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San Diego Humane Society

Puppies: Socialization Checklist


The first three months of your puppy’s life is the most important time for exposing them to as many new people, animals, stimuli and environments as possible so they can learn to behave and interact successfully with the world around them. Early socialization and positive reinforcement (R+) training classes can go a long way to creating a lifelong bond between you and your dog. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) position statement also supports and encourages early animal socialization. San Diego Humane Society offers a number of classes for puppies and adolescent dogs both in-person and online including our free Well-Socialized Pet Chats hosted over Zoom each weekend! These chats cover six topics related to socialization; how animals learn, desensitization to sounds, socializing with animals and people, conditioning bodySocializing_LChin.jpg handling, exposure to novel objects and environments, and enrichment each of which are followed up by an email full of related resources. Sessions are appropriate for all pets of all ages; register for six consecutive sessions to hear all the topics. Check out our Well-socialized Pet Resources Playlist.

This is where your Puppy Socialization Checklist comes into play. It is divided into two parts of activities for you and your puppy to experience together. The first part contains a priority checklist of activities you should try to expose your puppy to before they are 12 weeks old. The second part offers more ideas for activities that will continue helping their development. Ideally, they should experience all of these items before they are 18 weeks of age. If you're looking for an opportunity to put this theory into practice, check out our Camp Socialization classes for exposing puppies and dogs of all ages to new experiences and novelty.

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When introducing your puppy to all of these new experiences, reward with treats and praise so they create a positive association with the new activity (How do we know what our pet finds rewarding? read this!). Observe your puppy’s behavior to see if they are enjoying the experience; are they eating treats? Do they seem relaxed and comfortable? If not, take a break from the activity. Check out this B&T Lecture: Can You Speak Dog or Cat? to get an in-depth feel for the nuances of body language and then explore this video on reading body language while in the context of a training session


Doing too much too fast can lead to overstimulation, which can result in fear or anxiety. Start with small experiences like the feeling of grass, walking on tile or meeting one new person. Don’t force your puppy to interact with a new environment or a new object; instead back away a bit until the puppy relaxes. Always give them a choice in how they engage with - or don't - new experiences. Then use a silly voice, treats and praise to help them feel more confident in approaching the scary item or sound. As the puppy becomes more relaxed, gradually they will get closer to the stimuli, pairing praise and treats with the experience.

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Please consult a professional trainer/behaviorist to assist you in your socialization process for fearful puppies who display extreme behavioral responses such as shaking uncontrollably, urinating/defecating, growling, snapping or biting. See the B&T Lecture: How to Pick a Trainer 101 to learn how to find an appropriate trainer. 

For more info on early puppy socialization, visit the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s position statement on early socialization.


  1. Adults
  2. Babies
  3. Toddlers
  4. Children
  5. Teenagers
  6. Seniors
  7. Different ethnicities


  1. Canes
  2. Crutches
  3. Metal walkers
  4. Wheelchairs
  5. Baby strollers
  6. Backpacks
  7. Luggage


  1. Police officers
  2. Postal workers
  3. Vet clinic staff


  1. Umbrellas
  2. Baseball caps
  3. Helmets
  4. Mustaches
  5. Beards
  6. Glasses


  1. Joggers
  2. Skateboarders
  3. Cyclists
  4. Rollerbladers
  5. Roller skaters
  6. Soccer players


Check out our Body Handling Playlist

  1. Holding puppy
  2. Touching paws
  3. Touching muzzle
  4. Touching ears
  5. Touching collar
  6. Checking teeth
  7. Clipping nails
  8. Brushing teeth
  9. Checking between pads
  10. Cleaning ears
  11. Touching rear legs
  12. Brushing/grooming


  1. Talking loudly
  2. Laughing
  3. Crying
  4. Shouting
  5. Arguing
  6. Newborn crying
  7. Newborn laughing
  8. Infant crying
  9. Infant laughing
  10. Children playing
  11. Children laughing
  12. Children crying
  13. Children shouting


  1. Rides in vehicles (other than to vet)
  2. Socialization classes
  3. Vet clinics
  4. Groomers
  5. Elevators
  6. Automatic doors
  7. School grounds
  8. Car washes
  9. Walks after dark
  10. Busy intersections
  11. Crowds of people
  12. Your family’s homes
  13. Sleepover visits
  14. Department stores


  1. Phone ringing
  2. Doorbell
  3. Knocking at the door
  4. Hair dryer
  5. Vacuum cleaner
  6. Dishwasher
  7. Electrical appliances (i.e. blender, can opener, mixer)
  8. Sweeping
  9. Mopping
  10. Guests
  11. Gatherings in home
  12. Repair people
  13. Delivery people
  14. Gardeners
  15. Dropping a hair brush
  16. Washing a load of laundry


  1. Parade
  2. Live music band
  3. People dancing


  1. Jackhammers
  2. Cranes
  3. Front-end loaders
  4. Bulldozers
  5. Sledgehammers
  6. Power tools
  7. Forklifts
  8. Carrying shovels
  9. Wheelbarrows
  10. Lawn mowers
  11. Weed whackers


  1. Cars
  2. Motorcycles
  3. Screeching brakes
  4. Cars backfiring
  5. Street cleaners
  6. Garbage trucks
  7. City buses
  8. Electric wheelchairs
  9. Firetrucks
  10. Police cars
  11. Mail trucks
  12. UPS/delivery truck


Check out our Behavior & Training Lecture on Introducing Pets

  1. Friendly, healthy dogs
  2. Puppies
  3. Cats


  1. Going up stairs
  2. Going down stairs
  3. Ceramic tiles
  4. Carpet
  5. Slippery surfaces
  6. Manholes
  7. Grates
  8. Grass
  9. Gravel
  10. Children’s playground equipment


