Puppy Socialization and Day Care

What is Puppy Socialization?

Puppies have a critical impressionable period. This window is most relevant from 6 to 16 weeks of age. Everything that happens to a puppy during this time frame has an impact on their future behavior. The absence of exposure to something also can have a negative impact on a puppy as he or she ages. If you have ever had a dog who was afraid of thunderstorms or men with beards or who showed anxiety when meeting new people, you know what a challenge it can be to comfort and control your pet in such situations. Though the critical period is between 6 and 16 weeks, puppies are still learning after 16 weeks of age. We continue to encourage socialization and seeking out learning opportunities for a pet's entire life.

Fear Puts Your Puppy at Risk

Fireworks and thunderstorms can cause dogs to panic and run, which is why exposing your pet to a variety of dogs, people, and experiences during their impressionable developmental phase is so important. In our socialization classes, we play background noise that your puppy may never have heard before! Our socialization soundtrack includes noises such as thunderstorms, babies crying, traffic, crowds, and others. Puppies are rewarded with treats and praise and learn to associate these sounds with good things.

What to Expect during Puppy Socialization

There are two sessions of playtime under staff supervision. During these sessions, puppies have the opportunity to socialize with other puppies their own size and temperament - many of them develop friendships with their classmates. Typically, our assistants will also bring the puppies around to greet everyone in the hospital - we call these walks "field trips". While meeting the staff, your puppy will likely be wagging his or her tail, running from person to person, and loving life (and the treats we give).

They will be exposed to the sights, sounds, and smells of other dogs in the hospital, along with other pets here for socialization. Your puppy will have the opportunity to meet a variety of people in a safe environment.

Behavior-Based Therapeutic Touch and Sound

Puppies here for socialization will have their nails trimmed, ears cleaned, teeth examined, and feet played with. It is very important to expose your puppy to all of these strange touches in a safe and positive environment so that they do not develop fear. We provide a lot of positive reinforcement with happy voices and lots of treats. If at any point a puppy seems scared or is not enjoying things, we scale it back to avoid overwhelming your puppy. 

Once a puppy has a positive experience with us, they start to begin forming positive associations in their brain! Our clients often find that their adult dogs who attended puppy socialization as adolescents enjoy coming to our hospital in the future. Thanks to early and positive exposure to our hospital, adult dogs who attended socialization classes with us often have a much easier time boarding or being hospitalized if that is ever necessary because they remember the happy times.

Why Socialize Your Puppy at Mesa Veterinary Hospital

When you get your new pet, we encourage you to begin socialization right away in a controlled environment. The benefits of socialization far outweigh the risks (such as exposure to infectious disease), as long as we minimize the risks. 

We do not recommend bringing your immuno-naive puppy to uncontrolled areas such as the dog park, a pet store, or any area where unvaccinated and non-dewormed pets may be present. In these environments there is an inherent risk of your pet catching an infectious disease such as parvo virus. We recommend that our puppy parents keep their puppies away from these areas until their pets are fully vaccinated at 16 weeks of age.

However, because socialization is so important, controlled environments such as certain puppy classes, a friend’s house, or even our hospital are excellent opportunities for socialization!

Other tips:

- Bring your new puppy in the car with you frequently, and give lots of treats. 

- Give your pet a bath and spread treats around the edge of the tub.

- Touch his or her feet and ears while giving treats.

Did we mention you should buy lots of treats? After all, food is the number one motivator in dog training. Make sure you back off and give your pet space if he or she feels overwhelmed. The doctors at Mesa are fans of crate training new puppies. Provide a crate or safe gated area with toys (food stuffed toys are best) where your new pet can learn to entertain themselves and develop some self-confidence. This can help prevent over-attachment and separation anxiety issues in the future. 

We often continue this socialization program past sixteen weeks of age, as pets are still learning past the critical period.

Socializing a new puppy or kitten is hard work, but having a well-behaved and socialized pet pays off in the end. Not to mention that a few months of work gives your pet a great head start to a happy life. 

Contact Us for Puppy Socialization

We highly recommend bringing your puppy to Mesa Veterinary Hospital for socialization. Playing with puppies is one of the harder parts of our jobs, but we will make the sacrifice! Contact us for an updated puppy socialization schedule. We proudly serve West Denver, Golden, Wheat Ridge, Arvada, Lakewood, and the surrounding areas with controlled and supervised puppy socialization classes.