The term socialization inspires images of large puppy play groups, but the key developmental process includes a whole lot more than just other dogs, or even other people. Proper socialization allows your new pug to approach people, pups, and new situations with confidence and ease and helps prevent aggressive or anxious behavior as your pug grows.
The earlier you can start socializing your pup the better. Since they’re more open to new situations when they’re younger, focusing on socialization activities when your pug is between 8 and 12 weeks old is ideal. You may be thinking, but what about their shots?! Don’t worry — you can start socializing your pug from the safety of your own home, and then introduce them to other pups once they’ve received all their necessary shots.
Get on their level
As you introduce new humans to your pug, a few guidelines can go a long way. Ask friends to kneel or crouch down to the ground — they’re less of a giant this way — and wait for your pug to approach them. (It won’t take long — pugs notoriously love people, especially kids!) Though you may be inclined to hold your pug while introducing them to your friends, letting them stand on their own gives them more of a sense of control.
Explore new surfaces
Grass, concrete, wood, and carpet are all totally normal surfaces to us humans, but for a pup, these feel dramatically different on their paws. Take it one surface at a time, preferably with a leash on to reaffirm that you’re in control of the situation, and encourage your pug as they take their first steps in each new setting. Not only will you be better preparing them to go for walks in a variety of different environments, but you’ll also be building their trust as they rely on your confidence in new situations. Once you’ve covered the basic surfaces, you can also introduce household objects like cookie sheets or rubber bath mats to continue to build your pug’s comfort and confidence.
Invade their space
Just like children, it’s important that your pug pup learn to share. Getting them comfortable with you touching their toys or food will help prevent possessiveness and aggression down the line when more humans or dogs are around, which makes them far more fun to spend time with. Try taking their toy away too and replacing it with another toy, rewarding them when they don’t growl.This not only helps them play nicer with other pups, but also comes in handy for when small children are around and take interest in a stuffed animal that your pug happens to love. Another idea? While they're eating, get on their level and pet them gently to teach them they don't need to get territorial around their food.
Introduce new sounds
It’s easy to forget how many different sounds we’re exposed to everyday! Getting your pug comfortable with all sorts of noises, both in and outside of the house, makes it easier for them to navigate their world with confidence. You can start by leaving the radio on, or closing and opening doors with a bit more vigor. Follow up with reassurance or a treat to affirm that these noises are nothing to be afraid of. Ready for louder noises? The vacuum cleaner is a good level up. Start at a safe distance where your pup can see you and the vacuum cleaner, and avoid getting too close — that machine can be scary! Your calm, encouraging nature is key when introducing new noises so your pug knows they can trust you to judge whether or not they’re safe.
Change up your walking route
What better way to get exposure to new sights, smells, and sounds than by exploring different parts of your city or neighborhood? The first step, though, is getting your pup comfortable on leash. Praise them when you clip on their leash and harness and let them take their time moving around. You can do this inside the house before heading out into the world, too! Once they’re more confident with their new gear, head to spots where there are more people buzzing around. It’s ok if they don’t want to stop and say hello to every person walking by (though they likely will, we’re talking about a pug after all…), but the exposure to new settings with you by their side helps solidify you as a source of safety.
Ease your way in to new puppy friends
When your pup has all their necessary shots, you’ll likely be excited to introduce them to new friends. Starting small prevents overwhelm, so one-on-one puppy playdates are ideal at first. Neutral, outdoor spaces are ideal so that neither pup is feeling territorial. Of course, once your pug gets more comfortable around other dogs, at-home playdates are great, too! Another good option if it’s feasible? Puppy training classes. Not only do these help teach good behavior, but small class sizes allow your pug to make friends with their classmates in a regulated environment.
With any new experience, whether it be a sound, person, or place, encouraging but not forcing is a good rule of thumb. Rewarding your pug when they’re exposed to something new makes them more confident in new situations to come, but if they’re visibly afraid, you can always try again another time — forcing them into situations they’re fearful of can cause aggression or mistrust down the road. Though the socialization process takes some time, it’ll create plenty of opportunities to bond with your pup along the way and cement you as a source of love and security, too.