  1. Scooters
  2. Tricycles
  3. Hula hoops
  4. Remote-control toys
  5. Flags/banners
  6. Statues of people
  7. Statues of animals


Check out our Well-socialized Pet Chat discussion on Desensitizing our Pets to Sounds

  1. Sirens on police vehicles
  2. Sirens on ambulances
  3. Sirens on firetrucks
  4. Thunder sounds
  5. Fireworks
  6. Construction site noises
  7. People yelling
  8. Trucks backing up with alarm sound



  1. Small pets (hamster)
  2. Large birds (geese)
  3. Horses
  4. Goats
  5. Pigs
  6. Chickens
  7. Ducks


  1. Leg in a cast
  2. Leg scooter
  3. Baby carriers
  4. Wagons
  5. Shopping carts
  6. Holding balloons
  7. Rain coats
  8. Sunglasses
  9. Cowboy hats
  10. Visors
  11. Costumes
  12. Masks
  13. Beanies
  14. Punk haircuts
  15. Shaved heads


  1. Firefighter
  2. Vet tech
  3. Veterinarian
  4. Ambulance attendant
  5. Crossing guard
  6. Meter reader
  7. Telephone worker
  8. Courier


  1. Cross-county skiiers
  2. Sledders
  3. Snowboarders
  4. Surfers
  5. Windsurfers
  6. Speedwalkers
  7. Spectators at 10K
  8. Paddlers (kayaks, canoes)
  9. Hang gliders
  10. Swimmers
  11. Water-skiers
  12. Martial artists
  13. Bike couriers
  14. Dodgeball players


  1. Water scooters
  2. Airplanes
  3. Helicopters
  4. Snowplows
  5. Trolleys
  6. Segways
  7. Hoverboards


  1. Boarding kennel
  2. Bank
  3. Gas station
  4. Toll booth
  5. Friend’s home
  6. Public transit
  7. Country vs. city
  8. Escalator
  9. Pet supply store
  10. Downtown
  11. Boat ride
  12. Petting zoo
  13. Tunnel
  14. Bridge
  15. Outside day care
  16. Active railway
  17. Crowd of people clapping
  18. Crowd of people cheering
  19. Drive-thru
  20. Sporting facility
  21. Beach
  22. Hiking trail
  23. Office
  24. Park
  25. Boardwalk
  26. Public event
  27. Mall
  28. Plaza
  29. Coffee shop
  30. Brewery
  31. Restaurant downtown
  32. Restaurant by the water
  33. Fast-food restaurant
  34. Tourist spot
  35. Movie in a park
  36. Pool
  37. Lake
  38. Inflatable pool
  39. Home environment
  40. Phone announces calls
  41. Loud TV
  42. Loud music
  43. Kettle
  44. Dog in bath/shower
  45. Home office
  46. House party
  47. Maintenance people
  48. Dropping a plastic container
  49. Dropping a pot/pan
  50. Popcorn popping
  51. Fire alarm
  52. Drying a load of laundry


  1. Snowblowers
  2. Snow
  3. Rain
  4. Wind
  5. Airport
  6. Loud speakers
  7. Building demolition
  8. Sand
  9. Wood
  10. Tile
  11. Marble
  12. Watery or wet
  13. Cement
  14. Asphalt
  15. Swinging bridge
  16. Wooden dock
  17. Tarmac (not on a hot day)
  18. Artificial grass
  19. Mud
  20. Ice


  1. Hot air balloon
  2. People singing
  3. Farmers market
  4. Beach party
  5. Bonfire
  6. Santa Claus
  7. Easter Bunny
  8. Mascot
  9. Rodeo
  10. Fair
  11. Sporting event
  12. Clown
  13. Mime
  14. Rush hour
  15. A rally/protest
  16. Street vendor
  17. Food truck


  1. Ride-on mower
  2. Leaf blower
  3. Electric hedge shears
  4. Garden hose
  5. Sprinkler system


  1. Drunk people
  2. Ice cream trucks
  3. Strong perfumes
  4. Strong cooking smells
  5. Hammocks
  6. Playground swings
  7. Playground tunnels
  8. Kites
  9. Model airplanes
  10. Low-flying airplanes
  11. Air-filled decorations
  12. Pinwheels
  13. Loud kids’ toys
  14. Children in high chairs
  15. Children in walkers
  16. Children in swings outside
  17. Children in swinging chair inside


Behavior Helpline: Contact our Behavior Team

For behavior questions, please contact our Behavior Helpline either by calling 619-299-7012, ext. 2244, emailing or filling out our Ask a Trainer form. San Diego Humane Society Adopters can fill out the Post Adoption Consultation form to schedule their troubleshooting session. We aim to respond within 7 days, but responses may take up to 2 weeks. Thank you for your patience!

Note: Due to the potential for serious injury, canine and feline aggression are best handled by a professional who specializes in aggressive behaviors. Because phone or email counseling is inadequate for addressing serious behavior concerns, we ask that you contact a qualified professional for help. Please refer to the list of behavior resources here.

Questions About Public Classes

San Diego Humane Society offers training classes and resources to address a variety of needs for companion animals.

Our training philosophy is based on the behavioral science concepts of positive reinforcement. Training your pet using these concepts will not only help them learn new behaviors more quickly, it will also strengthen the bond you share.

Our website includes a current schedule of training classes or call 619-279-5961. 

View Training Classes   Gift a Training Class


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