Socializing your Puppy

Not every dog is a Golden Retriever that is delighted whenever it meets new dogs or people.  Socializing your dog to other humans, other dogs, the environment and to experiences is very important.

Failing to do so can lead to many behavioral issues such as fear aggression, separation anxiety and an overall lack of confidence.

Puppies are a sponge for learning between about 3 weeks and 20 weeks of age.  This is the ideal time to expose them to a variety of sights, sounds, smells and sensations.  And because he hasn’t finished his vaccination series, you’ll be spending a great deal of time with him.  Following these guidelines will give your puppy the best start possible:

Early Handling

The U.S. military developed a bio-sensor program that includes holding puppies in several different positions including head-up, head-down, and supine (on the back) positions; cotton-swab stimulation on the paws; and being laid on a cold washcloth. Each phase exposes the puppy to very mild discomfort and lasts just seconds.  After the training is complete, the puppies are returned to their mother.

This program has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, increase adrenal gland function and brain activity, and improve a puppy’s resistance to stress and disease

Practice cuddling your puppy several times a day with multiple people in your household.  Remember, your puppy has just been taken away from its mother and siblings and it will take time for him to feel secure with his “new pack”.   Keep contact gentle and pleasant for the puppy. Hold the puppy in different positions, gently rub his feet and muzzle, stroke his back and sides, look in his ears, etc.  This is also an idea time to begin introducing him to human language.  As you handle your puppy, tell him what you’re doing.  Later, a well-handled puppy will have a less stressful vet experience and veterinarians will appreciate that you exposed him to handling.


Expose your puppy to lots of different sounds being cautious not to overwhelm him with too much too fast.  The normal sounds in your life are great starting points. Kitchen sounds, a phone ringtone, the television, music, children playing, etc.  As he gets used to these sounds, adding common trigger sounds (doorbell, vacuum cleaner, mower, etc.) is a great idea and will aid in future training. 

Resource Exercises

Now is also a great time to practice approaching resources that your puppy has (food bowl, bone, toy) and gently touching them and sometimes removing them from the puppy for a short time and then returning the resource back.  Getting your puppy acclimated to having your hands around their head and building confidence that having things taken away is normal, will help with some of your basic obedience commands such as “drop-it” and “leave-it”.

Alone Time

Separation anxiety is no fun, for you or your puppy.  Teaching your puppy now that being alone isn’t scarry can prevent many problems down the road.  Practice leaving your puppy in the bathroom while you shower so he can see you but doesn’t have access to you.  Several times a day, leave your puppy in his crate or in a separate room for a few minutes at a time.  When you open the door to let him out, show excitement about being reunited and offer your puppy a treat.  When he becomes comfortable with just a few moments, begin increasing the time he is alone.  Eventually, put him in his crate while you run a few errands.  Be sure to always make it exciting when you come back!