I got my puppy when she was 8 weeks old and is now almost 15 weeks. The vet said when she was getting her shots that there's been a a lot of poorly socialized dogs that were puppies during covid and it's just been a reminder to her of how important it is to socialize the puppies at a young age. Apparently this is especially important between 8-15 weeks. She told us that even though my puppy is now almost fully vaccinated I shouldn't hold her back from interacting with other dogs because there's almost greater risk of negative outcomes by not socializing than there is that she would get some debilitating illness. The vet told me to do as much stuff with her as she'll let me and that includes introducing her to other not weird dogs. I have done just this.

While her experiences have mostly been positive she did have 2 negative experiences last week. We were at a friends house and my puppy was being very energetic around the alpha old lady corgi of the household. She let my puppy know a few times she was too much and then kind of snapped at her. I didn't see it 100% but my puppy definitely lunged back and let out a yelp. I don't think the corgi bit her but just snarled and snapped at her. Then the other thing that happened was a similar thing happened when my puppy met her direct sister from a different litter. I was hoping that my friend's dog who is her sister would bond with my puppy. But right away the older sister snapped and snarled at my puppy. Again my puppy yelped and lunged back. I also pulled her by her collar back about 2-3 feet. Can growl/snapping of an older dog scar a puppy and leave them traumatized?

My puppy seems to still want to hang out with other dogs and puppies so it doesn't look like it. Also she loves people and hasn't had a negative experience with a person but I just want to know what it takes for a puppy to become traumatized by another dog?

Golden Retriever Puppy sitting on floor looking up

1 Answer 1


First of all let me tell you what a fantastic vet you have! She is spot-on with her assessment that a lack of socialization does have a negative impact for the rest of the dogs life. And let me tell you how fantastic you are that you follow your vets advice even though you had some (perceived) bad experiences while doing so. This is the single best thing you can ever do for your puppy.

Now to the actual question: No, puppies don't get traumatized by being growled or snapped at. On the contrary, it's all 100% natural dog body language and peaceful interaction. It would be much more traumatizing if the dogs didn't growl but actually attacked and bit him instead.

Puppies need to learn how to interact with other dogs, just like children need to learn how to interact with other humans. Children and puppies are usually energetic and carefree, so they may easily go to far with their playing and annoy some adults, Or they may run into a grumpy bully kid / puppy. As much as we'd like to protect them from these experiences, it's impossible and they must learn themselves how to react in those situations.

While humans may use a harsh word or speak in an angry tone, dogs cannot speak. They growl instead. If the puppy still doesn't stop, the adults may bare their teeth or snap at them in a warning. Usually adult dogs are very patient and forgiving with puppies, but if the puppy still doesn't stop, the next level of escalation would usually be actually nipping them without injuring them.

The proper response to such a warning is for the puppy to back off and maybe yelp in a very theatrical way as a submissive gesture (meaning the yelping sounds much worse than the actual warning gesture was). They may also lay on their back and present their belly or act overly shy and submissive for a few seconds.

All of this is proper communication for dogs and it's important for puppies to learn this. And maybe even more important: Your puppy learns proper dog communication now and hopefully can recognize those badly socialized "corona puppies" who didn't learn how to peacefully interact with other dogs. This may save her some bad experiences in the future.

The exception to this rule is if the other dog makes a gurgling sound while growling. This is a clear indication that it's about to attack and willing to cause real damage. If your puppy doesn't back up on her own, you must keep her away from such an aggressive dog. But sadly even this cannot guarantee that the other dog will always play nice. It's always a good idea to ask the owners of a dog if they're ok with letting the dogs interact.

One last word about meeting her sister: dogs don't have a concept of "family" that extends beyond their parents and litter mates. Even though the other puppy was her biological sister, she was just as foreign as any other dog to your dog.

  • Good info. Thanks!
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 18:01

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