Socializing your new puppy is a great way to encourage healthy development, and while it’s a critical part of raising a well-adjusted dog, the good news is it’s also tons of fun. Of course you want to show off your adorable new best friend, and socialization allows you to do just that! Taking your puppy out into the world and gently introducing him to positive new experiences helps him learn to be adaptable and sets him on the path to a lifetime of confidence.
But where should you go? There are the obvious options, like a well-run puppy class and the local dog supply store, but there’s also a ton of additional spots where you and your dog can have new adventures together. Some of them will surprise you!
The following are a few unexpected socialization locations where you and your new best friend can experience different sights, sounds, and friendly people.
Dry Cleaner or Laundromat
Everything from the texture of the floor to the unusual noises and smells can be a lesson for your puppy. As with all of the socialization locations, allow your puppy to explore on his own terms and at his own pace. Don’t push interactions, and if your pup seems overwhelmed when the spin cycle starts or the clothing conveyer moves, give him some space. If it’s still too much, head to the next less stressful location.
Independent Coffee Shops
Unfortunately, your puppy probably isn’t welcome in chain coffee shops because of health regulations, but many small independent shops flout the rules and welcome dogs anyway. Once you’ve established that your local coffee haunt allows dogs, stop in for a quick bark and brew. Your furry best friend is bound to attract attention from the other patrons, so keep the interactions positive and give the friendly strangers treats to offer to your pup.
Home supply stores offer a wealth of unique experiences. Not only are they huge, they’re filled with things that bang, smash, rattle and crash. This is a blessing and a curse, because you want your pup to experience novel situations, but you don’t want to overwhelm or frighten him. It’s best to visit superstores during off hours to avoid the crush of weekend warriors. Keep in mind, a quick trip in and out of the store—perhaps just five to ten minutes—is a great way to expose your pup to the environment without overwhelming him.
Banks are great socialization spots for shy pups because they’re typically quiet and orderly. There’s enough new stuff for your pup to sniff out, but there’s not so much stimulation that it’ll overwhelm your puppy—unless you show up on payday! Many banks have treats for their canine customers, which makes the visit that much more fun.
Major Chain Stores
It’s shocking how many large (and fancy!) retail stores welcome dogs. You can bring your puppy for some barkfest at Tiffany’s, shop for new shoes at Nordstrom, work that nose at Lush, or get your bohemian style on at Anthropologie. Old Navy, Gap, Hallmark, Barnes and Noble, and Michael’s also allow dogs, but as always, it’s best to confirm the store policy before you assume it’s okay. Policies might vary by region.
Photo Credit: Michaelpuche / Shutterstock, Inc.
You’re going to be visiting your vet frequently as your puppy completes his vaccination schedule, which might lead your puppy to believe that the vet is always a scary and painful place. The easiest way to change his perception about going to the vet is to take quick trips when you don’t have an appointment scheduled, so your puppy can woo the front desk staff and earn a few treats. Most vet offices welcome the opportunity to help new puppies feel comfortable, because their job is easier when the puppy is calm in the environment. A few quick and positive visits can help your puppy have a lifetime of chilled-out health checks.
Tips to Follow When Socializing Your Puppy
It’s always a good idea to double check with any establishment before you bring in your dog. Sometimes policies change and vary by state or region. Keep in mind, it’s the store’s prerogative to say no, and it’s your responsibility to respect it. You should only bring your pup to spaces where he’s welcomed with open arms.
Although it might make sense to merge your errands and socialization time, your pup needs to be the sole focus during these educational trips. If the errand has the potential to draw your attention to something other than your puppy for an extended period, do it on your own time instead. Your number one job is to act as your puppy’s advocate and make sure he’s always feeling good about the new scenarios.
Victoria Schade is a dog trainer, author & speaker who has contributed to The Washington Post, Martha Stewart, and other publications.