Creating Kinder, Gentler Experiences for Pets



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Puppy Early Socialization Play (Parties!)
Ages 8 to 18 Weeks

The most important part of early puppy socialization is the opportunity for the puppies to play together. Interactive play is how puppies learn canine social skills. Puppies who learn how to "talk dog" before four months of age and continue positive socialization with other friendly, socialized dogs are less likely to be fearful or aggressive around new dogs throughout their adult lives. A friendly, relaxed adult dog can experience the joy of meeting new dog friends at dog parks and dog beaches.

  • It is important that the puppy play supervisor knows how to read canine body language and can narrate the play.

  • The puppy play supervisor needs to be calm and relaxed at all times.

  • The puppy play supervisor needs to feel comfortable (safely) "interrupting" play if the puppy's get too aroused (worked up).

Grouping Puppies

Group puppies by their personalities more than their sizes. Let shy puppies warm up together and confident puppies learn how to take turns being top dog in play scenarios.

If there is only one instructor, the shy dogs can basically be left alone with a qualified volunteer supervisor. There is usually less action in this group. 

Praise Appropriate Behaviors

  • Praise any confident postures or attempts to socialize with another dog.

  • Interrupt any boisterous advances on a very frightened puppy showing no interest in the other dog.  Allow some time to pass to build confidence.  Don’t force shy puppies into uncomfortable situations.  Give them time to build confidence to want to play.

In the more active group, some of the dogs will likely need to stay on leash so their inappropriate behavior (see below) can be easily interrupted. When they have good “play manners” they can play off leash. 

  • Praise good play manners

  • Interrupt any inappropriate or aggressive interactions. Don’t let aggressive or boisterous or vocal dogs develop bad play habits. (Interrupt any bad habit; praise good manners.)

Shy Dogs

As the shy dogs get more confident, and the boisterous ones learn better manners. Put  individual shy dogs into the main play group for short periods of careful supervision. Prevent shy dogs from being physically attacked, even in play. If the shy dog is not physically attacked, leave him with the group so he learns to play. It's okay if he hides.


People need to ignore the puppies so they can focus on what's happening with the canine play.

The goal by the end of the puppy socialization is for  puppies to all play together so that the little ones know they are little and the big ones know how to play gentle with the little ones.  Each puppy must be evaluated individually to determine if he or she is ready to be integrated into the main play group.

Interrupt Inappropriate Behavior

It is only appropriate to interfere if the puppies are exhibiting repeated unacceptable behavior.  Give puppies a lot of slack at first.  Interrupt a puppy who won't leave one alone who is giving all the signals to "back off." Back up that puppy's communication. Simply pick up puppies who are too worked up to allow them to calm back down.


Try to interrupt and redirect any aggressive behavior to teach the pup play stops when they get too worked up. The dog’s natural desire to play is the motivation to modify his own behavior, because inappropriate play gets a redirection, or “time out” for several seconds.


Controlling Unacceptable Behavior

1.   Interrupt the behavior. Give a time out if needed.  No punishment or scolding.

2.   If the puppy repeats the behavior, give another time out then allow the puppy to resume play redirecting it towards another puppy. 

3.   If the same behavior occurs again the puppy takes a time out in the owners lap for the duration of that play session. 

4.   The puppy should be allowed to play in the next play session.  If the puppy repeats the behavior again, suspend the aggressing puppy in the air, then roll it on its side on the ground and let the other puppies sniff all over it.  

5.   If the puppy repeats again it is put in time out on the owners lap for the duration of the puppy party, you may take it for a walk or place it in a kennel in the back.

6.   Recommend a consult with a Veterinary Behavior Consultant prior to the puppy attending the next class.

...::::::: Copyright 2000-Present  All Rights Reserved by Rolan Tripp, DVM  and Susan Tripp, MS, Animal Behavior Network and Associates :::::::...