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AKC offers socialization, ownership tips for your puppy

As a responsible dog owner, it’s very important to make sure that your dog is comfortable and well-behaved around others.

Socializing your puppy is critical and should start early on, as it sets the stage for your dog to feel happy and confident throughout her life.

It is key to start exposing your puppy to new people, places and situations as soon as you can, and early socialization can begin as soon as you bring your puppy home.

The American Kennel Club offers dog lovers the following tips to help socialize their puppies.

Start slowly. Start the socialization process slowly: expose your puppy to different people, places and things each day. Don’t take your dog straight to the dog park as her first experience with other animals. It can be overwhelming, especially if your dog is nervous around other dogs.

The nose knows. When you first bring your puppy home, she will naturally start to sniff people and things around her to get to know them. Let her sniff around to get familiar with her new surroundings. Introduce her to different smells. The earlier you start to socialize your dog, the better.

Make a play date. Choose your dog’s first playmates by planning to meet someone with one dog at a specific time. Make sure that dog is well-mannered, polite and calm. That will show your dog what an acceptable greeting looks like. These meetings should take place after you’ve exercised your dog a bit to drain some of her energy so she’s calm and not overly excited when meeting a new friend.

Enroll in a class. A group dog training class will expose your puppy to other people and dogs in a safe, structured environment. There are classes available for socializing puppies and teaching older dogs basic commands. A dog training class will help you and your dog develop a successful relationship.

Go easy on the leash. When your dog approaches other dogs, try not to restrain her forcefully. This could cause your dog to assume an unintentionally aggressive posture that can be misunderstood to other dogs. Try using a harness to reduce pulling.

Meet all types of dogs. Make sure to expose your dog to different types of dogs — big, small, active, loud, quiet, etc. If your dog has only ever met dogs of the same type, imagine her surprise the first time she meets a different breed.

Supervise. Always supervise interactions and play time between your dog and others. You want to make sure that your dog and the others are behaving appropriately and no situations arise.

To learn more about responsible dog ownership and socialization, visit the AKC at