The Importance of Puppy Socialization by Michelle McParland, RVT

Congratulations! You are either thinking of getting a puppy or you have one! My name is Michelle McParland, I am a Registered Technician who offers Puppy Socialization Classes here at Baxter Animal Hospital. There are a few things I would like to share with you about puppyhood that can help you and your new addition develop a great bond. It will help your pup feel more confident and relaxed in the busy world we live in.

First, it is important to know about your puppy’s developmental stages. The first few weeks a puppy depends on its mom for warmth, food and to eliminate. Their eyes open and then their hearing develops about 2 weeks after birth. At approximately 2 weeks of age, puppies are less dependant on mom and about 4 weeks up to 12 weeks development of social relationships and psychological stresses occur. They begin to explore the environment. During this time it is important to provide social play and exploration between pups as this aids in physical development and helps provide appropriate behaviours for adulthood. Handling with humans of different ages, types, appearances, as well as sounds and different environments with good experiences will help with social maturity during this time.

After 12 weeks of age, sociability starts to decrease and undersocialized puppies may become increasingly fearful of unfamiliar situations and people. Dogs reach social maturity at 18 monhts and are fully mature at 2 years of age. (Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat -G. Landsberg, W. Hunthausen, L. Ackerman)

With this information and knowing that an exuberant amount of dogs are euthanized, rehomed or surrendered to the shelters due to behaviour problems vs disease at a young age, we strongly recommend puppy socialization classes.

So, your next question is… What are puppy socialization classes? What will my puppy and I learn?

Puppy Socialization Classes are for young puppies. They can start at 4 -8 weeks of age up to 14-16 weeks of age. These classes focus on the social development of your puppy which coincides with their developmental stage. It allows other puppies of the same age to interact and play with each other. This provides the knowledge needed for them to read other dogs body language and be able to act/react properly. It allows them to be more social with dogs when they are older. It also provides social experiences with other people. These classes will also talk about puppy biting and how to teach bite inhibition, resource guarding, gentle handling, house training, training thru play as well as other basic training.   The goal: a more rounded, confident adult dog. What you learn in theses classes does not stop after classes are done. It continues in the household/environment.

Finally, what about vaccines prior to class?

Vaccines in our youngsters are very important to help prevent disease such as parvo. Puppy socialization classes are controlled classes. Pups in the class should not have illnesses: no vomiting, coughing or diarrhea. Ideally, the first vaccine should be done. Instructors will talk to you about how to continue the socialization process outside of class safely.

It has been my experience teaching these classes, that the majority of puppies return to the clinic happy, eager and excited. They tend to have great experiences at ongoing obedience/training classes, great with other dogs and have no fear of people/strangers.

If you have questions about these classes, or other behavior related concerns, or would like to register for puppy classes, please feel free to contact me at