Puppies should be exposed to, and allowed to play with, other healthy, vaccinated puppies and dogs (as long as everyone plays nicely). Puppy playdates are a great way to let your pup socialize and learn to properly interact with its fellow canine buddies. When puppies don’t interact with other puppies, they never learn social cues from other dogs, which can lead to fear or dog-aggression as the pup grows into adulthood.
However, make sure you take your puppy out for positive experiences at the right time and in the right places. Having the right vaccinations is vital to your pup’s health. Although specifics vary, depending on your vet and region of the country, most vets recommend a core set of vaccinations be given two to four weeks apart. A common schedule is canine parvovirus, adenovirus-2, parainfluenza and canine distemper at 8, 12 and 16 weeks.
Several days after puppies have completed their initial vaccinations, they can socialize with other well-cared-for puppies, and go to small public gatherings. However, it would be wise to wait until after 12 to 16 weeks of age and the completion of the final vaccinations before taking puppies to a larger public place, such as a dog park or dog show.
Puppy socialization class is a wonderful way to have your pup interact with lots of other puppies. You can make friends at these classes and set up home playdates with other new pups or dogs.
It’s best to introduce the dogs while on-leash or on opposite sides of a fence or barrier before allowing them to interact, especially if you don’t know the other dog well. Many adult dogs are good with young dogs, and can teach them proper doggie manners, but its important to watch out for aggressive adults. When in doubt, just don’t let your pup play.
Although new and different experiences are important to a puppy’s development, it’s also important not to overwhelm the little guy or gal. Let your pup stand back, observe and move at its own pace. Owners of more than one young puppy at a time know that every pup’s personality is different, and while one may find a specific new experience exciting, the other may start out with a nervous perception, and may need extra time to adjust.
The most important thing to keep in mind when setting up puppy playdates is that the experiences are best kept positive when all dogs are matched by age, size and personality type. The key aspect of a playdate is that you have plenty of supervision and make certain you allow for rest or nap time.