Tips on Socializing your Dog


By James Leung

James - Managing Director

Properly socializing your dog in a positive and safe environment is a big step towards raising a stable canine friend. In an urban environment like Hong Kong it helps our dogs to adjust and adapt to the congestion and limited spaces that are available. It’s a lifelong process that is particularly important during puppy-hood where pups learn the most from their parents and siblings. Pet puppies are frequently adopted during this critical period and can therefore can miss out on learning proper canine etiquette. Safe socialization is constructive in that it presents a variety of scenarios in a controlled manner that fosters positive mental, physical, psychological and emotional development. Dogs are extremely impressionable during this period of their life. Exposure to an overabundance of harmful or negative experiences can lead to behavioural issues developing.

The Goal

To raise a confident, stable and balanced dog that not only understands the rules of canine socializing but also abides by them. Lack of proper socialization can lead to a number of issues based in fear and anxiety. Common problems include the following:

  • Dogs learn to become bullies or are frequently bullied.

  • A "trigger" or "triggers " that set off undesired over-reactive behaviours like barking, snarling, lunging and biting. Some dogs will simply try to escape the trigger and avoid the situation at all costs leading to injury or worse.

Under the right conditions introduce your dog to different environments, situations, people, objects and other dogs. By doing so she becomes more confident and is better able to assess the surroundings. Ultimately, the objective is for the dog to learn which circumstances are appropriate to participate in and the ones best to avoid. By socializing your dog to different environments your dog learns to be comfortable in most settings and more easily adapt to new ones.

Remember socializing works best when it’s fun and interesting.

When Do We Start?

Dog Training Hong Kong

Socialization is a process that goes through particular stages.

Primary Socialization

This starts at birth and revolves around the litter. Weeks 6 to 12 of a puppies life are very significant in that they absorb the most information and learn rapidly. As pups are often adopted during this period owners need to step in a replicate, as much as possible, the learning environment of a litter. Several days after completing their first set of vaccinations, puppies can start socializing with other well-cared-for puppies. Before taking your pup to public places it is usually best to wait until the completion of final vaccinations.

It always helps to decide what a puppy will be allowed to do and what is forbidden before you get her. Sticking with the plan and being consistent make the difference. Owners who send mixed messages may very well end up with a dog that is uncertain and therefore insecure.

Secondary Socialization

This is a lifetime process and consists of getting your dog used to as many scenarios as possible. Ensuring it takes place in a safe and positive environment can sometimes be challenging.

Socializing is especially important in the early formative stages of your dog’s development when she is most impressionable. A well balanced dog is good at assessing situations and will make the necessary adjustments in order to display the appropriate type of behaviour.

Okay I’m Ready to Begin!


Before starting the process bear in mind a well socialized dog does not necessarily want to meet everyone, do everything and go everywhere. Each dog operates at his or her own pace. Generally, a balanced dog behaves well in all environments and can be easily brought under control should any trigger present itself.

Assuming you deem the interaction safe, the objective is to introduce your puppy to as many dogs as possible of all ages, sizes and breeds. To ensure she is not overwhelmed it’s best to match her with other pups of similar size, age and energy level. If the group of dogs is not suitable for socializing, letting her observe them from a safe distance also represents a great opportunity to learn.

For dogs not familiar with one another, initial introductions on-leash or on opposite sides of a fence are recommended before allowing them to interact directly. It’s important to note the leash tends to communicate to your dog how you are feeling. Any tension, stress, anxiety and hesitation on your behalf usually ends up in a tight leash that can cause your dog to react in undesirable ways. Keep the leash loose and fully commit to the interaction occurring. Build your dog’s confidence and reward her for remaining calm and relaxed.

Do not be overly concerned with negative experiences. Provided they occur rarely and are not traumatizing or damaging, your dog can learn a great deal from the occasional uncomfortable experience.

Positive socialization is one of the best ways to nurture a confident dog and prevent behavioural issues. At Hong Kong Canine we offer puppy socialization classes and have developed a class specific for dogs who need help in learning proper canine social etiquette. Classes are closely supervised by our qualified trainer to ensure a safe, fun and positive learning environment. For more details contact us today.