Dogs treat their owners differently than they treat everyone else. This is due to their loyal, “pack” nature. A well-behaved dog that knows when to protect the home versus when to accept new faces can make your life easier and your guests feel welcome.
You can teach your puppy the etiquette of meeting and greeting new people so that when he becomes a dog he’ll know how to act.
This brief article will get you started with training your puppy. Let’s take a look…
FOCUS ON BITE INHIBITION
Before we really dive into the hows of introducing your new puppy to new people, let’s address the whys. By the time you took your puppy home, your fur baby was only exposed to a few things, which were his mother, his siblings, the handful of people who work at the dog breeders (who may or may not have handled him much), and the handful of people who work a the pet store (again, who may or may not have handled him much). What this means is that your puppy probably didn’t have many interactions, otherwise known as socialization.
Puppies are animals and therefore controlling their instincts and nature doesn’t come easily. When puppies encounter new stimuli, like new people and places, their natural response falls somewhere on the excited – scared spectrum. Whether a puppy is excited about the stranger he’s meeting because he thinks the person is his brand-new playmate, or a puppy is instantly afraid of the new person because he thinks the person is a threat, the puppy’s instinct could be to bite (playfully) or to bite (defensively). Either way, you’ll have to train your puppy not to bite.
This is the primary reason why we want to address the importance of focusing on bite inhibition before we dive into the nitty-gritty of how to introduce your puppy to new people. As the pet parent, part of your job will be to respond if and when your puppy bites, nips, or otherwise tries to use his teeth to dominate or protect himself.
Chances are, if your puppy bites or tries to bite, it will be more of a nip and it will occur when he’s playing. If your puppy is exhibiting fear at the prospect of meeting someone new, then you shouldn’t push him to interact, because this will increase the risk of him biting. In this sense, you’ll have to be more watchful when your puppy is happy and playing with new people.
If and when your puppy bites or nips you, simply make a “yelp” sound, mimicking how a puppy would cry out if hurt. Your puppy has an instinct not to hurt other puppies, especially during play. When your puppy hears you yelping the moment he bites you, he’ll think he’s hurt you, i.e. taken his “playing” too far. And he’ll immediately pull back and be concerned for your wellbeing. This will effectively train him not to bite and nip.
This training process can become a little tricky if your puppy nips a new person during a playful introduction. You can make a yelp sound, but it may be difficult for your puppy to connect that his nipping someone else hurt you. For this reason, it’s a good idea to tell the other person to make a yelping sound if and when your puppy uses his teeth.
Remain consistent with this method of training your puppy not to bite and nip. In the instance that your puppy does not stop nipping even though you or someone else has yelped, then it’s time to use the negative reinforcement of discontinuing the introduction, playtime, or whatever fun was going on. By doing this you will teach your puppy that biting and nipping will only lead to the negative consequence of a time out.
So, as you proceed with introducing your puppy to others, keep an eye on his nipping and train him with this bite inhibition tactic. It shouldn’t take him long to stop this behavior.
INTRODUCE YOUR PUPPY TO NEW PEOPLE AT HOME
There are really only two settings where your puppy will meet new people. Those settings are at home and outside of the home. As a dog, your puppy will have different instincts and reactions to new people depending on whether he encounters the new person in his own “territory” or out in public. This section will focus on introducing your puppy to new people within your home, which includes anywhere outside on the property, too.
Firstly, we want to let you know that it’s a good idea to organize these kinds of introductions, as opposed to waiting for new people like friends and family to come over “whenever.” The reason for this is that you only have about 3 months to fully socialize your puppy.
Let’s say, you’re kind of a homebody, live alone, and pretty much never have people over. If your puppy doesn’t encounter anyone at home for this reason throughout his puppyhood and then becomes an adult, he will probably behave aggressively or defensively in the event that someone new does finally stop by.
No matter what your lifestyle or how reclusive you are at home, during your puppy’s first few months with you, organize that your friends and family come over to meet your puppy. Hopefully, your friends or family members will have children of varying ages to bring with them. It’s great when puppies can meet children, too.
Ever since you brought your puppy home, you probably noticed if he’s more on the bold and friendly side or more on the timid and fearful side. If your puppy has a more timid and fearful disposition, then introducing him to new people will be a bit more challenging, but the following steps will still apply. If he’s more outgoing, then your biggest challenge will have to do with getting your puppy to control himself.
