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5 Great Puppy Socialization Ideas For Guide Pups In Training

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Puppy socialization is one of the most important jobs we have as puppy raisers, but what exactly is socialization?

“Socialization means learning to be part of society. When we talk about socializing pet puppies, it means helping them learn to be comfortable as a pet within human society—a society that includes many different types of people, environments, buildings, sights, noises, smells, animals and other dogs.”

It’s been 3 years since I began organizing all of our Orange County Guide Dogs of America group outings to help socialize our puppies.  If you’re a GDA puppy raiser give me a “WOOT, WOOT!”  Anyhow, along with taking over as OCGDA Outing Coordinator I was also told FANTASTIC fliers would help increase the participation in our monthly events.

So, I was duped into designing fliers for our group as well as for the monthly outings.  I wouldn’t say they are FANTASTIC and I’m not sure they increased the number of participants, but it does give me a chance to share some of the awesome outings we’ve organized over the years.

Welcome to OCGDA!

Welcome OCGDA Puppy Raiser!

If you’ve interviewed with one of our OCGDA group leaders then there’s a good chance you’ve already seen this flier.  The three puppies pictured here are Baron, Yuki, and Dublin.

Along the top we took a great picture of our pups lined up along a fountain on one of our Metro Link Train ride outings.  If you look way down the line you might be able to make out a blurry Stetson 🙂

OCGDA Events Calendar

OCGDA Calendar

At the beginning of every year I put together an events calendar outlining our outings for the year.  I generally try to put together one outing a month.  I’m not sure on all of these pups, but I think we have Stetson at the top, Dublin in the middle, Onyx on the bottom left.  In the four square I think we have Duncan, Toby, Apache, and Ember.

All of out outings present different challenges for our puppies in training so let’s get started with our list of great puppy socialization ideas/outings:

1. Outdoor Festivals

Sawdust Festival


Outdoor festivals are great for puppies in training to get used to different sights, sounds, smells, and people.  We’ve gone to county fairs, pet expos, local school festivals, as well as one of our favorites the Sawdust Festival.

The Sawdust Festival is an outdoor art festival located in the beautiful city of Laguna Beach just a hop, skip, and jump away from the beach.


  • Park at one of the outside lots and you can ride the tram to the Sawdust Festival.  We park about a 1/2 mile up the road giving our puppies a chance to ride the tram.
  • There’s tons of wood chips all over the ground.  It’s great for pup’s to learn to walk on different surfaces like this, but another challenge is keeping your puppy from picking these things up with his mouth.  A good chance to work on “leave it”.
  • They do glasswork on site which offers some different noises and smells.
  • Artwork, shopping, food, stairs, and many other distractions for your puppy.
  • Did I mention it’s close to the beach?  We’ve walked our pups down to the beach for ocean breezes and summer fun.
  • Did you see our video of Dublin at the Sawdust Festival?  If not, click here.

2. Ferry Rides

Balboa Island


Another awesome adventure is taking your puppy in training on a boat or in our case a ferry!  Our puppies need to be exposed to many different situations and what better outing then to ride the ferry to Balboa Island in Newport Beach.

We start off with a long walk to tire out puppies out and head down to the ferry.  Pups and people hop on the ferry for a ride to Balboa Island.  We grab a bite to eat and head back home for a wonderful day of pups, sun, and fun!


  • Number 1…THE FERRY RIDE.  I don’t know about you, but until I started raising puppies I had been on boats, but never a ferry.  The ferry ride is a great introduction because it’s only about a 5 minute ride from one side to the other.  I get seasick on boats, but this one I can handle 🙂
  • Walking along the dock can be a bit creepy for some pups.  The wood bottoms along with a shifty ground can take a bit of getting used to for some puppies in training.
  • Long walks on the beach…well not exactly on the beach, but near the beach.  It’s a great day to exercise your puppy as we walk several miles to and from the Balboa Island Ferry.

3. Fire Stations

OCGDA FireStation Outing


Our annual fire station outing is a great one for puppies in training.  Your pups will have the opportunity to visit the different sights, smells, and sounds of fire fighters and a real life fire station!  Sorry, flames not included…


  • Pups walk in and out of the fire station seeing and smelling uniforms, fire trucks, and fire equipment.
  • Fire truck drive by and siren.  This can be pretty loud so make sure to put some distance between your puppy and the truck if they are noise sensitive.
  • Fully outfitted fire fighter.  Some pups are not too keen on people in masks especially ones that sound like Darth Vader!
  • Did you see our video of Dublin at the Fire Station?  If not click here.

