When a furry, little bundle of joy first arrives in our home, we want to do everything to prepare it for a life of success and happiness. We also want to make sure to keep them safe. A question I often get from new dog parents is: “at what age should I start socializing my puppy, and how can I do it safely?”

Puppy socialization classes are a great idea for all young pups between three and five months. Not only does your puppy get exposed to others in a safe, controlled environment, but it is also a great way for us, the doggy parents, to learn more about them; are they outgoing or timid, bossy or shy, and do they know how to play, or do they need help building their confidence level? Your personality, your puppy’s, and the choices you make during these crucial developmental stages, will not only affect the rest of your dog’s life, but in many cases, it will also affect yours.

I would like to point out that you should only take your puppy under six months of age to socialize in puppy classes with the supervision of trained dog behaviourists, and not to the dog park. A dog park is not a controlled environment, and even a mild altercation (or any negative experience, for that matter) can be absolutely detrimental to your puppy’s social and psychological development.

If your puppy is easy-going and playful with others, chances are you won’t have issues with their social level as they get older, as long as they are continuously exposed to others with a positive outcome. If your puppy is aggressive or too shy and scared, now is the time to work with them to set them up for success. Your puppy will not necessarily grow out of being too rough or too scared on its own, and it will only get worse with time. A trained dog professional can help you with building your pup’s confidence or setting appropriate rules to help your puppy flourish into a happy dog and a wonderful family member.