The “rules of 12” are a general set of guidelines used to socialize elite dogs such as guide dogs, service dogs and search and rescue dogs. These dogs need to be “bomb proof” in everyday situations. Most dog owners don’t spend enough time/effort socializing their dogs. Many breeders and experienced dog owners are now employing the same socialization methods as these well trained service animals.
The objective of the rules of 12 is to complete at least all of the tasks below before your dog is 12 weeks old as after 12 weeks of age, dogs are more difficult to socialize to new things. For dogs that are older, it is never too late to start!
- Positive experience gained from at least 12 different people (hand feeding a treat works best).
- Baby, toddler, elderly, large people, handicapped people, women, men, people with hats or glasses on etc.
- Positive experience gained from as many different places you can think of.
- Pet stores, Home Depot (yes, they allow dogs!), parks, friend’s homes, the vet office (go in just for a cookie or to weigh your pet), groomer’s .
- Expose your dog to lots of different noises. In order to make it a positive experience, pair the sound with a treat if your dog seems tentative.
- Keys, pots and pans, hair dryer, lawn mower, vacuum, smoke alarm, car alarm, and any other possibly offensive noises.
- Walk your dog over different surfaces and even do sit/down/stand on them so there will never be a time your dog will refuse to walk over a surface.
- Tile, carpet, asphalt, brick, wet grass, a small body of water (like a baby pool), gravel, bark, wood flooring etc.
- Expose your dog positively to any object that might seem out of the usual (for example, my dog used to be afraid of boxes because he didn’t see any as a puppy and we had to work very hard to get over this fear).
- Boxes, hydrants, statues, garbage bags , garbage cans, cars/trucks, ladder, strollers, carts etc.
- In order for dogs not to be dog aggressive, they need to socialize with their own kind (preferably off leash). Look for dogs similar in size and temperament for your puppy to play with, but also expose your dog to other dogs of all shapes, ages and sizes. To ensure you have a positive experience, don’t allow your dog to be bullied by another. It is difficult for a novice owner to interpret dog communication. An older dog that shows its teeth or air snaps at a puppy is within good judgment and teaching a puppy proper manners. Any dog mounting another, fighting on back legs only, drawing blood, knocking another dog over continuously or holding a dog down so that the other cannot get up is NOT playing.