Homeward Bound’s certified trainer, Kathryn Baines weighs in on the lifelong benefits of socializing your dog – no matter what age.


Socialization is not just important to puppies; it is equally important to socialize adult dogs and continue to do so throughout their lives.

Whether you have an adult dog or a puppy, socialization includes making your dog comfortable with a variety of people, places and things in addition to other puppies or dogs. For puppies under four months old, it is especially beneficial to have positive interaction with different people and encounter as many new things as possible in their environment – from meeting men in uniform or caps to people carrying large objects, kids, loud noises, and more.


Puppy Socialization is very important and it’s a good idea to start as early as the first 8 to12 weeks of age. However, it’s not safe to have your puppy around other dogs until he is completely vaccinated (typically at 16 weeks puppies have had all vaccinations, including Rabies and Bordetella). While all dogs are at risk of contracting canine parvo from fecal matter, puppies under four months old and dogs that have not been vaccinated against the canine parvo virus are at increased risk of becoming infected. So you ask: “How do I start socializing my puppy by 12 weeks, if I have to wait 16 weeks until he’s fully vaccinated?”

To fill the gap you can invite different people into your home for your puppy to meet. Introduce him to different noises so he is not afraid of them. There are even CD’s made for puppies to help desensitize them to all kinds of noises including fireworks, thunder, cars, motorcycles, and animal sounds.

Socialized pups are typically happy, friendly and adopt more predictable behaviors. Because they have experienced more situations in their environment, they have the ability to handle stress more effectively. On the other hand, under-socialized pups often become fearful, shy, anxious, and sometimes, even develop into reactive adult dogs because they lack the skills to cope with new situations. Socialization is important to your dog’s overall well-being because it provides the knowledge and skills he needs to handle new experiences in a positive way.

When he’s ready, take him to a puppy class that offers socialization as part of the class.


Did you know? Almost half of all dogs surrendered to rescues and shelters have at least one behavior problem, such as, fear, fear-based aggression and destructive behavior. These behaviors can be caused by fear and anxiety that may develop from lack of socialization.


Socialization for the Adult Dog
Old dogs CAN learn new tricks! The good news is that most adult dogs can also be socialized. At Homeward Bound, we have obedience classes and we offer socialization after class for dog-friendly dogs. If a dog has behaviors that are not appropriate for a group, we hold private sessions and slowly work toward making them more comfortable around other dogs.


When we rescue dogs that are under-socialized we work to help them become more confident and relaxed around other dogs. Once they are adopted, they need to be introduced to new places and experience new things in their new environment. There’s nothing better than adopting a dog that needs you and giving them what they need and deserve to live a happy and healthy life!


Help socialize your dog by:

  • Taking daily walks where your dog will get to meet other people and animals. Make sure you have a strong leash to keep your dog safe. Positive meeting signs include arced bodies, sniffing, neutral tail wag, a play bow. A paw on one dog’s back can also be an invitation to play. Watch carefully, and if this does not feel right, do not jerk your dog toward you – call her to you and ask the other person with his dog to back up and call his dog over to him as well.
  • Having your dog meet other dogs, and if they get along, invite them over for play date.
  • Enrolling your dog in a doggy daycare once or twice a week.
  • Taking an obedience class or a puppy class that includes socialization.