4. Outdoor Malls

Irvine Spectrum Walk


Outdoor malls are a great place to work with your puppy (indoor malls make for great outings as well).

We always scout our destination beforehand and this can be very important as some outdoor malls are uber dog friendly, meaning lots of pet dogs out and about which can be very distracting for a puppy in training.  Know your dog and know your outings.


  • Other dogs.  Sometimes lots of them.  Be aware of not only your dog, but the other dogs you may encounter.  Not all people and dogs are friendly.
  • Mall stores and department stores.  Pups in training get to walk in and out of the mall stores.
  • Food Courts.  A good time to work on tabling your puppy while grabbing lunch.
  • Depending on which mall you visit you can encounter elevators, even better glass elevators.
  • Funny water fountains.  Some pups (just like kids) are quite amused of the many water fountains.
  • We actually had a Scavenger Hunt at the outdoor mall at Fashion Island with Dublin.  Did you see the video?  If not click here.

5. Bus Rides And Amusement Parks
OCTA Bus Training for Pups


OCTA puts together an awesome training day the first Saturday of October (and now the first Saturday of April too!).  Not only do they set us up with real life bus training, but they also hook us up with passes to Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park.  OCTA Bus Training day is definitely a must attend for puppy raisers in Southern California.


  • Other puppy raisers and puppies in training.  We’ve seen many other groups at OCTA Bus Training including GDA, GDB, GDD, CCI, CST, and many, many others.  One year we even saw a puppy raiser working with a cadaver detection dog.
  • The sights, sounds and smells of a bus.  A lot of us don’t get on public transportation too often.  OCTA bus training day is a great chance to ride the bus free of charge!  Thanks OCTA!
  • The sights, sounds, and smells of an amusement park.  There’s lots to do at an amusement park like Knott’s Berry Farm.  It can get pretty loud with roller coasters and kids running around screaming so keep an eye on your puppy to make sure he is taking the outing in stride.  Your pups can also meet Linus, Lucy, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Woodstock.  Outlaws and gunslingers are also common throughout the park.
  • The bus drop off at Knott’s Berry Farm has a bunch of chicken out front.  Make sure your pup doesn’t go chasing the chicks!
  • Did you see our video of Dublin at the OCTA Bus Training?  If not, click here.

More Outings And Puppy Socialization Ideas

If that wasn’t enough for you then check out our Puppy In Training TV videos.  A few years back we documented several of Dublin’s outings including Bass Pro Shop, Getty Museum, Movie Theater Outing, Disneyland, Metro Link, and many more.

Puppy socialization is important for all puppies not just guide and service dog puppies in training.  Even your family puppy should be well socialized with many different types of people, places, and things so they will grow to be a well-balanced dog.  Some of these puppy socialization ideas are only suitable for guide and service dog puppies, but I’m sure you can think of others that would work just as well for your family pet.

If you’re having problems thinking of different ways to socialize your puppy please leave us a comment below and we’ll help you come up with some suitable ideas for your puppy.

What about you guys?  What are your favorite outings with your puppy in training?  Tell us about it in the comment section below.

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  1. Nice post! I am a professional dog trainer and I always tell my clients that puppies are more like play-doh; they have their own characteristics and traits and while you can still mold and shape them, they will always still be made up of that original material.

  2. Congratulations on your new puppy! Unfortunately, I do not have a list of places for socializing a puppy. It has been on my to do list. I’ll be sure to bump it up and try and get a puppy socialization blog post together with a list of things a puppy can try. Stay tuned!

  3. I live in a suburb next to a rural community in central Pennsylvanian where most people still don’t realize the importance of puppy socialization. There are no dog parks. Most fairs do not allow dogs as yet. No busses. There is a train about one hour away.
    We adopted a 4 year old labrador that was never socialized and it is painful. So the 12 week old puppy we just adopted, we want to be sure he is well socialized.
    I am fimilar with Laguna beach, its beautiful. Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania is nothing like it. I am trying to be creative in ways to socialize him. Do you have a list of things that puppies should try. That would help me think creatively, to get him socialized in this area.
    I don’t want to have a dog that is afraid of everything, it’s as painful for me as it is for them.