Steps to Introduce Your Puppy to New People at Home:
- Confine your puppy to a separate room until your guest has arrived and settled in your home
- Make sure your guest knows not to “make the first move” with your puppy, i.e. no approaching or petting your puppy
- Bring your puppy into the room where the guest is and allow your puppy to approach in his own time
- Remind your guest not to make eye contact with your puppy, and it’s a good idea that your guest not “face” your puppy head-on, but rather angle sideways
- You can provide your guest with dog treats to give to your puppy if and when the puppy approaches and feels comfortable
- If your puppy does not approach, or if he exhibits signs of fear or timidity, do not reward him with treats or pet him, which is also a kind of reward (you don’t want to train him to think that being afraid is good behavior)
- Lastly, be patient and don’t push or force your puppy to make friends with your guest before he’s ready
INTRODUCE YOUR PUPPY TO STRANGERS OUTSIDE OF THE HOME
There are roughly 7 stages to a single socialization interaction when it occurs outside of the home, like during a walk or trip to the dog park. These stages are practical and in order. You’ll notice that your involvement, encouragement, and correction (if necessary) are at the heart of socialization. These are the stages summarized:
- Your puppy notices an unusual new sight
- Begin to introduce your puppy to the new experience from a distance
- Gradually bring your puppy to the stimuli and encourage him with treats or implement other corrective training
- Allow your puppy the opportunity to investigate the new stimuli as you bring him closer
- Whenever possible and appropriate, ask new people to give your puppy treats and pet him
- Take advantage of all new experiences by coaxing and rewarding your puppy for investigating and engaging with the world
- End that particular socialization experience by giving your puppy time with his favorite toy or game
Stage #1 Your Puppy Notices Something New
When you first begin bringing your puppy out on walks, trips to the park, and other new places, you know when he becomes curious about something new. It could be the fire truck across the street, a squirrel, a kid walking his bicycle up the sidewalk, or anything else in the environment. Stage 1 is all about giving your puppy a chance to be curious about whatever has captured his attention.
Stage #2 Keep Your Puppy at a Distance
It’s important not to overwhelm your puppy with new stimuli. So, when he does get curious about the squirrel, for example, don’t try to move him closer to the new thing right away. Stage 2 is an observation stage for your puppy, and he should observe from a vantage point that he’s most comfortable. This means keep him at a distance until he’s ready.
Stage #3 Get Closer to the Stimuli
Sooner or later, he will feel ready to approach the new stimuli. Not all stimuli will allow your puppy to approach, however. For example, a squirrel isn’t going to hold still for your puppy to sniff him, but a child will and a cat might, too. Stage 3 is the process of guiding your puppy to come closer to the new thing that has captured his curiosity.
Stage #4 Allow Your Puppy to Investigate the Stimuli Closely
During this stage, you’ll need to stay watchful of your puppy’s behavior and be ready to “reinforce” good behavior and also to “curb” bad behavior if your puppy acts aggressively. Your puppy will want to take a close look, sniff, and interact with the new person or thing. Depending on the stimuli, he may not know whether or not to trust it or how safe it is. At times like these, you can encourage your puppy with pets and treats.
Stage #5 Ask People to Pet & Treat Your Puppy
Stage 5 is really the bulk of socialization. When you go to a friend’s house with your puppy for the first time, for example, the majority of your puppy’s time there will be spent in Stage 5. He will get pat and receive treats, and otherwise play with the new people there. That being said, even when you’re out and about on a walk with your puppy, you can create impromptu Stage 5 experiences by asking strangers and people you encounter to give your puppy a treat and pat him.
Stage #6 Reward Every Step of the Socialization Experience
Okay, so, Stage 6 isn’t so much a “stage” as it is an important reminder. The reminder is that you should reward your puppy throughout his socialization experiences. To put it more accurately, you need to ensure that each socialization encounter is positive for your puppy. This doesn’t mean that you should refrain from being firm about curbing unwanted behavior. We just want you to remember that when your puppy has a positive experience doing something new, then the next time he encounters the “new” thing, he will be calm, well-behaved, and happy.
Stage #7 Treat Your Puppy to Special Fun after Good Social Behavior
Stage 7 is the final stage of any puppy socialization experience and it’s all about rewarding your puppy for having socialized. No matter how a particular socialization encounter went, it’s important to reward your puppy immediately afterwards with his favorite toy, treat, or game. This way, he’ll associate socializing and doing new things with a positive reward. And this will train him to enjoy doing new things.
That concludes our how-to advice for introducing your puppy to new people of all ages both inside and outside of the home. Are you ready to add a new puppy to your life? Petland Kansas City has the purebred dog breed to match your lifestyle. Speak with our knowledgeable pet counselors and start your journey into puppy parenthood with one of our adorable available puppies.