Hosting a puppy party is a terrific way to enlist the help of your friends and neighbors in your efforts to socialize and teach your new pup. It is also a great opportunity to show off your new bundle of cuteness!
As a rule of thumb, to be adequately socialized and to develop sufficient confidence with a variety of people, your puppy needs to be in contact with at least 50 people before he is 16 weeks old. A failure to provide early social exposure could result in playing years of catch up and spending loads of time resolving fear based behavior problems. In addition to hosting your own puppy parties, be sure to enroll in a puppy kindergarten training class asap.
For your first party, invite a few friends over and plan for them to arrive just prior to your pup’s meal time. This way they can use your pup’s food as a way to engage in a positive manner and help your pup learn that people outside of the home come bearing gifts (albeit gifts you have provided for them!).
There is no doubt that there will be smiles all around once your guests have set eyes on your pup. But, be sure to plan for structured introductions and interactions so your pup is not overwhelmed or permitted to practice inappropriate behaviors (such as jumping up and nipping). It is best to allow one person at a time to say hello, and only after you have spent a bit of time explaining to your helpful guests what you need from them in regards to assisting you.
The first item on the agenda is for guests to hand feed your pup. Hand feeding teaches your puppy to like people and people’s hands. Instruct guests to offer a few pieces of food and allow your pup to get comfortable. Once he seems adjusted to each individual, have them gently handle your pup (one person at a time) as they feed him.
Assuming your family has already set a foundation of handling and gentling exercises, your guests can gradually proceed to gently touch your pup’s collar and feeding, and then mouth, paws and other potentially sensitive body parties (remember, each gentle touch should be followed by a piece of food). They can also gently cradle him while seated on the ground. Frequent handling by strangers will put the pup in good standing for visits to the groomer or veterinarian.
Hand feeding also increases the value of your dog’s food, which then can be used effectively as training treats to lure and reward your dog. As you and your family progress in teaching your pup to sit, lie down and hand target you can plan for future puppy socialization and training parties where you instruct your guests on how to help your puppy practice.
Additionally, in future puppy parties, you can ask your guests to wear and bring different items (such as an umbrella, raincoat, hat, sunglasses, etc.) so your puppy becomes accustomed to people in various attire.
It is impossible to socialize your dog without enlisting the help of others. So plan to throw some puppy parties and thank your friends for understanding that it takes a village to raise a wonderful companion dog.