Early Socialization

The Rule Of Twelves

Original guide by Margaret Hughes.
Printable checklist and updates by Claire Matthews.

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

Make sure all experiences are safe and positive for the puppy. Each encounter should include treats and lots of praise, and your puppy should be able to leave whenever he/she wants. Slow down and add distance if your puppy is scared!

Download the Rule of Twelves printable checklist.

By the time a puppy is twelve weeks old, he/she should have:

  1. Walked on 12 different surfaces: carpet, concrete, wood, linoleum, tile, grass, wet grass, dirt, mud, sand, gravel, metal grate, plastic sheet, wood chips, mulch, puddle, etc.
  2. Played with 12 different things: ball, soft fabric toy, fuzzy toy, squeaky toy, rope toy, rubber toy, hard toy, moving toy, noisemaker toy, paper or cardboard item, wooden item, metal item, milk jug, car key, stick, etc.
  3. Experienced 12 different locations: living room, kitchen, bathroom, basement, laundry room, garage, front yard, back yard, crate, kennel, car, moving car, another home, veterinary hospital, grooming salon, elevator, beach, river, dock or pier, boat, etc.
  4. Been Introduced to 12 different people: toddler, child, teenager, adult (especially male), senior, person of color, people with wheelchair, walker, cane, crutch, baby stroller, skateboard, bike, wheelbarrow, hat, sunglasses, cigarette smoker, etc.
  5. Heard 12 different noises: garage door, doorbell, children playing, baby crying, singing, laughing, clapping, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, lawn mower, shopping cart, sports game, cat meowing, other dogs barking, farm animals, pan clatter on the floor, fireworks, car alarm, thunder, cell phone, etc.
  6. Seen 12 different fast-moving objects: people, cats, squirrels, or other animals running, birds flying, people on skateboards, roller skates, bicycles, scooters, or motorcycles, cars, trucks, children playing, team sports game, etc.
  7. Faced 12 different challenges: climb on, in, off, or around a box, go through a tunnel, go up and down stairs, climb over an obstacle, play hide and seek, go through a doorway with a step, cross a bridge, try a wobble board, climb a log, take a bath, run around a fence, dig under a blanket, jump over a broom, exposed to an automatic door, umbrella, balloons, etc.
  8. Been handled 12 different ways every week since birth: held under arm (like a football), against chest, on floor, in the owner’s lap, or between the owner’s legs, cradled like a baby, examine ears, mouth, tail, or toes/paws, get temperature taken, get nails clipped or dremeled, ride in a hip sling, etc.
  9. Eaten from 12 different containers: metal, plastic, ceramic, or paper bowl, wobbly bowl, cardboard box, paper plate, coffee cup, pie tin, frying pan, metal or plastic spoon, Kong toy, treat ball, hand fed, etc.
  10. Eaten in 12 different locations: living room, kitchen, bathroom, basement, laundry room, garage, front yard, back yard, crate, kennel, bathtub, up high on a bench, under an umbrella, car, another home, etc.
  11. Played with 12 different dogs: other puppies, adult, senior, smaller, or larger dogs, spitz, herding, scent hound, sight hound, mastiff, bully, gun dog, terrier, toy or companion, or livestock guardian breeds, etc.
  12. Used each life skill 12 times every week since 7-8 weeks old: being alone without other people or other animals for 5 to 45 minutes, putting on and taking off a collar or harness, wearing a leash or dragline around the house and yard, sleeping in a crate for 30 minutes to 2 hours, being taken outside for bathroom breaks, etc.