Paws for Wellness A happy and healthy pet starts with a plan!

Tips for Socializing Your New Dog

Puppy in the grassGetting a new puppy or dog is an exciting event, full of new possibilities and experiences for everyone involved. Along with arming yourself with the essentials such as a new leash, bowls, food and treats for your new four-legged friend, planning to socialize your new pet is an important part of setting you both up for long- term success and happiness. Whether you are bringing home a brand new puppy, or adopting an older dog, socialization should be on your agenda.

Socialization should be started early, but it is also an ongoing process. As a pet parent, you want to expose your puppy or dog to positive new experiences, places, people, car rides and other dogs consistently, so they become well- behaved, adjusted, and are able to easily adapt to new situations. Socialization also helps to forge strong bonds between you and your dog; by exposing them to new environments, dogs and people in a gentle and encouraging manner with positive interactions and results, your dog will learn to trust that you have their best interest at heart. Poorly socialized dogs may exhibit behavioral issues such as displaying fearful and aggressive actions towards other dogs and people, as well as being unable to engage in safe, ritualized play fighting.

If you are bringing home a new puppy, the most important time to socialize them is between 4 and 16 weeks. During this time, your pup will be the most receptive to learning, and the things they are exposed to during this time they will be much less likely to fear. Enrolling your pup in puppy training classes is a great way to start the socialization process. A well- run puppy class will allow your puppy to meet and interact with other puppies of the same age, along with their owners, and focus more on teaching plan than strict obedience. If you are adopting an older dog, the same schools and instructors usually offer obedience courses for older dogs, which may be more appropriate for your new friends to partake in than those geared towards young puppies.

Whether your new furry friend is a young pup or an adult dog, exposing them to the people, places, other dogs and situations that they are likely to encounter as your companion is very important. Outside of structured classes, you can introduce your new pet to family members, friends and neighbors who have well- known gentle dogs. Arrange for people to visit your house with their dogs for play dates, or go visit them at their houses with your pup; once they’re old enough, go for walks around the neighborhood and introduce your pet to the friendly neighborhood dog crew.

Using ‘socialization cookies’ as a tool can also be very helpful when introducing your dog to new people and places- carry small treats around with you and give to your dog when they exhibit good behavior in new places. When introducing them to new people, let the newcomers offer the treats, so your pup learns to expect good things of strangers. At home, be sure to expose your pet early and often to things that are loud and may startle or scare them- vacuums, washing machines, blenders, etc. so they become accustomed to those noises and routines. Bringing your dog to the groomer early on is also a helpful tactic, so they learn that being bathed and having their hair and nails clipped is a normal event and not something to fear.

Making the effort early on to socialize your new dog, using the tips outlined above, is an important part of raising a well- behaved pet whom you can be confident of in any situation. Keep in mind that socialization is an ongoing practice, and taking your dog to as many new places as possible while introducing them to new people and dogs on a consistent basis will likely create a happy well-rounded pet and a healthy pet- owner relationship.


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Meet Our Team

  • Dr. Laura  Neuhaus (Raiff) Photo
    Dr. Laura Neuhaus (Raiff)


    Dr. Laura Neuhaus is a graduate of the University of Missouri - College of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation, she completed an emergency and specialty medicine internship at VCA Emergency Animal Hospital and Referral Center in San Diego. She enjoys ophthalmology and has a special interest in avian medicine. Her hobbies include gardening, hiking, and spending time outdoors. She is the proud parent of a cat and 2 parrotlets.
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    Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer


    A Virginia native, Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer (Dr. M is fine!) started his career in the veterinary field in high school at Chesterfield Technical Center's veterinary science program. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University while working as a veterinary assistant in a specialty and emergency hospital. Dr. M then completed his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine training at Virginia Tech, enjoying the hiking and outdoor scenery in Blacksburg when he could ...
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    Veterinary Technician

    Beth joined the GAH staff in April 2010. Originally from Maryland, she now lives in the Gloucester area. She has been working as a Licensed Veterinary Technician since graduating from Blue Ridge Community College in 1989. Away from work, she enjoys reading and working her dogs in obedience and agility classes. She has two dogs, three cats, four ferrets and three reptiles.
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    I'm Aidan, and I'm not your typical groomer. I'm a passionate animal lover with a heart full of love for our furry friends. Every day, I get the incredible opportunity to work my magic as a groomer at the renowned Grafton Animal Hospital. I can't express just how much I adore what I do. It's not just a job; it's a calling. I find immense joy in transforming your beloved pets into the best versions of themselves. Whether it's a shaggy dog that needs a fresh haircut, a cat in need of a spa day, or ...
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    Ricky came to Grafton Animal Hospital in April of 2011. He was a little shy at first, but once he became more comfortable with us, he became one of the team. Ricky is a Congo African Grey Parrot. We think he is around 10 years old, but no one is sure. He will sometimes put on a show of whistling, talking, singing and dancing, and imitating sounds like telephones and coughing. Visit our Facebook page for an opportunity to see Ricky in action.
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    Staff Meeting Coordinator

    Lucy joined the Grafton Animal Hospital reception team as the new Noisemaker bird in September 2016. After losing our long-time mascot, Croaker, earlier that year, we learned of a young Quaker parrot available for adoption at the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter and decided she might be a good fit for the clinic. Lucy quickly made herself at home and before long, she was showing the staff who was really in charge. She is generally pretty friendly, so you will often see the staff holding her. ...
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    Daisy & Duke

    Staff Meeting Coordinators

    Daisy and Duke joined the GAH team in June of 2009. They were stray kittens that needed a home, and Squeaks was in need of a brother or sister. After some convincing, we were able to keep both. If you haven’t seen our kittens roaming the clinic, it’s because they are still learning their way around. For now, they are great morale boosters that keep us entertained during our staff meetings.
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