Puppy Rule of Twelve – Socializing


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The Puppy’s Rule of Twelve

Turquoise Girl and Green Girl

Labradoodle Puppies playing with the camera

The Critical Period of Socialization ends by three months of age!

This is the crucial developmental stage during which puppies learn to accept and enjoy the company of other dogs and people. Thus your puppy needs to be socialized to people by the time he is twelve weeks old. However, since his series of puppy immunization injections is incomplete at this point, a young pup needs to meet people in the safety of his own home. They say your puppy needs to meet and play with at least a hundred people during his first month at home..but this is close to impossible for most families so I say just try to expose them to as many new people as possible… neighbors, family friends.. your kids friends etc..

Puppies are simply custom-designed for easy socialization. Young puppies eagerly approach everyone, and everyone who sees them instinctively wants to pick them up and cuddle.

Blue Boy - 5 weeks

Arlo – Labradoodle – 5 weeks old

A young puppy has so much potential and starting off from scratch means you have the opportunity to make impressions on her that will last for the rest of her life.

Your dog’s early experiences will shape her personality, how she sees the world around her and how she deals with stress.  A well thought out socialization plan can help you raise a dog that you can take anywhere with anyone with a happy wag of her tail.  Poor socialization can leave you with a fearful, reactive dog that can’t cope with being outside of her home environment.

Give your puppy the best possible start by making sure she has early, safe and POSITIVE experiences with a variety of people, places, surfaces, sounds and temperatures.

F1 Goldendoodle 8 weeks old

F1 Goldendoodle 8 weeks old

Unfortunately, far too many owners underestimate the crucial importance of teaching bite inhibition and socializing their young puppy and so, I have included a list of common excuses. Not teaching bite inhibition is both asinine and potentially dangerous. Not sufficiently socializing a puppy is inhumane; as an adult, the poor dog will forever feel stressed, anxious and edgy around people. Not fair. Please socialize your puppy. In fact, please enjoy socializing yourself and your puppy with many puppy parties during your puppy’s first month at home.

Read more of our Blog posts about:  Puppy Socialization


The Rule of Twelve - Socialization Guide

  • Make sure all experiences are safe and positive for the puppy.
  • Each encounter should include treats and lots of praise.
  • Slow down and add distance if your puppy is scared!

By the time a puppy is 12 weeks old, it should have:

(If your puppy is over 12 weeks start right away with this socialization guide.)

Experienced 12 different surfaces: wood, wood chips, carpet, tile, cement, linoleum, grass, wet grass, dirt, mud, puddles, deep pea gravel, grates, uneven surfaces, on a table, on a chair, etc…

Played with 12 different objects: fuzzy toys, big & small balls, hard toys, funny sounding toys, wooden items, paper or cardboard items, milk jugs, metal items, car keys, etc….

Experienced 12 different locations: front yard (daily), other people’s homes, school yard, lake, pond, river, boat, basement, elevator, car, moving car, garage, laundry room, kennel, veterinarian hospital (just to say hi & visit, lots of cookies, no vaccinations), grooming salon (just to say hi), etc….

Met and played with 12 new people (outside of family): include children, adults (mostly men), elderly adults, people in wheelchairs, walkers, people with canes, crutches, hats, sunglasses, etc….

Exposed to 12 different noises (ALWAYS keep positive and watch puppy’s comfort level – we don’t want the puppy scared): garage door opening, doorbell, children playing, babies screaming, big trucks, Harley motorcycles, skateboards, washing machine, shopping carts rolling, power boat, clapping, loud singing, pan dropping, horses neighing, vacuums, lawnmowers, birthday party, etc…

Exposed to 12 fast moving objects (don’t allow to chase): skateboards, roller-skates, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, people running, cats running, scooters, vacuums, children running, children playing soccer, squirrels, cats, horses running, cows running, etc…

Experienced 12 different challenges: climb on, in, off and around a box, go through a cardboard tunnel, climb up and down steps, climb over obstacles, play hide & seek, go in and out a doorway with a step up or down, exposed to an electric sliding door, umbrella, balloons, walk on a wobbly table (plank of wood with a small rock underneath), jump over a broom, climb over a log, bathtub (and bath) etc….

A trip to a public place.. here is Olivia at the Tulip Festival with Labradoodle Valentina

A trip to a public place.. here is Olivia at the Tulip Festival with Labradoodle Valentina


Handled by owner (& family) 12 times a week: hold under arm (like a football), hold to chest, hold on floor near owner, hold in-between owner’s legs, hold head, look in ears, mouth, in-between toes, hold and take temperature (ask veterinarian), hold like a baby, trim toe nails, hold in lap, etc…

Eaten from 12 different shaped containers: wobbly bowl, metal, cardboard box, paper, coffee cup, china, pie plate, plastic, frying pan, Kong, Treat-ball, Buster-cube, spoon fed, paper bag, etc….

Eaten in 12 different locations: back yard, front yard, crate, kitchen, basement, laundry room, bathroom, friend’s house, car, school yard, bathtub, up high (on work bench), under umbrella, etc….

Played with 12 different puppies (or safe adult dogs as much as possible).


Left alone, safely, away from family & other animals (5-45 minutes) 12 times a week.

Experienced a leash and collar 12 different times in 12 different locations

Positive Paws Dog Training ©2002
Adapted with permission from Pat Schaap’s Rule of 7’s

12 Weeks and Beyond….

After 12 weeks of age, you may notice that your puppy no longer wants to come to you when you call.  This is perfectly normal and a facet of your dog trying to explore the world and their surroundings.  I know it can get quite annoying, but with the proper training and patience, you can easily overcome this trait.  You’ll want to practice calling your puppy in your house, backyard, or a more confined area.  Limiting their space will make the training easier.  Remember, the longer you go on without training your dog to come, the harder it will be to break the habit.  Also keep mind to NEVER chase after your puppy when you are trying to train them to come.  This automatically makes your puppy think that you are playing a game with them.  If anything, run away from your puppy.  When they come to you, offer a treat as a reward.

During this stage in your puppies life, they will go through a chewing process.  If you leave your shoes and slippers on the floor, your puppy will most likely end up chewing on them.  The solution to this?  Keep anything you don’t want your puppy to chew on out of their reach.  You can also get them rubber bones and chew toys to gnaw on rather than your new pair of pumps.

Hopefully this gives you a much better idea of how your puppy progresses through each stage in the beginning stages of their life.  Understanding what your puppy goes through should hopefully help you train your puppy in a more effective and efficient manner.


Read Next: Puppy Proofing Your House

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