Giving a puppy as a present is both delightful and challenging.

Puppies are a common gift around the holidays. It’s important to make sure that you properly socialize your new furry companion to ensure that they feel safe and comfortable around people and in all sorts of new environments. Bear in mind that while gifting a puppy is a heartwarming gesture, the real work begins immediately after the big reveal.

DO: Socialize the puppy while its young. Puppies are most accepting of new experiences between 3 and 12 weeks old. After 12 weeks, they become much more cautious about things they haven’t encountered before. After 18 weeks, it becomes more difficult to teach a dog something new or help him be comfortable with things he finds scary.

DO: Expose your puppy to a vast array of experiences, but make sure your puppy is enjoying all of them. If not, reach out to your veterinarian.

DO: Cover the basics. Obviously, it’s impossible to expose a four-week-old puppy to absolutely everything he will ever encounter in his life. However, you can help him enjoy common types of people, dogs, sights, sounds, and physical handling and grooming he will normally encounter. From these experiences, he’ll likely be able to generalize and find something familiar and, therefore, be comfortable in any situation.

DON’T: Overwhelm your puppy. It’s important during the socialization process to pay attention to the physical cues your pup is sending. It’s important that your puppy becomes more comfortable in these new situations, not more stressed out and scared. If your dog is cowering in the corner rather than curiously sniffing the new people you brought over, it’s time to pull back and take a slower approach.

DO: Make it positive! Use plenty of treats and praise when introducing your pooch to a new experience. That way, they’ll build a positive association with what they’re experiencing.

DON’T: Stress yourself out. It’s important that you’re also excited and relaxed, rather than stressed. Our pets pick up on our emotions; if they can sense your stress, they’ll get stressed and nervous, too.

DON’T: Rush the process. Avoid doing too much too fast. For example, if you want your dog to be comfortable being handled by multiple people he’s not familiar with, start with a few family members. Then slowly integrate one stranger, then two, and so on. Starting this process by having your 50 closest friends over can be overwhelming and instill fear rather than comfort.

DO: Take puppy classes! Once your puppy has started receiving vaccinations, they can also attend puppy obedience classes. Not only will this help them understand basic commands, but it will also help expose them to other dogs and people, as well as noises and smells they may not be used to yet.

It may be that you skip the puppy-giving on Christmas morning and instead tell your family that you’re going on a trip to a breeder or animal shelter. There, your family can find the right puppy for them and be able to bond naturally.

Give your pooch a sweet treat from this local bakery for dogs!

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