Socialization and Emotional Fallout

Five Action Items for Breeders and Puppy Owners

Jane Messineo Lindquist, Puppy Culture

19 Sep 2023 | 10 minute read

Did you know that it's totally normal for puppies to have emotional fallout from positive experiences?

Breeders and puppy owners are often taken aback when puppies sail through a socialization experience and then a few hours later seem to have lost their minds and become savages. But I'm here to tell you that, not only is this totally normal, but you can also expect this kind of emotional fallout after "big" socialization sessions.

So, let's look at why this happens, and the five action items that breeders and puppy owners should plan for after big emotional experiences.

First Socialization Session

Our 6-week-old puppies had their first outing yesterday and they were CHAMPS!

Everyone pooped and peed on the grass at home before getting in the van.

No whining in the crate on the way there.

Civilized in their stroller, they seemed engaged and interested in the experience. They kept their crate and stroller clean and voided at home on the grass and in the van on a potty pad.

They came home, ate a huge meal, and slept like logs. Overall, a picture perfect first “off-campus” socialization session.

And, about five hours later, they were MONSTERS! Horrible and sustained vocalizations, one conflict after another, hyperactive and vocal. Even when they went to bed that evening, there was much wailing (which is out of character for them) and it took them a significant time to settle down.

Here they are at bedtime after their first stroller outing. These puppies had NEVER made this kind of noise in their pen, before. When you see behavior that is way out of character in this way, look back at the events of the day and you will often see that there was some kind of big emotional event.

What’s going on?

Even positive experiences are huge stressors for puppies, and it’s common for puppies to be emotionally jagged after big emotional experiences.

Breeders will often see puppies displacing on each other, and the puppies’ vocalizations will become more sustained and intense.

Puppy owners will often see their puppies hyperactive, biting more, unable to settle, vocalizing more in their enclosure.

This is all normal.

No matter how positive the experience, it’s still a HUGE amount of information for those little bodies to process, and you can anticipate and maybe even expect some severe displacement following any big experience with puppies.

Sure, a puppy party is a fun experience for everyone, especially the puppies! But by definition anything that expands your puppy’s’ horizons also places some stress on him. Stress is not a dirty word - if there is growth potential there is some stress. But you do have to respect and make accommodations for the stress that results from big emotional experiences, even positive ones!

What do you do with this information?
Five things:

Number one, don’t freak out. Embrace the horribleness as part of the process. It just means they’ve taken in a lot of information and they're sorting it out emotionally.

Number two, let them rest after their experience. You will find that they sleep an unusually deep sleep and you might notice faster breathing while they sleep. That’s tells you that their little bodies are working hard to process all the information they just received.

This video was taken after the puppies met their Pug friends for the first time. Normal respiration for a puppy is around 40 BPM (slightly higher than for an adult dog). These puppies are clocking in at around 75 BPM. That’s the effort of distributed learning showing itself. These puppies need more down time before moving on to another challenging socialization experience.

24 hours later, the puppies have returned to normal respiration. These puppies are breathing at around 42 BPM, which is within normal range for their age. It’s a safe bet that these puppies have processed their experience and are ready for their next big adventure.

Number three, when they do wake up, give them lots of distracting things to keep them from (as much as possible) displacing on each other (if they are in a litter) or on you and your family (if they are already in their new homes). Ideally, you will give them an olfactory (sniffing) project, and also a chewing project. Sniffing and chewing are the two main ways that dogs release stress:

  • A snuffle mat is an excellent choice for a sniffing project
  • If you are already doing some nosework with your puppy/puppies, stashing hides around their pen is great
  • “Kibble” trails are an excellent way to bring the temperature down and also are the superfood of bonding
  • Raw meaty bones are a great way to get those little jaws going and release tension

We gave the puppies a snuffle mat during the day after their first stroller ride and at night when they were vocal and could not settle, we threw some raw meaty bones in their pen…just enough for them to have something to gnaw on and release some tension. As you can see in the video below, that calmed them right down.

After a session with a snuffle mat and some raw meaty bones, every was able to settle down and go to bed.

Number four, avoid stacking stressors. Allow them to come back to emotional baseline before doing another big emotional experience. As a rule of thumb, we allow 24 hours in between really challenging socialization experiences for puppies under 10 weeks of age. This video by Donna Hill is the best explanation I have seen on why you should avoid stacking stressors.

Our puppies normally don’t need that much recovery time as they approach 12-14 weeks of age, but we do get them out a lot and our breed is a very adaptable and resilient breed.

The only thing you really need to know is, if you see an emotional fallout reaction at ANY age, give your puppy or dog at least 24 hours to come back to baseline.

Number Five, be prepared. Have your snuffle mats, treats, food puzzles, chew items, and kibble trail treats and area prepped and ready to go BEFORE your puppies undergo any big emotional event. Don't wait until you see the symptoms of emotional fallout. You don't want the puppies practicing bad behavior on each other or on you and your family. Expect that you will need to help them a bit as distributed learning does its magic and give them projects right after they wake up but before they start acting out.

That’s a thumbnail…if you want to a deeper look at how to handle emotional fallout, breeders should review days 51 and 59 in your Newborn to New Home course , or, if your a puppy owner, you should review chapters 5 through 9 in your With Open Arms course 

For further reading and citations to the studies and findings mentioned in this article:

Dog Field Study: Pulse Study "At the heart of the walk"
Available at:

Akinori Tasaka, Manaki Kikuchi, Kousuke Nakanishi, Takayuki Ueda, Shuichiro Yamashita, Kaoru Sakurai (2018): Psychological stress-relieving effects of chewing — Relationship between masticatory function-related factors and stress-relieving effects
Available at:

Dogs Explained (Donna Hill) (2013): Trigger Stacking & Stress Hormones
Available at:


What’s a snuffle matt?

Terri Sidell

Great article! I always thought things should be spaced out, but did not really have a concrete, scientific explanation as to why I thought that.

Jo Ann Fain

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About the Author

Jane Messineo Lindquist (Killion) is the director of "Puppy Culture the Powerful First Twelve Weeks That Can Shape Your Puppies' Future" as well as the author of "When Pigs Fly: Training Success With Impossible Dogs" and founder of Madcap University.

Jane has had Bull Terriers since 1982 and she and her husband, Mark Lindquist, breed Bull Terriers under the Madcap kennel name.

Her interests include dog shows, dog agility, gardening, and any cocktail that involves an infused simple syrup.

Visit Jane's Websites

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