Puppy Socialization Guidelines
Goal: All guide dogs must be comfortable and relaxed in all environments. They will be with their partner throughout the day. We ask our puppy raisers to start socialization in public at a young age so we can create positive experiences and teach the puppy how to behave in public.
Setting Up for Success:
- Be prepared! Always carry clean up supplies, poop bags, a chew toy, and food for reinforcement of self-control and coping.
- Keep it short! Start social outings at 15 minutes or less. Walk around a quiet public environment, reinforce the pup's good behavior, and leave on a positive note.
- Take the time! Let the pup investigate and acclimate to their surroundings. That doesn’t mean let the crawl and jump all over everything, but let the pup take their time observing unfamiliar things like shopping carts, small children, and statues or figurines.
- Have fun! Encourage the pup while you're walking around, get down on their level so they're comfortable, and keep a high rate of reinforcement with verbal, physical, and food reward.
- Follow B.A.R.C guidelines! Set the expectation early and reward the pup's behavior that meets the expectations.
Socializing the puppy
- At this age, always relieve the pup before entering a public place. This prevents accidents.
- Choose one exposure at a time in the beginning by just picking one new thing: things that move, new smells, new sounds, new strange objects, etc.
- Be patient and confident. Let the puppy move at their own pace.
- Give the puppy strong leadership. Be confident and effective with the redirection and praise.
- Keep the exposures short and positive. Slowly add time to the outings as the pup continues to mature and remain comfortable and confident in public.
- Don’t be afraid to take a step back or try again. If the pup becomes too excited, scared, or overwhelmed remove them from the situation and try again.
- Never leave the puppy unattended, even for a moment. Puppies are not 100 percent reliable. They can get up and cause problems, be stolen, or have a negative experience.
- Never leave the puppy in the car unattended, regardless of the outside temperature, how long you’re going to be gone, if the windows are down, etc.
- Take the time with a puppy that is overwhelmed or scared so they become comfortable.
- Allow the puppy to observe and become comfortable with the exposure at their own pace.
- Allow the puppy to observe from a distance if they stop walking or try to leave the situation.
- Use consistent, calm praise to reassure the pup. Praise any movement toward what is scaring them.
- Always observe the puppy’s body language and take note and respond to any changes.
- Puppies like to observe and explore before they are fully comfortable with something new. Some take just a few seconds while others need more time to observe before becoming comfortable.
- Avoid reinforcing poor behavior, redirect it!
- Do not coddle, pet, or reassure a puppy that is acting afraid. Allow them to observe at their own pace, but coddling them will reassure this fearful behavior.
- If they do become frightened calmly move away from the exposure and wait for the puppy to become comfortable again. Motivate or distract them by practicing verbal cues, interactive play to improve their confidence, or just letting them observe.
- Allow the puppy to set the pace of the reproach. Do not force them to investigate if they are not ready.
- Praise the puppy when they become comfortable and want to explore.
As the pup matures, your standards will raise because you've been teaching the pup how to behave in public and how to respond to distractions. Continue using B.A.R.C as a guideline, but decrease your reinforcement and allow the dog to think for themselves and make decisions.
Puppy coat guidelines
The puppy is required to wear their puppy coat in all public settings. Our coats come in two sizes. One will be provided to you when you get the puppy. When the pup gets bigger, the advisor or area coordinator will swap the small coat out for a larger one.
- Keep the puppy’s coat clean and free of stains, tears, or dirt. If the pup’s coat becomes dirty you can wash it cold water and lay it flat to dry. If the puppy’s coat becomes damaged in any way please return it to the advisor or area coordinator to get a new one.
- The coat represents the Guide Dog Foundation and puppy raising to the public. Remember to interact in a positive manner with the public when in social settings with the pup.
- Never allow another dog or puppy to wear the puppy’s coat in any situation. Removal of the puppy and all supplies will happen if this occurs. We pride ourselves on our positive public interactions, breeding dogs with suitable temperaments, and having upstanding volunteers. Misrepresentation can damage our relationship with the public and potentially harm theself, dog, or the public.
- Always remove the puppy’s coat before relieving them. If they start to relieve in coat, remove it so it does not get soiled.
State laws vary in regards to granting access to guide dog puppies. Access is allowed in public and private places by the management or staff of a business, facility, or service.
The Guide Dog Foundation will not make any effort to achieve access for puppies where they are not welcome. This could potentially harm service and guide dog user’s relationship with the public. Puppy raisers are asked to not demand, coerce, argue, or attempt to enter a business where they were not allowed access.
If you are asked to leave or not permitted access with the guide dog puppy, please calmly and briefly explain the importance of guide dog puppy socialization, thank them for their time, and quietly leave. If they do choose to cooperate, please thank them for understanding and helping the puppy succeed. Please notify the advisor or area coordinator if you are not allowed access somewhere so they can notify the other raisers in the area and it can be avoided.
Be mindful on how the public is treating the puppy. Do not allow people to tease the puppy by throwing food, making noises, or calling them. Politely ask them to stop and explain that the puppy needs to remain focused on you. Oftentimes puppy raisers will hear individuals excuse poor behavior because “they don’t mind it.” Remind them that all interactions with the public need to be positive, and the pup needs to be well behaved. If they cannot follow the guidelines do not allow them to interact with the puppy.