It’s time to get out into the world and meet people with your new puppy! Socializing your puppy from an early age leads to happy, well-developed dogs, so don’t put it off any longer.

New puppies are so cute, rambunctious, and playful that most new dog owners don’t even think about socializing their puppies, since they’re already so lovable and friendly with everyone. However, as your puppy goes through its first formative months and years, this will change if it isn’t properly socialized with other dogs and with people. If a puppy is kept in a closed up house and only ever gets to spend time with its owners, it won’t know how to react when introduced to other people or animals.

Many times, this isolation factor is what leads to the snippy, grouchy behavior of so many puppies. When dogs get into situations that they’re uncomfortable with, they automatically put their guards up in a defensive posture. This is why a dog that seems perfectly fine at home with you can turn into a little terror when it’s around others. And since a puppy’s main defense is its bite, this can lead to some seemingly aggressive behavior. This can be especially problematic as some areas require biting dogs to be relocated or even put to sleep in order to minimize the risk to people.

In order to try and prevent this kind of behavior, it’s important to socialize your puppy as much as possible. Take them with you to friends’ houses and on walks through the neighborhood. If someone comes up and wants to pet your puppy, let them, but only if they approach the dog calmly and the situation seems to be well under control. Many times children go running up to puppies without realizing that they’re startling them, which can also lead to defensive posturing. It’s also important to note that you should remain as calm as possible in these situations. Your puppy is very tuned in to your responses and can usually sense when you’re uncomfortable.If you aren’t sure about socializing your puppy on your own, you might want to look into a puppy training course. When you enroll in one of these courses, you and your puppy will be around other dogs and people for at least an hour or two a week in a very controlled and structured setting. It’s unlikely that anything odd is going to happen in this situation, and the knowledge that there’s a trained instructor on hand makes most people much more relaxed about allowing their dogs to socialize. If the training is successful, make your way out into the real world to apply the socialization techniques you’ve learned in class.

Whatever you decide to do, it’s important that you don’t neglect your puppy’s emotional growth by preventing them from interacting with the outside world on some level. Just like human children, puppies need to be taught how to properly introduce themselves to other dogs and how to interact safely with strangers. While it may seem natural for you to be protective of your puppy and the people it encounters, know that just like children, puppies need to get out and experience the world so that they’re prepared to deal with it properly as older dogs.