they may try new ways to communicate this. Behaviors can include growling, barking, and even escalate to snapping.
- An excited, out-going puppy can think that everybody wants to meet them and jumping is an appropriate greeting. As they grow into adulthood, they will continue to jump on people whether it is wanted or not. Frustration can occur when they are unable to meet people, which can result in frustration, lunging and barking.
Tips for Socializing Your Puppy With People
Socialization needs to be handled correctly so your puppy grows up to be a happy and healthy adult dog. As an owner, remember not to overwhelm your puppy. Take them to different places to absorb the sights, sounds and smells without forcing them to interact with other people.
If someone approaches, first read your puppy’s state of mind. If they are nervous or overly excited, you will not want to give affection to either behavior. Also, take into account what kind of energy the human has. If they are about to explode with excitement and are already reaching for your puppy without permission, it is your job to intervene.
It is okay to say “no” when someone reaches for your puppy, and in many cases it can prevent unwanted behavior down the road. You want to teach your puppy that you will be their protector and advocate. Your job as an owner is to do what is best for your puppy and not falter under social pressure.
When You Meet Somebody Else’s Puppy
For those of us who want to snuggle with every puppy, remember that these early interactions are what shape a dog’s behavior later in life. Puppies learn very quickly from these experiences.
A puppy does not understand the difference between someone who loves dogs and someone who is afraid. If you do not want your puppy to jump on people as an adult, you do not want to encourage it while they are young.
If you want to help someone socialize their puppy, do them a favor and either chat with them while ignoring the puppy or simply, keep walking.
If you are planning on getting a puppy soon, sign up for our puppy preschool to get a head start!
This post was updated on April 10, 2022.