Doors will be closing SOON on social skills
You know the saying, “when one door closes, another one opens?”  With respect to raising a well-adjusted puppy, Alexander Graham Bell lied.  Though experts disagree on the exact numbers, the door to socialization for your puppy opens at around 4 weeks and closes about 8 weeks later, when your puppy is 12 weeks old.  This is a limited time offer.
To be a well-adjusted dog, your young puppy needs to get out of the house!  He needs to meet people--tall people, fat people, people in wheelchairs, people in cowboy hats and people with umbrellas.  And children.  He needs to meet dogs--friendly, healthy dogs in safe places.  He needs to experience so many things in such a short period of time--grass and gravel under his paws; elevators and stairwells; eating out of metal bowls and off paper plates; bicycles, strollers, a marching band.  Throngs.  No one said it would be easy.  But it will be fun.  (For a more ideas, see our Puppy Socialization Checklist)
But my veterinarian says I should wait
When Rico was a puppy, I took him to the hardware store to meet men with facial hair, and a woman followed me out to my car and yelled at me about Parvo and Rabies and Distemper.  Full throttle socialization, especially to other dogs, can present a problem for conscientious puppy parents like yourself.  Maybe you’ve heard that your puppy shouldn’t meet other dogs until he’s fully vaccinated at 16 weeks old.  Maybe you heard it from your well-meaning veterinarian.    Maybe it scared the bejeezus out of you.  It scared me, too, so I decided to investigate for myself.
What’s more heartbreaking than Parvo?
Here’s what I learned from my trainer and my vet and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB).  
Behavioral problems are the number one reason dogs are taken to the shelter and the number one reason that dogs under 3 years old die.   
Parvo is frightening, yes, but can you imagine leaving your dog at the shelter because she bit someone?  Or sentencing her to solitary confinement in your backyard for life?  Or never being able to have friends over for dinner?  It would break your heart.  
What the AVSAB says
In their position statement, the AVSAB says that “it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive . . . socialization beforethey are fully vaccinated” (emphasis mine).
A compromise and a plan
You have so many options for socializing your puppy in a safe environment and minimizing his risk of yucky stuff.  
First of all, avoid inappropriate places full of dogs (or dog poo) with questionable vaccination status--dog parks, pet stores, dog events, the groomer.  
Second, the compromise.  You may choose to wait until his second set of vaccines (at 9-10 weeks old) to let him start meeting strange dogs that you know have been vaccinated.  It doesn’t give you much time for dog mingling, but it can be done and you can feel better about it because he’s close to full immunity.
Third, enroll him in puppy school, sooner rather than later.  Choose a facility that requires vaccinations and is clean and enclosed.  Puppy school will go a long way towards exposing your puppy to lots of new people, other puppies, children.  At a Good Dog’s Life, our Puppy Program will give your puppy the skills she needs to love life and greet every experience with a wagging tail.  Click here to learn more and to sign up for one of several convenient puppy classes.
What did you do to socialize your puppy?  Leave a comment below and let us know three things you think a puppy should experience before the door closes on socialization.

Nicole Martinez shared a status

Gail had great advice to help us get our fearful Uli into the car without him freaking out so much! We still have a long way to go but as least traveling got easier!

student stars

  • studentstars brewster

    OWNER: Maggie Brindell-Watt 
    I have to tell you we went to our Neighborhood Christmas Party and I was singing your praise.  Many of my neighbors that walked by our house daily commented on how well Brewster is behaving.  They were impressed when he barked at them and I can come out and tell him to be quite and he actually does listen to me.  So, in general they were just impressed at how well he is behaving for such a young dog.  So, I just wanted to say "thank you" for helping us, couldn't have done it without your help. We still have a lot of work to do but we are on the right track.

  • studentstars roux

    OWNER: Cindy Hartman  
    "Gail, thank you VERY MUCH for reviewing our runs from last weekend, your comments were very helpful! You make some great points. I appreciate your keen eye and willingness to help us become a better team! Can't wait for class on Thursday!"

  • studentstars rigel

    OWNER: Susan McKenzie
    Rigel (2 ½ yr old black and white retriever/hound mix) took basic manners class and Pedals (6 mo old brindle lab/pit mix) attended both the puppy and basic manners class at A Good Dog’s Life  When people visit our home, I often receive compliments on how well behaved my dogs are.  They do not try to counter surf and I can ask them to stay on their beds to get out from under foot.  I am a strong believer in challenging dogs physically and mentally and intend to take further classes at A Good Dog’s Life.  They both enjoy it.

  • studentstars elke

    OWNER: Tanya Alstott 

    I was happy with the content of the class.  I think these type of puppy class are limited in what you can expect out of your dog, mainly due to age and the inability to focus for any length of time.  Socialization was my main goal and I feel like Elke got that from the class.

  • studentstars sky

    OWNER: Peggy and Bob Dellinger 
    Gail, WE loved class today. I had read most of the book "tracking from the ground up" but boy you made lots more sense then the book!

  • studentstars franklin

    OWNER: Lisa Wester 
    You are Wonder Woman Dog Trainer. My son and I did a short session with Franklin today. Did not jump any. We did five or six meet and greets. Michael did three short walks and Franklin behaved very well letting Michael pet him.
    Hope to do a session Fri and Sun.
    Thanks so much!

  • studentstars eiko

    OWNER: Anna Ferguson, Vibrant Heart Yoga 
    Eiko and I have had great fun learning with Gail from A Good Dog's Life. We have done classes at her wonderful facility and also some private lessons. I am always impressed by Gail's knowledge, patience and obvious love for dogs. Her training tips and handouts were crucial for great puppy training, and we really enjoyed our puppy classes. We now have a wonderfully well-behaved, intelligent dog that is our best friend! I recommend her all the time to new puppy owners to get started on the right paw!

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A Good Dog's Life

33 Hidden Acres Drive
Asheville NC 28806
Office 828.667.3221