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Is it OK to Expose My Puppy to New Animals, People and Places? Puppies and Socialization. Puppy Training 2.

All domestic dogs are descended from wolves. Despite sometimes being very different in shape, size, and color, domestic dogs have retained many of their behavior patterns. It is this part of our dogs that we need to understand if we are to enjoy our lives together.

Can You Explain Why My Pup Needs Socialization?


In the wolf pack, there is a definite hierarchy which is strongly maintained and defended. This is how it will be in your family-pack. Adults first, then children, then dog. Dogs are very conscious of hierarchy and will attempt to find their own place if you do not do it for them. 

It is important that your dog thinks that he is at the bottom of the pack. Suppose he is on the sofa and you want him to get off. If he is below you in the pack he will do so without argument. If he thinks he is on equal terms you will have to make him. If he considers himself above you he may try to bite because he feels you have no right to tell him what to do.

The greater the difference in hierarchy between yourself and your dog, the more respect he will have for you. The more respect, the more likely he is to comply with your wishes. Setting the ground rules from the start is therefore very important.

How you treat your dog in the first few months will make all the difference to the way he sees his place in your family hierarchy. Even if you have had well behaved dogs before, I strongly advise you to follow these guidelines for at least six months.

Dominant wolves will choose the safest, warmest place in the territory to sleep. It is usually elevated so that they can look down over the rest of the pack. In your house, of course, this is your bed. If you allow your dog to sleep in bed with you then he is immediately on an equal footing with you. For similar reasons it also pays to keep him off the furniture.

In the wolf pack, the dominant wolves will eat first, the rest waiting until after they have finished. For most dogs, dinner time is one of the highlights of their day. Therefore, it is important that your dog be fed after your family. Tidbits should not be given from the table as this can be easily misinterpreted by dogs as being a weakness on your part rather than benevolence. It also prevents the bad habit of begging at the table.


Dominant wolves will present themselves to subordinates for grooming. They will lick their faces and generally pay them attention. A dominant wolf would not be approached by a subordinate uninvited. In order to reinforce your status, it is important to groom your dog every day initially. This also gives you a chance to give him a quick health check, and ensures that you will be better able to handle him if he needs veterinary attention.

If you have children, it is important that they also follow these guidelines. Keep the dog out of the children’s bedrooms, do not let him take food from them or beg under a high chair. The children should assist you in grooming but this should be done only when the dog completely accepts you doing it. Children should then only groom the dog under supervision.

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How Can I Socialize My New Puppy to Minimize Fears That Could Otherwise Develop Later in Life?

The activities below will help your new puppy become a part of your household. Your puppy will become strongly attached to your family between 6-12 weeks of age. This bond will last a lifetime. It is important that your puppy learn that he is a subordinate member of your family. This will minimize the potential for bad habits and behavior problems such as dominance or aggression.

It is important that everyone in the family practice these exercises. Young children should have adult supervision. 

  • While your puppy is small, pick him up frequently.
  • Look into the puppy’s eyes until he looks away.
  • Rub your puppy’s stomach while he is on his back.
  • Use moderate pressure while grooming or petting.
  • Don’t allow the puppy to stand on or over you during play.
  • Avoid tug-of-war games. Encourage fetch and retrieval.
  • Practice taking food away at mealtime. Praise your puppy for allowing it, and give the food back.
  • Teach your puppy to relinquish toys or objects on command (“Drop it”).
  • Praise your puppy for good behavior or when resting quietly.
  • Never use a command unless you are sure the dog will obey or unless you can make it obey.
  • Have your puppy obey commands prior to everyday activities such as feeding, playing and going out. (“Nothing in life is free.”).

Effective punishments when saying “No!” alone doesn’t work:

1. Ignore your puppy, or leave the room.

2. Gently grab the scruff of the neck, and say “No!”. 

In addition, it is important that you expose your puppy to places, situations and things that he will have to deal with in his adult life: e.g., riding in the car, going to the park (avoid exposure to unknown dogs if your puppy is < 16 weeks), schoolyards, vacuum cleaners, cats, crying babies, loud noises, and others. Extremely important to proper socialization is allowing your dog to play with other dogs. This helps accentuate the difference between people and dogs, and teaches proper play behavior.

Also see How Dogs Think .


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 Please note: The information provided here is intended to supplement the recommendations of your veterinarian. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment based on information on this site. Nothing can replace a complete history and physical examination performed by your veterinarian. -Dr. Jeff

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