  4. Great Tips. I love that all these places would be wonderful for all puppies, not just guide dogs, to get proper socialization. I love encouraging puppy owners to get their puppy out to places that are safe and healthy (not high traffic with other dogs). All these events/places fit the bill. Great to know! Thank you.

  5. Hey Colby! I am a puppy raiser in Maryland for Guiding Eyes for the Blind and recently took over for our region being the primary Outing coordinator! We live near DC and its always fun to take out dogs on the metro and to the national mall or to festivals. I find it pretty easy to find places to go when the weather is nice but from January – March, its hard to get people around here to do outings outside (Love the firehouse idea by the way!!) What other indoor outings have you found are beneficial for your dogs?

  6. Nice post..! I found “Puppy Socialization Ideas” great. I think one needs to take their pet to these places to train well their pets and make them well social pet. I loved your ideas and truly appreciate the efforts.

  7. It’s always nice to have a place that has a quiet getaway otherwise we sometimes have to leave events early 🙁

  8. These are all great ideas for puppy socialization. I like the idea of taking pups to events where there is plenty stimulation, but also quiet areas to escape to for a quick getaway if things are getting too overwhelming.

  9. Before I picked up Adelle from our trainer I remember them trying to get as many people over to the house to meet and greet the puppies to socialize them as much as possible before they went home to puppy raisers.

    I’m a little crazy sometimes with the blog design. I actually changed it a bunch of times over the past year. I think I’m fairly content with the current design. I tried to make it easier to navigate for first time visitors. By the way, what did you like best about the older design? Maybe I can try and get that back into the current one.


  10. One thing you really notice when taking your puppy out and about (especially an amusement park) is all the different things going on. I remember Stetson taking notice of the carriages, horses, canon noise, the rides. A lot of this stuff I normally just pass by unnoticed, but not Stetson. He was alert to just about everything going on around us and I’m sure his nose was going crazy with all the different smells.

  11. That’s a great idea! We’ve actually been thinking about doing a blog post series on something like that, but as you can see we have a tough enough time getting 1 or 2 blog posts a month so I guess that’s a bit of a pipe dream right now…

    Hopefully I can find my motivation in the next few days/weeks!

  12. Good point! Puppy raisers won’t often come into contact with someone in uniform, but an organized outing like a visit to the fire station is great for our puppies. Adelle has been to a few ball games and hockey games. 🙂

  13. Outings like this are a fantastic idea! I remember years ago reading a quote from Ian Dunbar that people shouldn’t buy a puppy that hasn’t had hundreds of people visit the breeder to see the puppy. Yes, overkill, but that always sticks in my mind when I’m trying to socialize a puppy and asking friends and their families to come visit. A visit like these would kill so many birds with one stone and expose a puppy to so much. I wish there something similar I could have gone to. Keep up the good Work!

    P.S. Massive change in the blog design, what made you want to change? i quite liked the older design. not saying there’s anything wrong with the new one of course 🙂

  14. Nice suggestions – those are definitely a wide variety of places and sights for puppies to visit. I’m not nearly that creative; we just used a puppy socialization class and the park. I have heard of people holding puppy parties as well. Guide pups need a lot more variety I imagine. I can’t imagine anything more chaotic than an amusement park; that’s a great place to test a dogs reaction to his surroundings and get him used to all sorts of crazy noises and sights.

  15. I haven’t raised a puppy in so long, but when I adopted Ace I challenged myself to take him to 30 different places in 30 days. He was already pretty comfortable around new people and in new environments, but I don’t think you can ever stop exposing pups and dogs to new things.

    Some places I took him included softball games, outdoor cafes, a 5K, friends’ apartments, pet friendly stores, etc.

  16. I would think for service dogs that the fire station visit would be extremely beneficial since they probably have a higher chance of coming in contact with a firefighter, medic, or policeman/woman when working. Maybe the most important outing?

    I like to take my dogs to sporting events…professional or amateur. There’s so much going on at the pro events (basketball, baseball, etc.) and the noise level & food on the ground are great distractions for the dogs. The amateur events are great because the dog is usually closer to the action for a new experience and there are more children around to “help” with the training.

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