We also know that a puppy needs to be socialized (getting used to living in a human society and environment) before he reaches 12 weeks of age. Puppies who do not get adequate socialization during this period tend to be fearful of unfamiliar people, dogs, objects, sounds, and environments. Fearful adult dogs take much longer to socialize and require more handling skills in the process, often requiring professional help.
While you are waiting for that last vaccine, and your veterinarian’s approval to let your dog walk in public places, there are many things you CAN do to socialize your puppy:
1. Have visitors come over to your house. People of all shapes, sizes, colors, personalities. Children. People wearing hats, with facial hair, carrying things, singing, waving their arms about. People talking in loud voices, soft voices, squeaky voices, and deep voices. Ask visitors to hold your puppy and touch his paws, ears, lips and tail.
2. Take your puppy for car rides and let him see different things from the car. Park in front of shopping centers, playgrounds, parks and places with bicycles, skateboards, wheelchairs, birds and loud machinery.
3. Keep your puppy safe in a stroller, wagon, or carrier and take him into pet-friendly stores, marketplaces, strip malls, ball games, restaurant patios.
4. Bring dog treats out to the pool man, gardener, delivery person and have them feed and pet your puppy. Stay outside and reassure the pup while the workers use their tools.
5. Use your pup’s regular food as rewards while you train him to sit, lie down, come when called, run to his crate, and ride in the car. You do not have to wait for obedience class to start your puppy’s training. Have friends and family train your dog with the food rewards.
6. Invite vaccinated, healthy dogs, who do not go to dog parks/daycare/dog shows, over for play sessions. Take your dog to other houses to play with vaccinated, healthy dogs. Be sure your puppy encounters dogs of different sizes, ages, and breed-types.
7. Attend a puppy socialization class where your puppy will learn bite inhibition and how to interact with other dogs and strange people.
**CAUTION** Shoes, clothing, and hands can carry the parvovirus to your puppy if a person has been in contact with an infected dog, feces or objects. Be mindful of who touches your puppy and enters your house. Using hand sanitizer and spraying diluted bleach on the soles of shoes (or having visitors leave shoes outside) can be helpful.